I recently spent a lot of time at AdobeMAX hassling the Flashbuilder team on what the deal is with Flex and Maven, and we’ve finally been given the word: support is coming – we just don’t yet know what form it’s going to take.
Step One: Hosting the framework artifacts
The first step towards Maven support is for Adobe to start hosting their releases in a Maven-friendly way. They have admitted that this is on the cards for them, but steered away from specifics. They have two real options here – either they submit their artifacts to Maven Central or they set up and deploy to their own public Nexus. Many of us in the community would like to see the former before the latter. Having AS3/Flex/AIR projects build out of the box without requiring any external repository would be a great start (Maven Central is referenced in every execution via the super POM). Currently while the Flexmojos plugin now lives in Maven Central, we’re still reliant on the community (specifically @velobr) to deploy the latest JARs, SWCs and RSLs to Sonatype.
Nevertheless, if Adobe were to host a Flash artifact repository, it could become the central repository for the community to deploy their own open source libraries. This could include tools such as unit testing libraries (FlexUnit, ASUnit), mocking tools (Mockolate, Fluint), micro-architectures (Robotlegs, Parsley), utilities (as3corelib, AS3Signals, RxAS), etc. This would then be the go-to for all Flash developers new to Maven. And, we could finally answer the question plaguing all Maven/Flash newbies: Where are my dependencies???
Step Two: Either sponsor, fork or replace Flexmojos
The next step is for Adobe to decide what to do with Flexmojos – the open source Maven plugin that compiles Flash artifacts. Because it’s open source, they don’t want to usurp the hard work of the community and completely take it over as-is. As I see it, they can either fork it in its current state, sponsor it with funding and their own development team, or start again from the ground up and target Spark and above. In its current state, Flexmojos 4 (4.0-RC2 is the latest) is well equipped to deal with the needs of Flash projects up to and including Flash Player 10.3 (albeit with some bugs). Going forward however, we have no assurance that Flex 4.6 or AIR 3 will be supported out of the box, and I have doubts that the community alone will keep the pace.
Moreover, many of us Flash/Maven advocates are in enterprise development and find it hard enough to convince our customers to rely on an open source initiative that isn’t maintained by Adobe, let alone officially supported or sponsored. If Adobe get behind a Maven plug-in and put their stamp on it, we’ll have a much easier time advocating it to our clients.
Step Three: Integrate with Flashbuilder
Last but not least, is Flashbuilder (FB) integration. The current situation is fairly dismal. Flexmojos 3.9 was the last to officially support the flexbuilder/flashbuilder goal – the process which generated the project structure in Eclipse from your POM (creating and configuring .project and .actionScriptProperties among others). It’s been removed from Flexmojos 4 and there is currently no robust way to keep FB abreast of the latest changes in your POM. You can run the old 3.9 goal for partial results in FB 4.5, but it’s more hassle than it’s worth. Keeping large teams in sync across a complex project is cumbersome at best (and don’t get me started on checking in .project files).
While m2eclipse – the Maven-Eclipse plugin – provides the functionality required to run Maven within Flashbuilder, it is not integrated with the Flexmojos plugin. Put simply, m2eclipse is a lot less powerful with Flashbuilder than it is with typical Java projects in Eclipse. Updated your POM with a different Flex SDK, added some dependencies or a new runtime module? Fine, just make sure to tell all the developers to update their workspaces manually – otherwise either switch to IntelliJ or wait for Flashbuilder 5 (we hope).
The first step in a long process has begun. Adobe are taking the plunge into Maven compatibility and it seems the Flashbuilder team are our best hope for the future of the union. We know support is coming, but how exactly it will pan out is still up for debate. Hopefully we’ll have an answer before the end of the year, but I won’t be holding my breath.
Want to keep abreast of the latest developments, here’s a list of people to follow:
- Adam Lehman, PM for Flashbuilder, Adobe @adrocknaphobia
- Andrew Shorten, GPM of Dev Tools, Adobe @ashorten
- Raghu Thricovil, one of the new PMs of Flex, Adobe @rthricov
- The Flexmojos plugin @flexmojos
- Marvin Froeder, Flexmojos creator @velobr
- Me @justinjmoses