SapphireSteel Software is poised to release Amethyst, which lets you develop Flash and Flex applications with Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2008 or 2010.
Why bother? There’s two aspects to this. One is simply the comfort factor: if you are a .NET developer used to Visual Studio, but now working on Flash or Flex, this could be an easier way in than the Eclipse-based Flash Builder. There is a visual designer, a full-featured debugger, a property inspector with sections for properties, events, effects and styles, for example, and double-clicking an event generates an event handler as you would expect.
The other factor is areas where Amethyst can improve on what Flash Builder offers. One example is ActionScript refactoring, disappointing in Adobe’s product. Amethyst is not brilliant, but does have a few extras including Extract Method, Encapsulate Field and Extract Interface.
Another useful feature is that Amethyst can share projects with Flash or Flash Builder. Before you get excited, it does not do the magic you might want, Visual Studio editing of .fla files with embedded ActionScript. It does work reasonably seamlessly though: you can open .fla file in the Flash IDE by clicking within Amethyst.
This would have been even more interesting if Adobe had not added a measure of Flash Builder integration in Flash Professional CS5; and that is the challenge facing SapphireSteel – how to keep up with Adobe’s official development tools.
I’ve only played briefly with Amethyst but although I’ve been impressed with it in some ways, I also found myself missing features in Flash Builder, such as the Connect to Data wizards, and the view state management.
It is early days though; and I would be interested to hear from others who have tried Amethyst on what they do or do not like about it.
Price is not yet stated, but SapphireSteel also offer a Ruby product which is priced at $49 for a basic edition, or $199 for a professional version. Amethyst also comes in two editions so perhaps we will see something similar.
2 thoughts on “Develop for Adobe Flash/Flex in Amethyst for Visual Studio”
SourceMate adds more refactoring options (amongst other great features) to Flash Builder 4. Extract Method, Extract Interface, Change Method Signature, Extract Constant, and a few more.
I’ve been a C/C++ programmer most of my career, but recently have started integrating Flash and python into my bag of tricks. For me, the Amethyst plugin is a godsend and is plugin that I place next to Visual Assist in my “must have” for Visual Studio toolbox.
I can’t stand the Flash CS4 interface for editing source code and went looking for a plugin – hoping to find one that would do at least color coding. What I found was a plugin that not only incorporates the basics, but also included a full on debugger with all the bells and whistles of the standard Visual Studio debugger. Not only that, Amethyst integrated extremely well into Visual Studio allowing standard features such as Go To Definition as well as adding Refactor commands.
Outside of the color coding, the most useful feature to me has been the ability to one command to build all my app and all of its dependent SWFs (but only if needed), start up my app in a facebook sandbox within my chosen browser, and debug. Previously this required individual steps for building each SWF separately (having to remember what was dependent upon what changes I had made)… setup Flash to debug on the next started SWF… switch over to my browser… then find and start my facebook page. So, four time consuming steps made into one step that was far more accurate and less error prone.
I mentioned the building of dependent SWFs – having the ability to set up my projects and have them build only if the pertinent AS files change should have been a basic feature of every version of Flash, but it is no where to be seen. Having to build every time I wanted to debug my app is crazy. Amethyst has added this basic feature of development and is simply another feature I can’t live without.
I highly recommend this plugin to anyone who enjoys using the Visual Studio user interface. I also recommend it for anyone who has projects that extend past flash/flex. For example, I have my python server code in projects along side my Amethyst projects – giving me a one stop shop for building all my code as well as giving me the ability to search across both PY and AS files at the same time.
Note that this plugin assumes some advance knowledge of Visual Studio to build and structure your projects and set up there dependencies just right. But once this is done, any flash programmer on your team can start using and enjoying the features that this plugin supplies.
And as my final note, this plugin doesn’t require that you purchase Visual Studio to use. You can use the free Visual Studio Integrated Shell (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=40646580-97FA-4698-B65F-620D4B4B1ED7&displaylang=en) – that’s what my flash coworkers use.
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