Flex 4 in Action
Tariq Ahmed, Dan Orlando, John C. Bland II and Joel Hooks
  • November 2010
  • ISBN 9781935182429
  • 640 pages
  • printed in black & white

THE desk reference for all things Flex 4.

John Griffin, Overstock.com


An eBook copy of the previous edition, Flex 3 in Action, is included at no additional cost. It will be automatically added to your Manning account within 24 hours of purchase.

Flex has grown from just a way to build Flash apps into a rich ecosystem, and Flex 4 introduces new UI components, better performance monitoring, and speed enhancements to the compiler.

Flex 4 in Action is a comprehensive tutorial that introduces Flex to web designers and developers. It starts with the basics—forms and data—and moves through core concepts like navigation, drag-and-drop, and events. Even if you're new to Flex, this book is all you'll need to make your apps pop using the new Spark components, data services, charting, special effects, and more.

Table of Contents detailed table of contents

foreword to the first edition



about this book

about the title

about the cover illustration

Part 1 Application basics

1. Making the case

1.1. Why are web applications so prolific?

1.2. The RIA solution

1.3. The RIA contenders

1.4. Becoming acquainted with Flex

1.5. How Flex works

1.6. What’s new in Flex 4

1.7. Summary

2. Getting started

2.1. Flex on the cheap

2.2. Get serious with Flash Builder

2.3. Exploring Flash Builder

2.4. Views and perspectives

2.5. Our first project — Hello World!

2.6. Using design mode

2.7. Built-in reference and API documentation

2.8. MXML and ActionScript in a nutshell

2.9. Summary

3. Working with ActionScript


3.2. Variables

3.3. Loops

3.4. Conditional statements (if statements and switches)

3.5. Arrays

3.6. ActionScript tidbits

3.7. Sneak peek at functions, classes, and packages

3.8. Simple data binding

3.9. Summary

4. Layout and containers

4.1. Spark versus Halo (MX)

4.2. Absolute layout

4.3. Constraint-based layout

4.4. Automatic layout

4.5. Variable and fixed sizing

4.6. Containers

4.7. Summary

5. Displaying forms and capturing user input

5.1. The id attribute

5.2. Flex’s catalog of controls

5.3. Accessing the control’s value

5.4. Summary

6. Validating user input

6.1. Overview of validation

6.2. Built-in validators

6.3. Real-time validation

6.4. Committed value validation

6.5. Pass-through validation

6.6. Scripted validation

6.7. Validation tidbits

6.8. Summary

7. Formatting data

7.1. Built-in formatters

7.2. Real-time formatting

7.3. Scripted formatting

7.4. Working with formatting errors

7.5. Summary

8. MX DataGrids, Lists, and Trees

8.1. MX List genealogy

8.2. Understanding collections and the dataProvider

8.3. Initializing collections

8.4. Populating collections

8.5. Interacting with MX List-based components

8.6. Summary

9. Using the Spark List controls

9.1. Spark List genealogy

9.2. Spark List-based controls

9.3. Interacting with Spark List-based components

9.4. Understanding Flex 4 List-based component architecture

9.5. Building custom List-based components on Spark Architecture

9.6. Summary

10. List customization

10.1. Customizing data display

10.2. Item renderers

10.3. Item editors

10.4. Advanced item renderers

10.5. Filter functions

10.6. Summary

Part 2 Application flowand structure

11. Events

11.1. The event system

11.2. Sending and receiving events

11.3. Custom events

11.4. Summary

12. Application navigation

12.1. Preparing the menu data

12.2. Working with menus

12.3. Using a menu bar

12.4. Using view stacks

12.5. TabNavigator

12.6. Accordion

12.7. Summary

13. Introduction to pop-ups

13.1. Creating your first pop-up

13.2. Controlling the window location

13.3. Data integration with pop-ups

13.4. Using alerts

13.5. Summary

14. Implementing view states

14.1. Understanding view states

14.2. View states in Flex

14.3. Bring it together

14.4. Summary

15. Working with data services

15.1. Accessing server-side data

15.2. Action Message Format in action

15.3. Building data-centric applications with Flash Builder

15.4. Data-centric Flex with ColdFusion

15.5. Data-centric Flex with Java EE and BlazeDS

15.6. Binding the model to the view

15.7. Summary

16. Objects and classes

16.1. OO theory in five minutes

16.2. Playing with objects

16.3. Creating a class

16.4. Working with properties

16.5. Creating methods for your class

16.6. Summary

17. Custom components

17.1. Understanding Flex 4 components

17.2. Creating simple custom components

17.3. Skinning with the Spark Skin object

17.4. Composite components

17.5. Creating advanced Flex 4 components

17.6. Get your components to communicate

18. Creating reusable components

18.1. Putting reusability into action

18.2. Reveal gets a new look

18.3. Runtime shared libraries

18.4. Summary

19. Architectural design patterns

19.1. Flex-driven design patterns

19.2. Introduction to microarchitectures

19.3. Using the Robotlegs framework

19.4. Creating an application with Robotlegs MVCS

19.5. Summary

Part 3 The finishing touches

20. Customizing the experience

20.1. Principles of user experience design

20.2. Visual appeal

20.3. Interactive experience

20.4. Business optimization

20.5. Extensibility

20.6. Summary

21. Working with effects

21.1. What’s an effect?

21.2. Using effects

21.3. Creating composite effects

21.4. Exploring effects

21.5. Summary

22. Drag-and-drop

22.1. The drag-and-drop process

22.2. Implementing drag-and-drop in Flex components

22.3. Enter the DragManager

22.4. Adding D&D to non-List components

22.5. Customizing the drag-and-drop experience

22.6. Summary

23. Exploring Flex charting

23.1. Introduction to charting

23.2. Setting the stage with series and data

23.3. Creating charts

23.4. Stacking charts

23.5. Exploring chart types

23.6. Customizing charts

23.7. Summary

24. Debugging and testing

24.1. Debugging

24.2. Flex profiler

24.3. Testing your applications with automation

24.4. Summary

25. Wrapping up a project

25.1. Customizing the HTML wrapper

25.2. Deployment

25.3. Summary

Bonus Chapter

Available online at www.manning.com/books/flex-4-in-action

26. Working with XML

What's inside

  • How to architect your applications
  • Use charting to build interactive dashboards
  • Improve productivity with network monitoring and unit testing
  • Give your apps a unique look with themes and skins
  • And much more

About the reader

Readers of this book need basic development skills, but no previous experience with Flex.

About the authors

Tariq Ahmed is an accomplished web application pioneer with over 15 years of experience introducing next generation web technologies to companies such as Bell Canada and REUTERS. He was first to introduce eBay to Adobe Flex, and saw it proliferate to other teams. As an Adobe Flex Community Expert, Tariq evangelizes the technology and supports the community, particularly through his Community Flex (CFLEX.Net) site. He is currently the Manager of Product Development at Amcom Technology, managing a team of RIA Engineers and Business Intelligence Analysts.

Daniel Orlando is CEO at CreativeRIA and a recognized leader in the Flash Platform community. As a long time consultant, Dan's expertise on Adobe technology platforms is often called upon by industry leaders as well as publications such as IBM developerWorks, Adobe Developer Connection, and Amazon Web Services. Dan can also be found blogging regularly at DanOrlando.com.

John C. Bland II is founder of Katapult Media Inc. which focuses on software and web development using technologies such as ColdFusion, the Flash Platform, PHP, Java, the .NET Platform, and Objective-C (iPhone, Mac OSX, etc). Through Katapult, he works diligently on custom software and web products for small and large clients throughout the world. As a 2009 Adobe Community Expert, John continues put back into the community which helped mold him into the developer he is today. John blogs regularly on his Geek Life blog: www.johncblandii.com.

Joel Hooks is a Flash Platform developer with experience in Actionscript 3, Flex, and Python. Joel spent the first 13 years of his professional career as a 3d animator and graphic designer working on computer based training applications from that perspective. His interest in programming goes as far back as "TELL TURTLE" and he has always been interested in the technological challenges related to developing software. With the introduction of Actionscript 3, Joel finally found a platform that allows him to architect useful tools while fully leveraging his experience as a visual artist. Joel is passionate about technology and enjoys exploring the landscape of frameworks, libraries, and tools that make his work constantly fun and challenging.

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No question is left unanswered, no facet unexplored.

Peter Pavlovich, Kronos Inc.

A great book for both beginners and experienced Flex developers.

Kevin Schmidt, Adobe Systems, Inc.

The lessons are memorable, witty, and very relevant.

Zareen Zaffar, Amcom

Completely demystifies building rich user interfaces.

Rick Wagner, Acxiom Corp.

What you need to be flexible 4 your job!

Rick Evans, SAS