Analysis: Adobe Cooks Up Gumbo For New Era In Flex


Adobe is working to improve Flex's ability to work with tools like Adobe Thermo, designed to help developers build rich user interfaces. Like Microsoft Expression, Thermo was designed for a RIA platform to describe images with XML that are created with graphic design tools. Microsoft's heavy emphasis on XML used for describing graphical content, including animation, has influenced Adobe's Thermo greatly. Gumbo will benefit from this influence as well.

Before Thermo, developing new components required intimate knowledge of Flash and its relationship to ActionScript. Corporate developers needed to understand the Flash engine's API. Unfortunately, the techniques used for Flash programming resemble game programming more than Web programming. Microsoft understood the problem well.

Gumbo will have a new MXML language namespace with backward-compatibility with the older namespace, a new file format called FXG, a skinning architecture and a set of classes that will have many new events and graphical effects. The FXG format is a vector-based file that describes graphical elements. FXG will play a key role for Gumbo because it is going to work directly with the Flash player. Adobe is going to add an FXG file export to its graphics design suites such as PhotoShop and Illustrator. Some of the tools in Creative Suite that are now in beta already can create FXG files.

Gumbo is being integrated with the existing Halo (Flex) architecture. However, there are significant differences between the two that are going to help developers as they start using Flex. Gumbo code is going to be more declarative. Component behaviors are going to be separated from visual properties. This change will allow developers to manage component states with more intuitive code.

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The first Gumbo release will have only basic components such as buttons, scrollbars and sliders. Subsequent releases will include data grids and other data-driven components. The Adobe Gumbo team wants to concentrate on the architecture first before adding heavier components.

Finally, Adobe is going all out to compete with Microsoft's Silverlight on an even playing field. Gumbo is going to attract many corporate developers, for sure. We hope that Adobe will also add .Net to Gumbo. With .Net, Gumbo could very well stomp over Microsoft's plans for Silverlight. Let the battle begin.