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C#/Silverlight Features for Flash Developers and haXe

by Abel Avram on Aug 25, 2009 |

A number of Flash/ActionScript developers have expressed their desire to see Silverlight/C# features in their development tools. haXe, a multiplatform language that compiles to SWF files among others, promises to provide what AS3 is missing.

After explaining some of the problems he has encountered with ActionScript (AS3), Joa Ebert, a Flash developer and contributor to several open source Flash projects, says what he would like to see changed in three areas:

Contributing. Contributing to the SDK and to the Flash Player is a great option and I am thankful for having it. But this includes also contributing to the Flash Platform with tools.
  • Extend the open source Wiki for up-to-date specifications and allow people to contribute to them.
  • Create an open ActionScript documentation.
  • Do not develop something closed source to open it six months later like the TextLayoutFramework.
  • Create a progress for code reviews and allow people to contribute without having to go through JIRA hell.
  • Make a roadmap available so developers know what happens inside Adobe.

Language

  • Add support for generics.
  • True method overloading.
  • Threading support has to be implemented including synchronization features.
  • Rethink the const keyword which is currently completely unusable.
  • Implement standard OOP features like private constructors, abstract methods and classes.
  • Create a collection framework making use of generics.
  • Create a robust concurrency framework.

Performance

  • Improve the VM performance especially for object allocation and method calls.
  • A tracing JIT would be great, hotspot would be fantastic.
  • Improve the performance of the compiler and its produced output.

Sascha Balkau, another Flash developer, has his wish list of ActionScript features:

  • Method Overloading (because writing Open-Source frameworks and libraries often is a travesty without this).
  • Generics
  • Threading (Oh yes!)
  • Multi-CPU-Support
  • Private Constructors (bring them back!)
  • True Abstract classes/methods
  • Enums (has been a long time wish. Don’t know what the problem is!)
  • Hardware rendering (PV3D etc. are great and all but whats the point if you hit the wall with under 1000 triangles?!)
  • Compiler performance (Seriously MXMLC needs to hide in the corner if the haXe compiler shows up!)
  • And last but not least I’d like to see a lot more love for the AIR runtime like better OS-integration (changing screen resolution for example) and better performance and resource management (the way how AIR wastes up RAM is not from this planet!)

Nicolas Cannasse also complains about AS3 but offers a solution: haXe. haXe is an open source multiplatform language that can be used to write programs that are compiled either to JavaScript, NekoVM, PHP, C++ or Flash6 to 10. haXe advertises a consistent number of language features making it an attractive option for ActionScript programmers, according to Cannasse:

  • Strongly Typed Language
  • First-class methods and functions (closures)
  • Regular Expressions
  • High Level Type System including :
    • classes and interfaces
    • enums
    • function-types
    • anonymous types (structures)
    • dynamics
  • Enums
    • optional constructor parameters (à la ML)
    • type parameters (polymorphism)
  • Complete type inference : you don't need to type your local variables
  • Type parameters (generics) with optional constraints
  • Module system : packages + private definitions
  • Structural Subtyping (duck typing) using type inference and anonymous types
  • Polymorphic methods

ActionScript has some important features to implement in order to compete with C#, but Flash still leads when it comes to design tools. In the meantime, the frustration among the AS3 community seems to be mounting. Maybe the following MAX 2009 scheduled for October 4-7 will enlighten the Flash future. Some of the sessions scheduled for MAX 2009 are:

  • Roadmap: Flash Platform Runtimes
  • Roadmap: Flash Platform Servers and Services
  • Roadmap: Flash Platform Tooling and Framework
  • Roadmap: Web Professional Tools and Services in Creative Suite
  • What's Ahead for Flash Catalyst
  • What's Coming in Adobe AIR 2
  • What's New In ColdFusion 9
  • What's New in Flash Builder 4
  • What's New In Flash Player
  • What's New in Flex 4

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RAM by Jean-Yves Linet

Flash Player plug-in/ActiveX is wasting up RAM as much as AIR !

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