Thanks To Adobe - I've Wasted Some Money

Now that I've your attention...

I own and have studied almost all the Flex 2 and ActionScript 3 books published. However, when I encounter a problem in my Flex application development I first search through the online documentation provided by Adobe. Almost always I find the answer to my problem in the documentation.

I've found the Flex and ActionScript documentation provided by Adobe to be well-written, with example code I can follow and learn from. It's nice to have an online version and a PDF I can download for those (rare) times I'm not connected to the net.

Here's a big "Thank You!" to all the people who wrote the Flex and ActionScript documentation and created the examples. I also appreciate the ability to link directly to a specific part of the documentation and to post (and read other's) comments about specific topics.

So sometimes, after I've found the answer to my problem in the Adobe documentation, I ask myself..."Did I really need to pay $35 for that new Flex book?"

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Can't agree with you more. Once upon a time Flash documentation had more holes than a block of swiss cheese. But now between the Flex documentation and the Style Explorer I rarely look any further for help.
# Posted By Bill Lane | 10/11/07 3:12 PM
I also check blogs and mailing list archives before I pop open one of the books.

It is definitely does not bode well for the tech book publishing industry (which has faltered over the years).
# Posted By JEffry Houser | 10/12/07 12:37 PM
While I have experienced the "Did I really need to pay X for that new book?", I still have a beef about the Flex documentation. The Flash 8 docs are full of examples, which used to get me through most spots. Although most of the time I was doing things that really pushed the limits of capability, so I always resorted to blogs and forums anyways. But the Flex 2 docs have no examples in the reference documentation, and it's sometimes a chore to match up API reference docs to 'how to' docs. And the search feature in the Flex 2 documentation sucks, it goes to the Adobe website instead of staying in the Ui like the Flash 8 docs did. having said that, I'm glad they're fixing the search aspect in Flex 3 at least, and putting back (and improving on) examples in the API documentation in Flex 3.

But I don't use Flex books for reference, unless it's Moock's EAS3, I use them for learning. Once I have a certain comfort level with the material, then I go to the docs/bogs/forums for answers to specific problems.

Each has their place in the ecology of information. But until I start using Flex 3 regularly, the Flex 2 docs will not be the information mainstay for me that the Flash 8 docs were.
# Posted By joeflash | 10/18/07 10:08 AM
joeflash - I disagree with your statement "the Flex 2 docs have no examples in the reference documentation."

Most of the classes in the Flex 2.0.1 Language Reference have a View the Examples link that opens up an example of how to use that class. For example see:

http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/201/langref/mx/rpc/...

There is also usually a link to the Flex 2.0.1 Developer's Guide for that class that shows you how to use it, including an example. See:

http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/201/html/dataservic...

When I read through the Flex 2 Developer's Guide, I found alot of examples I could run in my own projects in Flex Builder. See these links for more examples from the Flex 2.0 Developer's Guide:

http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/201/html/layouts_06...

http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/201/html/styles_069...

http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/201/html/transition...

In fact the wealth of examples in the Flex 2.0.1 Developer's Guide are one of its strongest points. The majority of the topics including working examples.

Also the search capability for the documentation, found here:

http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/201/html/wwhelp/wwh...

seems to work pretty well. I've typed in searches for transition, effect, event, etc and found good results.

Now, I've not used the Flash 8 docs so I cannot say the Flex 2 docs are better or worse then them. But overall I think the Flex 2 docs are very good.
# Posted By Bruce | 10/18/07 11:23 AM
I guess I need to clarify my statement.

The Flex Language Ref is indeed full of examples... in MXML. Which only makes sense, in a way. But usually when I'm referring a class in the Flex API... it would be nice to have examples in ActionScript as well, which is not usually present in the -- in the Flex Language Reference that is -- thus frustrating sometimes.

Yes, the Flash API part of the Lang Reference does have AS3 examples, but there are many omissions, which are usually the classes I most need clarification on. For example, the TreeItemRenderer class, which I'm looking up to see if can extend the functionality, has no examples, and no links to examples:
http://livedocs.adobe.com/flex/201/langref/mx/cont...

All it has is the line "You can override the default item renderer by creating a custom item renderer." How about a link to an example? An article? Something?

Usually I find what I'm looking for eventually, or I just figure it out. But not always from the documentation. It's because of this kind of frustration that I say that, personally, the docs are not always my mainstay for info. Perhaps my comparison to the Flash 8 docs was a little off, I will admit, because they were not much better at times. Though the Flex docs are useful for getting an overview of a capability in places other than the Language Reference, and for looking up a property or method quickly.

And the search is broken, in my opinion. Go to the Language Reference and type anything in the search field at the top. How useful is that? I'm not even in the documentation anymore. It's not useful at all.

Don't get me wrong, the documentation is way more solid than the Flash MX04 version of docs, and it's actually quite impressive considering the sheer size of the Flex Framework, but for me (and I can only speak for myself), the docs are not and will probably never be an end-all-be-all source of info for Flex, and will certainly not replace books -- for me.

I guess it all depends on what you buy the books for: I don't buy books for reference, except on occasion. I buy them mostly for learning new things, or on occasion, just because they might have a nugget of info here or there I have not seen put in quite that way anywhere else.
# Posted By joeflash | 10/18/07 12:01 PM
@ JEffry :
I don't think the publishing industry is faltering one bit. If anything it's picking up after the dot bust. The industry (at least O'Reilly) is following almost precisely the trend of previous years, indicating a healthy growth (http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/05/state_of...), according to their own figures. That's not the whole tech publishing industry, granted, but a good indicator I think.

And given that Programming Flex 2 was the hottest selling O'Reilly book ever according to them (http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/05/flex_fle...), I think Adobe-related tech books are still very much in and the book tech industry seems to be doing just fine as far as I've been able to tell.

Unless you have some insider info you want share with us? ;)
# Posted By joeflash | 10/18/07 12:24 PM
JoeFlash,

I suspect I have no more insider info than you do. ;)

I suppose I did not quantify my statement with a time frame.

On the O'Reilly chart, you did notice that 2003 line is significantly higher than anything that came after it, right? I bet if we go back before 2001 we'll see that the industry was striving much more than it was in 2001.
# Posted By JEffry Houser | 10/18/07 12:57 PM
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