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Is it Flex?

April 25th, 2008 Posted in ActionScript, Flash Player, Flex Development

Flex LogoEarlier this morning my friend Aaron hit me up with an IM asking if I had seen SearchMe.com. It is a new visual search engine that is 100% Flash Player based and he was curious if it was Flex. I had just heard about SearchMe last week from my ex-roommate and design guru, Carl Nolting. Carl’s ex-co-worker had recently jumped ship to SearchMe and Carl talked about the site and what it was doing.

So how can you tell if a Flash app uses Flex? If the UI is skinned and the default loader is changed (like Scion.com) then there is no easy way to determine if a Flash app is Flex. That is where a really simple tool called “Is it Flex?” that was built by James Ward. He built a simple web form that you can pass in a SWF location, the app then processes the SWF and then returns back if it uses Flex or not. His app probably loads the SWF into a SWF and then pings it for certain Flex specific APIs.

James’ tool has been around for a while and when Aaron asked me if SearchMe was Flex I instantly thought of testing the site using the form. The only problem was that it took me over 20 minutes to find the fracking thing! When I put in the words ‘is it flex’ (no quotes) it didn’t come up at all in Google. I then went to James’ site and nothing there mentioned it. I searched his blog and only the Flex blog posts came up (which he as 100 of). I then went back to Google and tried different combinations. I started to doubt my memory and thought maybe James didn’t write it. Maybe it was not called “Is it Flex”, maybe it was something else. I searched for how to determine if a SWF is a Flex application. Finally, I put the “is it flex” in quotes and it was the first hit.

Arg… I am usually pretty good with my searches and I would have tried that on my second try. But the first time my search results were soooo off that I doubted my memory and immediately tried other keywords. Its kind of funny that this happened because I had just read a great interview with Udi Manber, VP of search quality at Google. He talks about how frustrating it is when your search fails. We are so used to first success that when it doesn’t happen we tend to get frustrated. Word.

So this is a twofold post. First to point out a great tool that let’s you peek under the covers to see if its all Flash or does it use the Flex Framework. Second, to archive this link so that I don’t forget how to f***ing find it.

– ps: I used Textmate to write this post and I forgot to save it the first time when I previewed it in the Textmate preview window. I was all done and checking my links when I hit the SearchMe link. I then hit back before it loaded and Flash Player then through a “load never completed” exception (yeah debug player), which then hung Flash and crashed Textmate. I lost my first post and had to write this stupid thing again! I got spoiled with Wordpress’ auto-save feature… stupid, stupid, stupid.

  1. One Response to “Is it Flex?”

  2. By Brad Wood on Jun 20, 2008

    James uses the SWFDump utility from the SDK and looks for some header info that the Flex compiler places in the SWF.

    If you want to experirment, you can check out http://www.bradwood.com/isitflex
    This page of mine attempts to make it easy to get the SWF URLS’s out of pages that dynamically write them in after the page loads. It downloads the source for the page, renders it in an iframe, parses through the document for SWF URL’s and then pings James Ward’s Flex check for you.


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