25 January 2009
Over the next several months I will be working on an application currently written in Flex and deployed with AIR. I’m fairly impressed with what the application is able to do now but some of the planned features are currently impossible to implement in Flex given the limitations of the AIR 1.5 runtime. One thing we’ll need specifically is the ability to launch a native application from our AIR application. The amount of extra work we’ll have to do to make this possible is immense. Because we don’t want users to require any additional runtimes (ie Java), we’re forced to write a “proxy” application in C/C++ that the AIR application can communicate with to perform these unsupported operations. So, instead of having to maintain one application, we’ll have to maintain at least two (the proxy application will vary with each OS we support). In addition, we’ll need to provide the ability to update this proxy application as well as allow users to remove it.
All of this had me wondering if JavaFX would have been a better choice. Combined with Web Start it has all of the same functionalities we currently have with Flex and AIR but there wouldn’t be any need for a proxy application since a signed Java application has full access to the system. In addition, JavaFX does have several free tools (Netbeans, plug-ins for Photoshop and Illustrator, ect).
Of course, there are issues with using JavaFX. For one, not many developers know Java FX Script but many developers have at least some experience with Flex. Secondly, Flex and AIR are more mature than JavaFX. Flash is also much more prominent than Java and the process of installing AIR from a website is pretty seamless. On the other hand, JavaFX on Windows requires Java 6 and the process of updating to Java 6 is less than ideal.
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