Archive for May, 2009

Tour de LiveCycle!

Posted in Adobe, LiveCycle, LiveCycle Data Services with tags , , , , on May 29, 2009 by devgirl

If you haven’t heard the news yet, Tour de LiveCycle was released this week! It is based on the same architecture as used in Tour de Flex and is jam-packed with useful information on how to use this very complex but powerful product from Adobe. LiveCycle ES is near and dear to me as I have worked with it and the wonderful people that continue to develop and support it for many years now.  I was fortunate enough to work with the development team that wrote the original workflow engine that was eventually purchased by Adobe back in 2004, and have seen it evolve so much over the years. I have to say I’m super excited about this application because I feel it was so necessary and will be such a huge help to so many.  I know that many people have no clue what LiveCycle ES is all about, what you would do with it etc, but now is your chance to find out! It is absolutely worth your time to install the AIR app and find out more about it. This app is not only useful for those who are discovering LiveCycle, but will also serve as an awesome reference to those who are using it in their day to day jobs. I highly recommend checking this out, yet another great application from Adobe…

LiveCycle Data Services (LCDS) Goodies added to Tour de Flex!

Posted in Flex/AIR, LiveCycle Data Services with tags , , , , , on May 29, 2009 by devgirl

Recently I’ve been given the opportunity to work on adding LiveCycle Data Services (LCDS) samples to Tour de Flex in an effort to help ‘de-mystify’ it for developers. In my opinion it seems that many find it a bit intimidating, at least anything beyond using HTTPService, WebService or RemoteObject anyway… I think much of this is due to the lack of information on how to use it exactly (other than the super helpful coenraets.org), the confusion about configuration, (since there are so many different XML files involved) and developers not knowing exactly how to set it up with their projects to get started with it quickly and not painfully :)! I am a great example of this myself because I remember full-well the experience I had when I needed to use it on my first project and know the frustrations that could have been avoided given the right knowledge!

The overall goal of these samples is to help get developers started with showing off the many different features available in a simplified manner, along with explanatory text, source code (including server side), XML configuration file entries etc. I was involved in numerous discussions regarding these samples and how to best present them with Adobe Evangelists Greg Wilson, Christophe Coenraets and James Ward, and they had some really great ideas that I believe will be a huge benefit to the community of developers of all types. Some samples have already been added thus far (under top-level category Flex Data Access), and notes about them are listed in the QuickStart page that’s shown when you open Tour de Flex initially (on both the AIR and web versions). However, there are more to come, as well as some samples that highlight using Flex and LiveCycle Data Services with a back-end other than Java (PHP, ColdFusion, .NET, Ruby etc). As part of this goal, we’re hoping to solicit samples from other server side software companies showing how to use their APIs, so look for those in the near future. I’m also about to release a sample that shows how to work with Hibernate on the back-end with your Flex client using data services.

In addition to the samples, I’ve also started writing up some summary notes to supplement them and explain some things about LCDS overall. I’m hoping these notes will help people get started quickly since they are coming from a fellow developer’s point of view who’s sorta been there, done that and will hopefully simplify things for people beyond trying to gather it from reading the very large LCDS developer’s guide :)! That post will be coming in the next week as well so please check back again soon!

Attest 1.8.5 – Additional Flex 3/AIR mock exams released!

Posted in ACE certification, Adobe Flex, Flex/AIR with tags , , , , on May 18, 2009 by devgirl

Tonight we released another update to Attest based on some user feedback received from our previous poll. Version 1.8.5 includes the addition of a bunch of questions and exams as requested, and some you may find a bit more challenging. We also covered some additional material with these questions, so people should feel that much more prepared for the exam. It also includes a new randomization feature in the order of the questions that make it harder to memorize a pattern of answers. Dave and I are still hard at work on some other super cool features for version 2.0 (in addition to our regular work!) but knew that people were anxious to get their hands on more test questions, so we delivered 🙂 Grab the updated version here!

Attest 2.0 (Flex 3/AIR Certification Practice Exams) Feature Poll

Posted in ACE certification, Adobe Flex, Flex Certification, Flex/AIR with tags , , , , , on May 6, 2009 by devgirl

Since releasing Attest late March, Dave Flatley from PXL Designs, Inc and I have gotten some awesome feedback from the community including how you’re using it, features to add, change etc. We had some ideas of our own as well and decided it might be a good idea to come to the community and take a vote for the most desired features for Attest 2.0. Below is a poll that we came up with to summarize some major features we’re looking at for the next version of Attest. Take a moment and let us know what you think! A quick summary of the options follows. If you have other ideas not listed that you feel are more important, select Other and leave one of us a comment.

  • More Questions! More, tougher questions and exams, all categories – this option is pretty much what it sounds like, MORE, MORE, MORE, questions/answers/feedback. We realize the more questions you get right, the higher your confidence, and the less likely for memorizing the content. We are aware that this is a big one and are already working on more.
  • Learning/Practice Mode – un-timed test with answer and resource links with questions – this one has come up a couple of times… this entails adding a whole new section to Attest that allows you to start from scratch study-wise and learn what you need for the exam without ruining your scores on the testing section from having seen the questions during studying.
  • Community Area – test yourself against the guru’s, submit your own questions, feedback – this might be the most fun option of them all… it entails another new area in Attest that would include a place for the community to submit questions/answers/feedback for review to be added into Attest. And the other neat thing here is the option to see how your test results stacked up against those of well-known Flex/AIR guru’s ;).
  • Web Version – self-explanatory
  • UI enhancements – color changes, progress bar on exams, user interaction changes – ok, so we know Attest isn’t the most beautiful app you’ve ever used, but we do work on this in addition to our day jobs 🙂 and had an interest in getting something out sooner than later versus spend the additional time on the UI. HOWEVER, that being said, we realize there are some things we could change and enhance, and understand the value of User Experience, so vote for this option if you feel strongly about this!

So please take a second and vote! We value your opinions and appreciate your help in making Attest a success!

The Making of an Eclipse Plug-in – Part 1

Posted in Eclipse, Flex, Flex Builder, Flex/AIR, Java with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by devgirl

I recently had the opportunity to write my first Eclipse plug-in as part of Tour de Flex for Adobe. We had a pretty short deadline for the project and I was a bit hesitant about entering the world of SWT and JFace without previous experience. I did have a good amount of experience coding in Java Swing/AWT previously, but it had been awhile and I had been coding UI’s in Flex/AIR with Java on the server side most recently. Moving back to this “widget-world” was certainly different! I discovered very quickly how spoiled I had been in the Flex/AIR world 😉 I ran into a few kinks along the way in my development that I believe could have easily been avoided and saved me oodles of time had I been able to find some quick information on the web. So now that I have been through the painful task of figuring out how to code, build, package and test an Eclipse plug-in, I decided to write a series of posts to explain the steps I took in creating my plug-in as a sort of quick reference and cut to the chase, as I found myself sifting through a lot of information to find the nuggets I needed.

Before I begin, there are two books I found particularly useful in tackling this project. They are:

Eclipse Building Commercial-Quality Plug-ins
The Definitive Guide to SWT and JFace

The View

An Eclipse ‘View’ is basically any of the UI tabs within your Eclipse environment, so for instance your Project Explorer, the Console, or the Problems window, that you can drag around to customize your environment. My Tour de Flex plug-in was all contained within one view, so the main things I needed to figure out were all the events and behaviors around showing, closing and sizing a custom Eclipse View panel. A screenshot of my Tour de Flex plug-in view is shown below.

tourdeflexPlugin

And by the way, if you don’t know about Tour de Flex or what the plug-in does, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out! Tour de Flex is a great tool for developers, full of code samples that showcase the language and how to use it. The plug-in can run in either FlexBuilder or Eclipse, and allows you to search code samples provided by Tour de Flex. Double-clicking on a search result will open the Tour de Flex AIR app right to that particular code sample where you can then find out more info or copy/paste code right into your IDE. Instructions for downloading the Tour de Flex plug-in and more information about this useful application can be found here.

Coding a Sample View

Fortunately Eclipse makes it pretty easy to get started in building a plug-in via a wizard. Using this wizard ensures the necessary base packages needed for a view are included, and includes some sample code to help get you started. To use this in Eclipse, click File | New | Project, and then find the Plug-in Development folder and select ‘Plug-in Project’ from the drop-down menu.

picture-383

You will then be prompted with the following screen, where you will enter the project name and location desired and leave the default selections unless you need to change the required Eclipse base version etc and hit ‘Next’.

pluginSettings1

The next button will take you to the ‘Plug-in Content’ dialog, where you will stick to defaults once again (except name changes as desired), and leave the default boxes checked. From here you will again click the ‘Next’ button.

pluginContent

On the following screen select the ‘Plug-in with a view’ option and go through the resulting panels indicating any names changes you might want for your plug-in, otherwise sticking with defaults. For the viewer type, you have two options which apply to the sample code that is contained within your view. You can choose a Table View or Tree View, and this will depend on your own personal view needs. In my case I used the table view and modified it as needed. Lastly hit ‘Finish’ and you will see a new project created with various files and folders needed for your plug-in. Screen shots of those wizard dialogs are shown below for my sample:

pluginSettings3
pluginSettings4

To see what the sample plug-in you just created looks like, or to test any plug-in for that matter, you can right click on the project in the Package Explorer and select the ‘Run as… Eclipse Application’. This will actually open a new running instance of Eclipse with your plug-in activated in that instance. Another way to test/run it is from the ‘Overview’ page of the plug-in that was created, under the ‘Testing’ section, via the option that says ‘Launch an Eclipse Application’. This page is your entry into all of your plug-in settings, and you will see tabs at the bottom that allow you to flip through each page of settings. More about these settings and how to use them will be explained in Part 2 of this series.

pluginOverview

So now that we know how to launch an Eclipse application for testing our plug-in, we need to go into that instance to find our new view. Once in the test Eclipse instance, go to the ‘Window’ menu and find the ‘Show View’ option. This will bring up a list of all the view categories, and you should now see your new category in the list, and under it your sample view. Once you find your newly created view, select it and hit the ‘OK’ button.

newView

The new sample view will be opened immediately for you to see with a basic table as shown in the screenshot below.

finalViewSample

Congratulations! You have just learned how to create your first basic plug-in! In Part 2 I will take a deeper dive into the files that were generated as a result of the above, discuss some caveats to watch out for during coding, and also take a closer look at the plug-in settings tabs.