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Flex 4 Cookbook

Book Review
Friday 2 July 2010.
 

Flex 4 Cookbook $49.99 / 38.50
by Joshua Noble, Todd Anderson, Garth Braithwaite, Marco Casario, Rich Tretola, et al.
O’Reilly Media http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596805623
Pages: 768

Adobe’s Flex 4 framework introduces a number of significant new features so the updated version of this book (the previous edition was called, unsurprisingly, The Flex 3 Cookbook) is very welcome.

In fact, this is not merely an ‘updated’ version of the last edition. It is a substantially different book. In particular, those sections dealing with the visual component library are often almost completely new or hugely rewritten. This is because they describe Flex 4’s ‘Spark’ controls which are quite different from Flex 3’s MX or ‘Halo’ controls and they often need different techniques and methods when using them.

Chapters dealing with visual design and manipulation of Flex components have undergone a major rewrite. In fact, often whole chapters from the Flex 3 Cookbook have been removed and replaced with new chapters. Other sections of the book, dealing with more generalised types of operations which aren’t specific to Spark, are less substantially changed. Alterations to the chapters on Browser Communication or Modules and Runtime Shared Libraries, for example, are largely cosmetic - editing ‘mx:’ tags to ‘s:’ tags when required and so forth - while the substance remains much as in the previous edition. This is, quite simply, because the techniques of invoking JavaScript from Flex or loading modules using ModuleLoader, are largely unchanged.

On the whole this is an excellent book. My one criticism would be that it concentrates too much on Spark components to the exclusion of MX components. Since MX components are still available for use in Flex 4 applications and, in some cases, have no direct Spark equivalents, they are still of interest to Flex 4 developers.

MX controls haven’t been forgotten, however. MX-versus-Spark issues are discussed quite a bit in the individual chapters. Moreover, the book also addresses problems relating to MX controls such as the Advanced Data Grid and Navigators. Even so, I think a section dedicated entirely to problems associated with using MX and Spark components together or converting Flex 3 programs to the Flex 4 SDK would have been useful. To be fair, even though this is a big book containing more than 760 pages, the authors rightly point out that “the Flex Framework is massive, and any book attempting to cover the entire framework in any depth will without question fail in some respect or another.”

The Flex 4 Cookbook provides a large and practical set of categorized ’recipes’ which explain problems and provide small but fully worked-out solutions complete with source code. When it comes to doing real hands-on work with Flex 4, this is definitely a great reference book. However, its concentration on Spark and relatively light coverage of MX components makes it a complementary volume to ‘The Flex 3 Cookbook’ rather than a replacement of it. For the foreseeable future, serious Flex developers may want to keep both editions within arm’s reach.

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