So Chuck and I did a demo last night at the local Brisbane Web Design Group on some of the tools available in the Rich Internet Application space. Chuck covered the Microsoft Expression Suite and I covered everything else around these.
I had hoped to showcase Flex Builder some more, but for some reason the Trial expired prematurely (I was going to slot in my personal license one, but time ran out etc).Anyways, it was a fairly informal presentation, we discussed the trends from 1996 HTML upwards to where are now, faced with a number of technologies on the table (such as WPF, [WPF/E], FLEX and things to come. I didn't get to discuss Apollo as it was kind of a hot-topic, so best to leave that one alone for a bit - legalities wise).
It was interesting to watch the contrast between the two presentations, obviously Chuck is a vetran presenter and came off way more entertaining. Yet while he was presenting, it did dawn on me that while for example FLEX and WPF have similar outputs (you feed in XML flavours, out comes binary) the two development suites are wide a part in terms of workflow. In the FLEX world, to skin or bring in assets you'd sit in Photoshop (oh you could use others but mine was always Photoshop), you'd then dissect it. You'd either load the images etc in via attributes - or - write some skinning wrapper that knows where to pull them in, and basically adhere to the framework in terms of skinRegistry and what not. It's in a nutshell cumbersome at times to execute the specific artistic vision
Now, I've written (in collaboration with a friend) a framework (SynergyFLEX 2.0.1) that allows you to feed In a PNG file - think skin maps like you see in products like Winamp or Media Player - which then basically copy's and paste's portions of this PNG into piece meal form (using the Adobe Flex Bitmap API). I must confess, In order to execute this we/I had to extended the entire Flex Framework end to end to get around some inconsistencies or general annoyances (eg mx:Panel TitleBackground needed some border overrides etc).
At any rate, skinning in Adobe FLEX isn't really for the faint hearted.So that being said, I watched Chuck's presentation on going from Microsoft Expression to Visual Studio 2005 (ie WPF) and back out again. I've seen this approach before, and each time I watch it I can't but help that its a smooth workflow in the end. As going from Design mode, export design, import it into blen, add behaviours through a fairly intuitive User Interface (mouse clicks that is) and dropping back into Visual Studio 2005 is quite a compelling approach.
Chuck also illustrated that a designer could use this, and not have to worry about code as much. In that using the basics of Visual Studio 2005 (Drag-Drop) you could easily put together an application in next to no time.
You can do this with Flex Builder as well but looking from the outside in, it's not as "elegant" (to be fair, Visual Studio 2005 has had a lot of years to perfect this so that's important to note).
So the walk away message for today is that, there will be folks comparing these two technologies together in terms of Adobe Flex vs WPF ([WPF/E]) which is cool, I'm sure there will be some healthy discussions but for the dotNet developer out there that wants his/her own User eXperience fingerprints over it, its going to be fun! (which as it should be).
Ford had an historic quote:
Other car manufacturers came along and provided other colors & accessories etc. Point is, personalization was born in the car industry and to some how link this (while ever so weakly) Microsoft is doing the same now with the .NET 3.0 space, you can now have more colors other then black.
It's kind of cool to get paid to play with these tools and talk about it with developers. Ping me if you want to share more about this kind of thing as i'd love to hear from both camps about their experiences (highs and lows). As i'm sure Microsoft / Adobe tools aren't all rose coloured end to end.
Special thanks to Ben & the folks at Brisbane Web Design Group for inviting us to speak. I apologise for not making the drinks afterwards, but I had a big day ahead of me today but I'll make sure i'm at the next one that's for sure.