I know it's a pipe dream but I'm still waiting for Macromedia to create a flash IDE that caters to programmers. For once I'd like to see an equal number of enhancements for those of us writing functional "UI" flash as opposed to those writing pretty flash. There are so many weaknesses to the programming interface of Flash that's it's hard to know where to start. The "actionscript panel" is still practically unusable. I am compelled to use a mouse almost constantly, and the help panel has only a tiny improvement (the search box stays put in the upper left). There are few if any enhancements for folks like me. Here's the list from the "what's new" panel.
Obviously this is all tongue in cheek. I love flash and we do a lot of UI work in flash using remoting and/or web services. I have come to the point where I don't expect too much of the fine folks at Macromedia when it comes to the flash IDE. It's obvious that the folks who program the IDE are exposed to only 1 kind of flash programmer - the person who actually wants to take full advantage of all that cool animation stuff.
Unfortunately, there are many folks for whom all that edgy, cool stuff is like the Camaro they had in their teens - cool and sexy, but impractical and expensive to maintain. Most people do eventually matriculate from James Dean to Jimmy Stewart. Not everyone's target demographic is under 30. As for us? We are only interested in Flash if it helps us deliver on the business goals of our clients - mostly that means productivity enhancements, automation, intuitive UI design and the like. Flash shows great promise for all of these at the display level and we use it often. But we have been working with flash for years and rarely needed a "tween". Many of our applications have a single frame - just 1. I used to be embarrassed to admit that.
Let's take the steps for what I would consider to be a typical flash application for myself or one of my team.
Why not leverage all the bells and whistles? To be honest, the quicker I can get to the actual heavy lifting of the application the better my return on the project. Using the approach above I'm still about 15% over budget on time compared to HTML, but I'm closing the gap. That means to do a comparable form application in Coldfusion and HTML (as apposed to Coldfusion and Flash) takes me about 15% less time. I can usually charge a bit more for a Flash application and keep my margin steady. But it brings up an important point. Flash programming is more time consuming than HMTL/Coldfusion programming. I must be able to justify to my customer why it's important to use it. For many applications this is pretty easy. It's faster (no page refresh) with a more intuitive UI.
If Macromedia could create a Flash IDE that was more programmer friendly I could shave a bit more off of that difference and make it an even more viable choice. I'm looking for an IDE that is capable of getting out of the way. I don't want "script assist". I want a great big actionscript editor that is smart enough to create tips on the fly (did I mention Sepy?) and has context sensitive help (did I mention Homesite?). To date, however, Macromedia has chosen to add bells and whistles that only appeal to "visual" users. Are you listening MM?