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Flex Camp Boston 2007: Building Buzzword

Rough draft of notes

David Coletta is talking about Building Buzzword.

Jan 2006, started coding in an attic. Oct 2006, public demo at MAX and funding from Adobe. Nov 2006, more people and real offices. May-Aug 2007, monthly preview releases. Fall 2007, open for real use.

Show documents by alphabetically, author, role, last viewed, last modified, # of pages. Custom scroll bar with numbers in it. Able to click on scrollbar to jump to location. Leave comments in document. Also supports tables and advanced formatting capability.

Text on page. Three main pieces: document (content being saved to server), layout (transient position of the content, relay out after every character), and display (Flex/Flash objects on display list). Flow: document to layout. Tries to optimize what changed and handle as few things as possible.

Document internals: Body with one Section has multiple Paragraphs each with multiple Runs. Run has AnchoRun and FontyRun as subclasses. FontyRun has BreakRun, FieldRun, and TextRun and subclasses.

Use custom Tree ITreeDataDescriptor to provide custom tree data providers that can manage any custom data type. Not just XML.

Screen metric - print metrics = micro-spacing to get consistent layout between screen and printing. Very expensive to calculate but vital to getting consistent layout between the two.

Cache of display elements so that only certain objects are shown at once. Buzzword controls what is rendered on screen since the number of text fields for a document would overwhelm the Flash player.

Buzzword back end is .NET and uses low level HTTPService for back end communication. Backend does comment notification, document locking, and other raw CMS features. Login over SSL. Parking HTTP request on the server which then responds when it has data to send to the client.

Testing was vital primarily used FlexUnit. Spent a lot of time developing custom test framework called LiveTest. Focused on document command validity not focused on UI (like QTP). Able to record, debug, train, and playback a test. Generated ActionScript code can be copied back into the platform. Wrote custom framework instead of something like QTP required more constant feeding of unit tests.

Custom skinning scroll bar in Flex 2 was difficult. Hard to get skin to draw text (much improved in Flex 3 with UIComponent skinning model).

Has modular loading. Caches editors, styles, fonts, but if not there is displaying a progress loading bar. Pro: Improves build times, background loading, and good design through information hiding. Con: Can increase overall download, slow overall build, and increased complexity. Debugging across modules is hard, need runtime switching of loading debug versus production. Centralized control of what gets loaded when based on startup mode to prioritize based on startup mode.

Merge user dictionary on a collaborative document into a document dictionary to provide consistent spell checking. Look at gskinner.com for spell checking libraries.

Rich Text Copying is not supported by Flash. Hidden IFRAME or DIV render content from HTML control to allow clipboard content to be rich content. Push focus back to browser so that it picks up copy/paste events.

Off the shelf Flex isn't used much (more for debugging components), leveraging low level components (UITextField). 90% custom AS versus 10% MXML.

David's blog: TheJoyOfFlex.com

Tags: buzzword flex flexcampboston2007