Raul Popa emailed me last month asking for a fair review of their Jumpeye V3 components for Flash 8 & Flash CS3. I get a lot of product & book review requests and ignore all the ones that sound boring. This one sounded interesting, although, mis-placed since until recently, my AS2 work had all but died now that I do full-time Flex. I mentioned I could either use them on a project and write a war story review, or just open up the code base and do a code review. He was cool with that but mentioned I couldn’t crack them easily; I think he interpreted me trying to hack them which wasn’t my intention. I just wrongly assumed that if you give out components, you also get the source code & FLA’s. Ah, to be young and naive…
Anyway, cleaning out my inbox yesterday morning while waiting for her majesty’s car to be lizz-ubed, I came across his email starred and wrote a follow up. At my current gig, there is a client who needs yet another video player. I had refused to get involved in any large scale Flash development projects since in my opinion there was a lot of Flex work to be done, and the current Flashdevs could handle it. Now that I was getting dragged in, I was going to do it right. Keep in mind, we’re doing our stuff on the video player end in AS2 because of Flash Player 8’s penetration numbers far exceed Flash Player 9, and AS2 compiles to Flash Player 7 & Flash Player 6 as well, so it’s a no-brainer.
First order of business was getting team agreement on a component set to use. Those mentioned were mCom (pre-Flash CS3), Bit Components (aka the Beamjive), and my Flash Lite Shuriken ones. Upon coming upon his email, I let Raul know that I may be able to use them in a project. After sending, I opened them up, and tested a few out. They worked, and seemed to be aimed at IDE integration and XML configuration. As a developer of Flash components, the first thing I did was look for source code, but found none. I asked in another email, and Raul replied that you do not get the source code.
I responded saying that you need to change your business strategy; people like me need source code to debug, build upon, and customize. After a few back and forth emails, I learned I was not his target market. He cited survey responses that I mostly agreed with and could corroborate. I got my start in this industry by building simple Flash components back in Flash MX . They were targeted at designers who wanted to drag and drop things on the stage from the library. These components would then be customizable by the Property Inspector (more challenging than it sounds to support that for someone like me who didn’t know OOP very well back then). Finally, all the components were skinnable via the graphic symbols in the library.
To this day, there is a lot of people who have very successful careers (even in 2002 when the market blew) by using pre-built components that have configurable properties. Furthermore, with the explosion of server-side API’s the last few years, you can make some sophisticated solutions for clients in Flash without having to know a lot of programming. That’s powerful, and a fun market to develop for since most of the customer (FlashDevs) feedback is very excited and ecstatic. As users, their feature requests for the component IDE integrations aren’t all that complicated. It’s just a matter of finding time.
So, upon reading Pixelfumes’ review, I totally got it. Furthermore, it reinforces where I wanted to take a lot of my ideas. Basically, you create mini-applications as components. A button is one thing, an mp3 player is another. Jumpeye isn’t just making Flash components, they’re making mini-RIA components as well like their XML Slideshow for example. Yes, you could use component sets to build these things, but why? Why not just use a component instead, and build the branding around it? Makes perfect sense to me for small scale contracting, and larger scale agency work. I could even see it in small scale RIA development if your deadlines are short. They’ve also done the little things that all Flash Devs do; modify things on a common component they’ve always wanted, but didn’t get out the box. A horizontal Accordion for example. I cannot count how many times I’ve seen emails asking for that on Flash & Flex email lists.
Bottom line, I think for Flash Devs working with designers, or even just designers, this set was made for them. It has skinning as a forefront in their creation, and integrates in the normal ways you expect a Flash component to integrate with the Flash IDE (property inspector, helpful errors in output window, drag and drop to stage and “they just work”). Haven’t read the docs since I only read docs when I have problems, but the amount of examples seems to reduce the need. Furthermore, the pricing is apparently a direct result of the support costs, something I’ve heard in the past as a deterrent to doing commercial component sets. Meaning, it sounds like their support structure will counter what has plauged a lot of the other component sets in the past.
Will I use them? No, I don’t do that type of work anymore. I do see a lot of people, however, really getting excited about this set? Yeah, definitely. If you are a designer or Flash Dev doing small scale RIA work, and/or doing heavy design integration, check ’em out. If you are a Flex dev, the AS2 versions aren’t going to work for you, but will give you some design & customization ideas for the Flex 2 SDK ones. Furthermore, if the AS3 ones are easily wrapped in a UIComponent, they may have a future in integrating.
Yes, they are working on an AS3 set, and yes, if you buy now, you’ll get those without having to purchase them separately.