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Adobe Flash Builder 4: Data-centric Features for PHP

by: PHP Builder Staff
June 8, 2009

By: Dan Orlando
This article provides a complete demonstration of how to get up and running with Adobe Flash Builder 4 Beta (formerly Adobe Flex Builder) and PHP. Learn how to take advantage of the new data-centric features of Flash Builder to increase your workflow efficiency.
Setting Up the Right Environment
When developing Flash Builder applications that are complemented by PHP services, it's most effective to install either the PHP Development Tools (PDT) version of Eclipse or Zend Studio, then install the plug-in version of Flash Builder. Additionally, Zend Server is the ideal default server platform because of the ease of use you gain through its integration with Flash Builder. However, you can also use a Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP (WAMP); Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP); Mac, Apache, MySQL, PHP (MAMP); or XAMPP environment setup, depending on your local desktop platform. Although this article uses MAMP, there are few differences between the various platform configurations.
If you follow the method recommended here, you will install the Flash Builder plug-in into its own folder. But you must also specify the instance of the Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE) that you want Flash Builder plugged into, as Figures 1 and 2 show.

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

When you first open Eclipse, from the Window menu, point to Open Perspective, and then click Other. Then, choose Flex Development. You should then see the Flash Builder start page, which includes links to various resources. If you have worked with Flex Builder before, you will also notice a couple of new tabs in Flash Builder: Data/Services and Network Monitor. You'll learn more about these new tabs and their respective functionalities shortly.
Setting Up the Project
To set up a new project, from the File menu, point to New, and then click Flash Builder Project. You can name your project whatever you like, but for the application server type, select PHP from the drop-down menu, then click Next. Your next step is to choose the root path and URL of your local Apache/PHP runtime. After entering these values, validate your configuration, and then click Finish. If Flash Builder sees that you do not already have the Zend Framework installed, it will ask you if you want it to be installed. This is a handy little feature that makes rapid data communications between Flash Builder and PHP a cinch through the Zend_Amf module, and I strongly suggest taking advantage of it. If your project is using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) requests or SOAP, Flash Builder can easily accommodate these protocols, as well. Simply choose the respective protocol when the list of options appears.
The first thing you may notice when your main MXML application file is generated is that things have changed a bit architecturally specifically with regard to namespaces. You now have three namespaces instead of one: fx, mx, and s. The s stands for Spark, which is the new component and graphics library included in version 4 of the Flex framework. Many of the Flex 3 Halo components have been extended significantly for Spark. You may also notice that the Package Explorer has been enhanced. If you've ever done any Java development in the Eclipse IDE, you've probably seen the extensive level of code-hinting and class introspection that is available. Most of these features are now available for development in Flash Builder, as well.

Generating New Services

Whenever you want to connect to a PHP service, begin by clicking the Connect to Data/Service link in the Data/Services tab, as Figure 3 shows. The default location for this tab is at the bottom of the IDE.

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Figure 3

In the first window that appears, you have the option of connecting to a PHP service, an HTTPService, or a Web Services Description Language (WSDL) service. These three types of services are made available, because you chose PHP for your server type when you set up your project. Click the PHP icon in this window, and then click Next. The Configure PHP Service dialog now appears, as shown in Figure 4.

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Figure 4
For this example, Flash Builder generates the PHP stub for the service. Enter a name in the Service Name field, and select Generate sample PHP class as well as the Use default location check box. Then, click Finish.
After you finish configuring your service, you see a new folder called services in the Package Explorer at the root of your project. Additionally, a new services package should appear in the src directory. Finally, the PHP file that Flash Builder generated automatically opens, and the class outline appears in the Outline window in Eclipse. Flash Builder displays the Using Remote Services message, shown in Figure 5, which outlines your next steps.

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Figure 5

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