AS2 to AS3 and our friend, the IDE code editor

While reading comments on this post by Mike Chambers, I noticed that in quite a few of those comments — and in many conversations at PittMFUG meetings — you find the best argument for improving the code editor in the Flash IDE I’ve heard.

It seems like we mostly discuss the difficulties of migrating to/learning AS3 and the very lacking code editor in the Flash IDE as two totally different topics. But they’ve got a lot in common. An improved code editor would make it easier for anyone who is not already a hardcore developer to pick up AS3. Finding the right tools can be almost as much of a barrier as learning the language right now.

Think of your typical designer type that picks up Flash. They want to do some cool effects and animation stuff, then slowly graduate to picking up some code here and there. If they start to realize the potential and want to really learn AS3, they’re in for a shock. The editor in the IDE offers so little guidance you pretty much need to know how to code already to use it. (And don’t look to the help files for examples, or even help you can understand half the time… but that’s a different story.)

So, what do they do? Either give up on AS3 all together, or press on and deal with the headache of finding, setting up, and possibly buying a third party editor to get the job done.

None of those things are easy: How to you know which one to pick if you’ve never used one before? Getting one set up isn’t intuitive. Will your boss really pay for more software? … and so on.

A big reason AS3 seems so hard to people coming from a non-developer background is that you’re forced to look outside what you know as “Flash” to get very far with it. Improving the editor in the IDE would be a big step to eliminating that problem. And improving the editor would also benefit more advanced users that span the designer+developer gap. There’s your common ground.

Sure, that’s easier for us to say than for Adobe to do. But, maybe their interest in helping folks pick up AS3 will lead to the IDE editor improvements we’ve been looking for.

There’s lots more suggested as possible ways that Adobe can help make learning AS3 easier. Check out these comments for a really good (and long) list!