Flex in a Week

One of my unexpected take-aways from the ExtJS conference last month was that I need to start looking at Flex again. This isn’t necessarily for the Flex framework itself, but because of AIR. I’ve started to see a lot more AIR applications popping up, and my Twitter client (Twhirl) is even AIR based. ExtJS with AIR makes for an extremely powerful combination.

So to build a foundation for AIR, I decided to learn Flex. After a strong year of JavaScript, Flex starts to make a lot more sense from a syntax standpoint. And ironically, the best way I’ve found to learn Flex is free: Flex in a Week.

Adobe has produced a truly outstanding series of video training classes for Flex. Although it is structured as five days worth of materials, I’m only getting through half a course each day due to quiet time constraints with a two-year old in the house. I have been very impressed with the quality and level of detail. The videos aren’t full of fluff and get quickly to code. There are exercises interspersed with the training videos, but I’ve passed over them, opting instead to follow along with the videos.

The only downfall to my choice to follow the videos instead of the exercises is that Adobe didn’t make it easy to find some of the supporting pieces you need to follow the videos. For example, there is an XML data file called employees.xml used for a lot of the code in the videos that is nowhere to be found. Ultimately, I found a CSV version of the data file in an AIR Sample, along with the images used for building the employee directory application.

In the interest of helping out others who start on Flex in a Week, here are the supporting files necessary for following along with the code. I’ve only finished the second day, so I’ll try and add any additional parts I find missing.

  • employees.xml – the XML data file with the employee information (right-click to save it)
  • headshot images – the thumbnail images for the directory, both normal and small sized

I’m hoping to finish up the tutorial this week and jump into more complex things with Flex. I’ve been very impressed so far, although not enough to eat crow yet on my negativity towards Flash in general.

What about Flex books? I picked up Programming Flex 3: The Comprehensive Guide to Creating Rich Internet Applications with Adobe Flex and it has been a total disappointment. The book is very poorly structured and it jumps all over the place without a coherent plan. It swings between excessive detail of the Flash engine, followed by trivial, poorly explained examples of the Flex widgets. I may find value in it later as a reference, but am dumping it for now.

I did pick up another book that I really like a lot: Learning Flex 3: Getting up to Speed with Rich Internet Applications (Adobe Developer Library). This one is well structured and gets to the things I’m interested in, not the nitty-gritty details of the Flash player. I would recommend this one for anyone who is at a similar point in their Flex learning experience.

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