Adobe Upgrades Flash Builder, Flex Tools for Advanced Mobile Development

Adobe tweaks its Flash Builder and Flex tools to advance mobile application development for Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS.

Adobe Systems enhanced its support for mobile application development with the new Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 release featuring new Flash Builder and Flex Builder tooling.

The new tooling software includes Flash Builder 4.5 for developing, testing and deploying mobile applications on Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS platforms. Meanwhile, Flex 4.5, an open-source framework, includes new support for building mobile applications for Android, and support for BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS platforms is expected in June 2011. This new approach in mobile development enables developers to leverage a single tool chain, programming language and code base to easily create highly expressive applications across leading mobile platforms, greatly improving performance while reducing development time and cost of delivery, Adobe officials said.

"With these releases, developers for the first time have a single development platform for building highly expressive Web, mobile, and desktop applications, marking a leap forward for mobile app development," said Ed Rowe, vice president of development tooling at Adobe, in a statement. "With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, enterprises now need to ensure that their applications work seamlessly across many different types of devices. Flash Builder 4.5 and Flex 4.5 will now allow companies to standardize on a common platform capable of delivering rich and consistent application experiences that perform great across Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS devices."

Flash Builder 4.5 accelerates the development of Flex and ActionScript projects, including new round-trip workflows with Adobe Flash Catalyst CS 5.5 software that allow designers and developers to work in parallel throughout application development. Flash Builder 4.5 also includes new capabilities to enable faster and more productive coding as well as performance enhancements. The addition of Flash Builder 4.5 Premium to Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium software provides a major update to the suite of software for Web designers and developers.

Flash Catalyst CS5.5 features a new round-trip workflow with Flash Builder 4.5, allowing designers and developers to work in parallel. Now designers can open, make changes and save Flex projects that were created or previously edited in Flash Builder, leading to faster delivery of applications, Adobe officials said. Additionally, designers can rapidly prototype user interfaces for resizable Flex-based Websites and applications with new components, craft more precise and expressive transitions and effects, and efficiently design developer-built custom components. Flash Catalyst CS5.5 is also available in the Design Premium, Web Premium, Production Premium and Master Collection editions of Creative Suite 5.5.

"We use the Flex skinning architecture and Adobe Flash Catalyst to automatically generate graphics, which has cut our development cycle by 20 percent," said Aaron Pedersen, founding partner and Web application architect at DevelopmentArc, in a statement. "This workflow has helped the process of skinning and stylizing the look of Flex applications to meet the designer's needs."

Meanwhile, in June, Adobe plans to release updates to the Flex framework that will enable developers to reuse most or all of their code across applications that target multiple platforms, including Web, desktop, Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS. Moving an application across different mobile platforms is often as simple as a recompile. New components expand the Spark skinning and component architecture introduced in Flex 4, while enhancements in Flash Builder 4.5 accelerate coding for Flex and ActionScript projects with best practice code templates, code completion and code generation features.

The new mobile development features in Flash Builder 4.5 and Flex 4.5 are targeted at creating stand-alone installed applications using Adobe AIR for mobile devices. In addition to Android Market, BlackBerry AppWorld and Apple's iTunes AppStore, mobile apps can now be deployed to the Amazon Appstore for Android, providing companies with additional monetization options through the largest online shopping destination. With advanced tooling and new features, such as soon-to-be-deployed native code extensions, AIR is a way to deliver applications across multiple screens and platforms such as Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS, iOS and desktop operating systems.

Sharing his view of the new Adobe tooling capabilities, Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC, said:

""FlashBuilder 4.5 is also a mid-cycle kicker for the IDE which will include support for the major tablet and smartphone platforms on the market today, that is iOS and Android devices and tablets, and the BlackBerry Playbook OS. Add this to Dreamweaver's multi-screen preview capability and overall single-project handling for code; this has to be one of the richest tool stacks that target all these platforms, plus desktop, with a single language and development environment. Adobe has been executing steadily in mobile, and while the closed nature of mobile platforms has been a setback, I think Adobe has made substantial progress here. I will keep watching for webOS and Windows Phone 7 support with the AIR runtime.""

Recognizing the need for a better mobile experience, Standard Chartered used Flash Builder 4.5 and Flex 4.5 to create a fully transactional banking application that offers an engaging consumer experience across desktop computers, tablets and smartphone devices.

"For the tablet and smartphone-based app, we cut time to market by 40 percent and investment by two-thirds by leveraging Adobe tools and our existing code for the Web-based application," said Aman Narain, group head of remote banking at Standard Chartered, in a statement. "Building a native application for each of these devices would not have been financially feasible."