Actionscript, it’s the new Javascript!

Some time last year, I got my hands on a draft of the Ecmascript 4 (Javascript to you and me) specification, thinking that it would be interesting to implement a reference-implementation for the evolving language (or rather, a non-boring way to get credit towards my degree). I remember being puzzled by the fact that, aside from a few Microsoftees and Mozilla-people, almost all the committee participants are from Adobe. The reason, it turns out, is that Actionscript — the scripting-language used in Flash — is based on Ecmascript, and Adobe apparently wants to drive innovation for the language.

Why do I care? Earlier this month, I wrote a non-trivial Flash application (details of the project to follow in another post), and I rather liked it. The typical place to start is the Flash authoring tool, which — compared to regular IDEs like Visual Studio (VS) — seems turned on it’s head: Whereas VS is a code editor with some incidental design-modes, Flash is a graphical design-tool with an incidental code-editing feature. Trying to figure whether an object dragged on to the stage should be declared, merely initialised or just used from your code gets old pretty quickly, Javascript has enough scoping ambiguities on it’s own.

Instead, go get Flex Builder 3. It’s still in beta, but freely available and built on Eclipse with all the IDE-niceness that comes with that platform. Refactoring is a bit sketchy, and probably difficult to get right in a language like Actionscript, but otherwise it’s very well rounded. The best part is that Actionscript 3 comes with most of the good stuff from Ecmascript 4 (could someone sync the versions please?), features like packages, proper classes (as opposed to the prototype-voodoo) and optional, strong typing.

What I’m getting is that if you wanna see what’s new in Javascript, go check out Actionscript! Through Ecmascript 4 it’s becomming an interesting language, there’s a nice IDE, rich API’s, interesting code (check this out) and a community that’s more focused on building compelling apps than on perfecting their Tower of Hanoi implementations.



Kristian Dupont on

According to one of my friends in the web design business, the new version of Flash is scary to a number of “traditional” Flash users because it actually supports a real programming language. But I think that a lot of interesting things are happening there – including the DX/openGL support that is supposedly coming as well. Could result in some quite interesting web apps in the near future.


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