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Amethyst, a Flex IDE for Microsoft Visual Studio Released

by Dio Synodinos on Sep 01, 2010 |

Amethyst is a fully-featured Visual Studio IDE for the Adobe Flash Platform. It supports the drag-and-drop design, editing and debugging of Flex and AIR applications and it can also load Flash IDE projects for editing and debugging.

Amethyst offers:

  • A Visual Designer
  • IntelliSense
  • Refactoring
  • Integration with Adobe Tools
  • Debugging

InfoQ had a small Q&A with Huw Collingbourne from SapphireSteel Software, the creators of Amethyst:

InfoQ: What are the main new features of this release?

Huw: The Professional edition has a full visual drag-and-drop designer for Flex 3, 4 and AIR. It has all the same refactoring options as C# plus one extra (move a class to a new package). It has full IntelliSense. It has our own debugger (the ‘Amethyst Cylon’ debugger) which integrates completely with Visual Studio and also does multi-process debugging to let people step through the code of multiple SWFs simultaneously. It is, in fact, a complete design-edit-debug and run IDE for the Flash Platform.

InfoQ: How does it compare with Flex Builder?

Huw: It has a similar set of tools to Flex Builder or Flash Builder but everything is done right inside Visual Studio. The essential design goal was to make Amethyst absolutely familiar to VS users and easy to use with a close-to-zero learning curve. We have some special features too – for example, the Designer has a ‘go live’ mode which makes all controls respond to events such as mouse clicks and text entry. This makes it possible, for example, to try button rollover effects or enter text into a text area to try out its fonts, without ever leaving the designer. We also have interactive ‘snippets’ (code templates) and a snippet editor so users can create new snippets. And we have very extensive code coloring (more than 76 colors in addition to the Vs standard colors) and customizable code formatting. We integrate well with Flash Builder and the Flash IDE so that teams of programmers can work on the same codebase using both Amethyst and one of the Adobe IDEs.

InfoQ: How does it compare against Tofino which is also a Flex plugin for Visual Studio?

Huw: I hope you’ll understand that I prefer not to make any direct comparisons between specific features of Amethyst and Tofino and I do not wish my comments here to be interpreted as criticism of Tofino or of any other Flex or Flash IDE. However, as you’ve asked, let me try to give a short summary of the main differences. Tofino is a free IDE which provides basic editing and debugging. It does not attempt to provide an all-in-one design and development IDE in the manner of Amethyst and it does not have a comparable set advanced tools such as customized code formatting, refactoring and visual design. In fact, Amethyst is the only IDE other than Adobe Flash Builder, which fully integrates a visual design environment for Flex with a comprehensive set of professional quality editing and debugging tools. Amethyst also has a free Personal edition which is perhaps somewhat closer in functionality to Tofino.

InfoQ: What is the roadmap for your project?

Huw: As I said, we’ve already had a very long public beta and in that time we have significantly enhanced and fine-tuned many of Amethyst’s features in response to user reports and requests. In particular, we have considerably enhanced Amethyst’s ability to work in cooperation with the Flash IDE (CS3, CS4 and CS5) so that users can do timeline based development in Flash and editing and debugging in Amethyst. We don’t, therefore, anticipate the need to add any major new features after the release of Amethyst. We do plan one or more minor updates, however, to give us the opportunity to fix bugs or improve existing features in response to user feedback.

A free 60-day trial of Amethyst Professional is available.

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