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Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements

Amethyst Beta 7 preview
by Huw Collingbourne
Tuesday 1 December 2009.

We shall shortly be releasing a new beta of Amethyst, our Flash Platform IDE for programming ActionScript and the Flex framework using Visual Studio.

Here are a few of the new features in the forthcoming beta:

Improvements to the Amethyst Designer

Our visual design environment allows you to drag and drop components from the Visual Studio Toolbox right into an integrated Flex design workspace. Here you can move and resize controls and use interactive alignment bars or a configurable grid to snap controls at precisely defined locations.

- More Components

The last beta (the first of the Designer) supported a small subset of ‘simple’ controls such as buttons, canvases and panels. The new beta adds support for a larger range of components including complex controls such as Grid, DataGrid and Navigators.

- Property Editors

You can now use Visual Studio-style property editors to manipulate the contents of complex controls. For example, to add Rows to a Grid, select ‘(Grid)’ in the Properties panel. Once you’ve added rows, select a specific row in the Grid Rows editor and click ‘Edit’ to add Grid Items in the Grid Items Editor.

Similarly, you can add, delete or reorder the ‘columns’ in a DataGrid or the ‘pages’ (Containers) or a navigator such as an Accordion and use a colour selector to choose colours for a Color Picker.

- Interactive Designer Options

As in previous betas, you can set a variety of global options to customize the appearance and behaviour of the Designer using Tools/Options/Amethyst Designer. Now you can also set Grid options interactively to override the defaults. From the Amethyst Designer toolbar, you may select grid sizes, turn the grid one or off and toggle ‘snap to grid’.

New ‘Cylon’ Debugger

Building on our experience in creating the super-fast ‘Cylon’ debugger for the Ruby programming language, SapphireSteel Software is now developing a new debugger for Amethyst. Amethyst Cylon does not use Adobe’s FDB debugger (though Amethyst will continue to support FDB as an option). The new beta will include the first public release of Amethyst Cylon, which fully integrates with Visual Studio to supply categorized ‘drill down’ debugging in the usual debug windows and in the code editor. In the next beta we will release a significantly enhanced version of Amethyst Cylon to provide features available in no other ActionScript debugger and we shall announce details of those features later.

- Other Features

The new release of Amethyst will have improved building capabilities. You can now add Project References in the Solution Explorer (as in C#) to specify build dependencies and improve code navigation across projects. The new beta also uses relative paths on building which makes it easier to share code with other users. In addition to the above we have made numerous minor improvements and fixed bugs reported to us by users.

The forthcoming beta of Amethyst will be released in the first week of December.

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  • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
    9 December 2009, by Justin

    This is actually pretty cool stuff. I am primarily a .net developer but have used Flex Builder quite a bit and I would have to say that visual studio is much better to work in. I am excited to see when this tool provides in the future!!

    Any thoughts on adding Flex 4 support when I it is released?

    • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
      9 December 2009, by Huw Collingbourne

      We make no claims for good support of the Flex 4 beta in the current Amethyst beta. But we certainly have every intention of supporting Flex 4 in the final release of Amethyst.

      best wishes

      Huw

  • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
    2 December 2009, by Daniel

    I just waiting for the next release, I think that is a great product and can be very good in the future.

    At now, in the beta 6, I found some problems:
    - There is no good highlight for the mxml files;
    - The designer really lacks a lot of features, so I am very excited with that new release coming (beta 7);

    Good work guys!!

    • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
      2 December 2009, by Huw Collingbourne

      Thanks for the message. Can you explain what you mean about highlighting in mxml?

      best wishes

      Huw

      • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
        3 December 2009, by Daniel

        Well, there is no separation between namespaces, elements and attributes. They all use the red color or red-like.

        I think that, in a static way just looking at the sintax, a better distinction of elements, namespaces and attributes can be done. Even better if the attributes or contents have differents tonalities or colors for the semantic value, like for fields, properties, events, methods...

        These are cosmetic things, but they are desirable for good separation of concerns in visual.

        • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
          3 December 2009, by Huw Collingbourne

          Have you experimented with the colours in Tools, Options, Fonts and Colors? There are 6 MXML colour options (plus a great many ActionScript options - about 60, I think). I know we have many more colour options than Flex Builder. Are there any we’ve missed?

          • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
            5 January 2010, by Daniel

            Hi guys,

            I am testing the beta 7 and apparently the designer has been improved as said, but still there are issues.

            I just downloaded so I still will make more tests but the designer is not respecting the option of layout.

            I prefer to work with non absolute layouts like "horizontal" and "vertical" on the application, but the designer is clearly direct to absolute layouts and lacks functionality when working with non absolute layout.

            Back to the colors questions, in this beta 7 I could not find the options to change colors on MXML files. I just tried to change the XML colors, but is not applying, maybe is my ReSharper that is creating the bug, I don’t know yet.

            • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
              5 January 2010, by Huw Collingbourne

              You are correct that the application or ’root container’ properties are not shown in the Designer in the current beta but they will be in the next beta. There are other things that are still missing (e.g. styles and AIR controls) but these too will be added.

              As for MXML colours. Are you saying that in Tools|Options|Environment|Fonts and Colors there are no items listed that begin with "MXML"? There should be. We’ve never seen any occasion when those options are not there. Or do you mean that the MXML items are listed but the selected colours are not being applied in the editor? Again, this is a problem we have never seen so more information would be appreciated.

              • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
                5 January 2010, by Daniel

                Yes there are no options of colors in Tools|Options|Environment|Fonts and Colors for MXML files. Just XML, HTML, and others.

                I just installed the new beta tools on a windows 7 64bit machine with VS2008 + Resharper 5. Just for knowing, I had installed and uninstalled the Amethyst beta 6 some time ago.

                • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
                  5 January 2010, by Huw Collingbourne

                  Are you getting colour options for ActionScript or are they missing too?

                  • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
                    5 January 2010, by Daniel

                    None for AS too... but the editor is coloring with the default colors as expected, just not like I liked :P.

                    I really don’t like these red for all, elements and attributes, on mxml file...

                    • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
                      5 January 2010, by Huw Collingbourne

                      We think this is related to the x64 OS. This requires different registry settings which we haven’t yet tested. This will be fixed in a future beta.

                      best wishes

                      Huw

  • Visual Studio Flash Platform Support Enhancements
    1 December 2009, by John

    Fantastic stuff. I will download and check the next version as soon as it is released.

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