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Commercial software in FLASH/Macromedia?

Hi,

We're at a point with our software, after about 9 years in VB 3 (don't laugh, we've been profitable from our first year), where we are considering changing our programming language to something more contemporary.

Someone suggested FLASH. 

Benefits are:
1. Easy cross platform support (Mac, and PC, which is the most important to us in commercial software).

2.  Modern language.

3. Supposedly object oriented.

ANYONE USING FLASH for commercial (shrink wrapped) software?

We sell a product from Australia that was written in Director or some Macromedia product. Works fine, looks nice. Works on Mac or PC.

Running on a Mac isn't a big concern (no flame wars) but, all else being equal, it would be nice to have.

Thanks

The real Entrepreneur
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

It really depends what you want the software to do- Flash Player has little / no access to local resources - so as long as your app is Flash Client / Web Server, (AKA RIA - 'Rich Internet Application') you have some options.

I have been using Flash for years and while I am continually impressed with what can be done with it ,  I still think it's a poor choice for most applications (despite what MACR says).  For applications, the ONLY thing you get is with Flash is cross platform capability and a killer animation tool.

Sassy
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

And if your user *doesn't* have an internet connection available?

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

you can make an exe from flash

lionel
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Obviously I didn't know that. I'll stop helping now.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Check out http://www.gskinner.com/blog/archives/000063.html

From the blog entry:
Stories of Your Life is an application based around the national best-selling book Once Upon a Lifetime by Pat A. Williams. I worked directly with this lovely, vibrant woman in interpretting and enhancing her printed work for the digital medium. Briefly, it is a Windows application that guides you through recording the stories of your life with over 2000 questions in 15 categories and 78 subcategories. In addition to formatted text, you can associate photos, audio and video with your answers.

I believe it is quite unique as a retail product built with Flash, and with its amazing blend of "multimedia presentation" and "desktop application".

justacoder
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Thanks 'coder.

The person who recommended the program is using it for shrinkwrap apps with or without internet access. They also do local file reading, etc.

It can be used to create standalone EXes on Windows and an exe with a dll dependency (runtime engine, I think) on the Mac.

I'll look into that mentioned above.

The real Entrepreneur
Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Have you considered RealBasic?  It supports Mac and PC development (with Linux support promised in the next major release, FWIW.)  It received some favorable comments in a recent JoS thread, and if you're currently using VB, it might be an easier switch.

Obviously Java might also fit the bill, or VB.Net/C# if cross-platform compatibility isn't important.

Robert Jacobson
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Just keep in mind that the eyecandy in Flash makes it easy to come up with some truly apalling interfaces.  I'm a little biased against it, in that the only Flash-based desktop app I've used was the music manager for a MiniDisc player, which was easily one of the ten worst programs I've ever seen.  It brought to mind a Douglas Adams quote:

"The Hitch Hiker's guide to the Galaxy . . . says of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation product that 'it is very easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of them by the sense of achievement you get from getting them to work at all.  In other words -- and this is the rock solid principle on which the whole of the Corporation’s Galaxy-wide success is founded -- their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws.'"

As for RealBasic, it could be a viable option.  It looks like the language is more powerful than VB6, but make sure you can do everything you need with its built-in controls, because I could hardly find any third-party packages when I was evaluating it.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

The version of MS Money (2000?) I use has an interface based on Flash (though it is impossible to tell if the entire app is written with it).

ICBW
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I believe the MS Money user interface is actually written in dynamic HTML with an embedded internet explorer control, not Flash.

I'd find it very hard to believe that Microsoft would commit a product to using a competing technology like that.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I won't be able to check it again for another 12 hours, but I remember being suprised myself when I saw it.

ICBW
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

A lot of the training ware (MSCE type stuff) is done in flash. Its definitely an option these days

Dan G
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I would suggest possibly Director rather than Flash. It has much more access to system level functionality, and is more extensible if you run up against a problem (for example, you can write Xtras in C++ to do just about anything). It's quite well cross platform, and the new version which will be out at the beginning of Feb, has updated the language greatly, bringing it more into an ECMA compatible state (javascript style scripting, etc.)

Not saying this will solve all your problems, but I'd recommend you at least add it to the list of tools to evaluate.

Andrew Cherry
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I think it depends what your goals are.

If your only goal is cross platform, then Flash should win on that merit alone.

If you need an interface that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, then you'll probably be able to pull it off easier in Flash than you would in Java or VB. BUT, you'll need people who know how to program and animate in Flash (you can't just take a bunch of Programmers and have them start building Flash apps). Try building a couple of different apps in Flash and see how you like it. You also need to judge the performance of Flash. It never ceases to amaze me how slow Flash is ;)

Along the Flash lines there is also Macromedia's Central product. It is trying to be the "desktop with possible connections to the internet" runtime environment. But it's just been released and is IMHO has a sluggish GUI.

From my understanding Mac users want their applications to look/act native, following Apple's HIG very closely. Flash may not allow you achieve that without a lot of extra work.

Java/Swing or RealBasic may be a better bet. With Swing you can get a very native looking application with a couple of extra lines of code. 1.4.2 even picks up Windows XP theme colors. And when a Swing app runs on a Mac, it uses the build in Aqua look and feel, so the "native looking" part is partially done for you.

Michael Sica (michaelsica.com)
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

DAMN, NO EDIT FEATURE!

"If your only goal is cross platform, then Flash should win on that merit alone."

SORRY, it should have read...

"...then Flash should NOT win on that merit alone."

Michael Sica (michaelsica.com)
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Even if you're not building a client/server app, it may still be possible to use Flash.

You could build the GUI in Flash and have it connect, via a socket, to a server sitting right on the user's local machine. So, technically, it would still be a client/server app, but the server would be right there. That would allow you to access local resources like files, the registry, etc. Use flash just for the GUI, and use the natively compiled application for the actual program logic.

You can send XML documents back and forth between the Flash GUI and the back-end engine, to facilitate your communications. Flash has great XML handling capabilities.

Benji Smith
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

If you're thinking of developing user interfaces (as opposed to animations) you might want to try getting into the Macromedia Flex beta program (or downloading the LaszloSystems presentation server).

I haven't worked with it yet, but both technologies seem like pretty much the same thing: xml documents compile down into flash .swf files.  The beauty part is that this is an approach that developers are able to wrap their brains around.  (I've tried to learn flash multiple times but never successfully ... it's a really different programming paradigm, and all the tools are oriented towards making animations). I believe both products will run in a standard J2EE server (laszlo ships with tomcat).

So the upshot is that writing flash user interfaces is about to get a lot easier for "regular programmers".

j b
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I second Director. And I second it again!

Thomson
Monday, January 12, 2004

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