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Flash User Interfaces

Many real time and embedded applications require some form of user interface - whether it for monitoring, status or data display and whilst it may be only a minor part of the development it does become the public face of the application. And users' expectations in this area are inevitably raised by the continuing improvements in the user interfaces they see on everyday applications. A basic text only interface might provide the required information but can often look out of place can often create a poor impression of the embedded application.

For the developers this can pose a real problem. Building a sophisticated user interface can be a costly and time consuming business particularly when the development team are more used to moving bits and bytes than menus and dialog boxes. Acquiring GUI skills for just one project can be expensive in time and effort.

To date the savior was usually that that the user interface only needed to be developed for a single (Microsoft) platform. Unfortunately it is becoming increasing difficult to play this "get of jail at a reduced rate" card. Users expect to be able to access everything, everywhere whether it is on a PC, a netbook, a phone or a pad.

Faced with this problem on recent projects DeDf have developed what they believe is a workable solution to embedded user interface requirements using Flash. Most embedded developers will be cautious of programming Actionscript in Flash because of its unstructured , "make it up as you go along" approach. Fortunately the horrors of Actionscript can be avoided by using Adobe's Flex. With Flex you get real, recognizable programs.

This combination brings significant advantages:

  • Using a Flash based user interface ensures the maximum reach - browser and platform.
  • Flash provides the graphic components - the backgrounds, text boxes, graphics and animations. These can be created , styled and assembled quickly in a WYSIWYG, click and drag environment.
  • Flex provides a conventional programming environment - not quite Object Oriented but good enough for most purposes. It is compiled from conventional text files that can be incorporated into an existing change and version control environment.
  • The front end data receiver looks after the specific interface, timing and protocol issues.
  • Using XML for the data feed is simple enough to implement at the data receiver end and benefits from excellent support in Flex.


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