"6tip-of-the-day" Posts

Tip of the Day – Having an affair with Flash

Expert Flash developers such as Grant Skinner, Keith Peters and Mr. Doob didn’t become Flash experts overnight. Take a look at Keith’s old labs page, or Grant’s Gallery Incomplet. These guys have been playing around and experimenting with the Flash platform for years.

Maybe you’re one of those people who say to themselves, I simply don’t have enough time to screw around with my own stuff… I’m way too busy… I need my insulin… I don’t know anything about math or physics. Well, cut the excuses and make the time! All it take is twenty minutes a day. Twenty minutes a day turns into more than 3 full work weeks a year. Don’t believe me? Here is the math:

20 minutes * 365 days / 60 hours / 8 hour work day = 15.2083 work days

If you’re like me, once you start experimenting those 20 minutes fly by, and before you know it your significant other is yelling at you that dinner is ready.

For example, it’s been snowing off and on here in Seattle. As I was gazing at the window watching the snow come down, I decided to try my hand at writing particle systems. Particle systems are something that have always intrigued me but I never could “find” the time. So instead of putting particles in the back of my mind (and ultimately never getting around to them), this weekend I researched and spent a few hours learning about particle systems. And I programmed this (move the mouse around):

It’s nothing breath-taking, but you know what… I know how to write a particle system now.

Tip of the Day – Mocking up your application / website

If you’re not sure what a mockup (or wireframe) is… it is a basic UI design of an application or website.

Here is an example mockup:

And now it’s actual implementation:

For a long time, I used Adobe Photoshop for all of my mocking up needs. However, last week that changed. Now my weapon of choice is Balsamiq Mockups. This handy little tool has pretty much all of the Flex components, and allows you to quickly put together a blue print of your application.

I also need to mention that when creating mockups, don’t go too elaborate with graphics. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I spend hours thinking about and creating a mockup, only to have the graphical elements picked apart by the client, “I don’t like the colors” or “What is this Lipsum crap?”.

The “napkin drawing” (or coaster drawing if you’re a big drinker) approach is the best route to take, because it forces the clients to pay attention to what elements are there, and not what they look like.

Balsamiq Mockups… best $79 I’ve ever spent.

Tip of the Day – Learn Object-Oriented Programming

Object-Oriented Programming is the staple of the entire Flex Framework. Some key concepts you need to know to be taken seriously as a developer are encapsulation, polymorphism and inheritance.

I’m not going to do a full OOP write-up today in a tip, but I am going to share with you how I learned Object-Oriented Programming.

A while back I was browsing Barnes and Noble, looking through the Web Development section, when I came across a book titled Object-Oriented ActionScript For Flash 8. Now at the time, I had decent understanding of OOP, but wasn’t really using it much within my Flash Projects. So I bought it, and was glad I did.

Going back and looking at the code in some of my old projects, I sometimes don’t know what I was thinking… or I realize how I could have much better programmed the solution.

Anyways, if OOP is something you’re interested in (which it should be), I highly recommend picking up Object-Oriented ActionScript 3.0.

Also, DevArticles.com has this post dealing specifically with OOP in ActionScript, if you’re too cheap to pick up a book.

Tip of the Day – Update your copy of Flex Builder

So I had one of those moments today… I was programming along using Cocomo and Flash Player 10, and things just were not working. I was getting all sorts of obscure errors.

Well, I decided to check my version of Flex Builder… turns out I hadn’t updated to Flex Builder 3.0.2 yet. I know that it’s been out for a few months now, and I updated Flex Builder on my PC at work, but for some reason I forgot to update it on my MacBook Pro.

Well thankfully, updating Flex Builder is a very easy thing to do.

  1. Help > Search for Flex Builder Updates.
  2. Flex Builder will check to see if there are any updates.
  3. Make sure you select the Flexbuilder 3.0.2 update.
  4. It downloads.
  5. Then opens up this panel, click OK, and follow the steps.
  6. It makes you close out your copy of Flex Builder, and your web browser.
  7. Come on little installer, you can do it.
  8. Woot.
  9. And my problems all went away.

If you are behind a corporate firewall or Adobe Updater is blocked for any reason, you can update Flex Builder following the steps on the Adobe Flex updater website.