Powerflasher FDT 3.O Review

FDT is an Eclipse based IDE for Actionscript coding. I heard about it a lot but never tried it on my own. When I came to know Nico Zimmerman is about to present in our FUG. I wanted to try it before that so that I can better understand the platform and raise any issues that I come across. FDT is a plugin for eclipse, so I have to install Eclipse first. Since fdt site did not specify or recommend a eclipse version I dared to install Ganymede which is the latest eclipse version (3.4) and then followed the install instruction to get the FDT plugin installed. Ganymede has whole new way of installing plugins which were not compatible with FDT install, so it provided me old way of installing, and I got FDT installed. I could get the basic feature to work, but enterprice features never worked for me :( . I think they FDT should provide a complete install package that includes eclipse or at least specify supported eclipse version information clearly in their site Then I tried eclipse version 3.3.2 with no luck on the enterprise features. I was little frustrated and decided to wait until the Nico’s presentation. During the QA session I got the answer, recommended eclipse version is 3.2.2, with which I got it finally working :) After restarting eclipse with the new FDT basic, professional, and enterprise plug-ins, I was greeted with the following screen. I have changed the eclipse.ini and restarted eclipse, that problem went away

Memory Warning

FDT Memory Dialog

Using the free flex 3.0 sdk I could compile, trace, and debug action script projects. Another glitch I came across is re-factoring. Even though I’m trying enterprise version and the 30 days trial supposed to be fully functional, I keep seeing the following window

Refactor Dialog

I needed a good as3 project to try out FDT. So I created a template engine which supports expressions that contain string and numeric literals actionscript variables and functions, if then else condition as part of the template text. Since Flex builder is the first Eclipse based IDE I’ve used for action script development I can’t resist comparing them. FDT is much closer implementation to the Java editor and brings in all the favorite eclipse ide features that java developers love is ported and made available to actionscript developers. The advantages that I see are

  • Problems view is not totally tied to compiler, it does not even need the file to be saved, it can show problems as we type
  • Code template support for easy code generation of all the boilerplate code like for loops event listeners
  • We can customize and even add our own code templates, and access them by typing Ctrl/Command + Space after typing few characters
  • Problem solving by generating needed code, say for example if you make use of a function that does not exist FDT can create it for you. It can even create a missing class for you
  • Code Auto formatting, I love it :)
  • Source code generation from compiled swc libraries

Flexbuilder excels in the following

  • Tighter integration with the compiler
  • MXML support and live preview
  • Profiling
  • Pricing

It is even possible to get best of both worlds, we can install FDT to Flexbuilder and add Flash Nature to Flex Projects and then get the FDT goodness to all as files in there. FDT supports opensource by providing their ide for free, which is a good news for the community. I’m also planing to opensource my templating engine, that will be the content for another post :)

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