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  1. #1
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    Flash vs ASP.NET

    I have slowly been learning asp.net so we can port some of our standalone
    apps to the web. Our apps are small analytical computer models, basically
    some editors, calculations and graphs. I came across a product from Crystal
    Xcelsius which interfaces with Excel and puts a nice front end on a
    Spreadsheet. It also can export the app to Flash so you can publish to the
    web. I was amazed at how interactive Flash can be. How does a Flash web
    application compare to an asp.net app? If you are not tying into a large
    SQL database is asp.net really worth the trouble? It seems that Flash is
    pretty powerful but I am sure there are some limitations. What am I
    missing?


    Thanks Bob

  2. #2
    Chopped Liver bronze trophy imaginekitty's Avatar
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    My biggest beef with flash is that screen readers can't use it at all and by extension google can't see, archive or rank any of the text in a regular flash file. A few of the other reasons I avoid using flash: flash breaks bookmarking (saving favorites), flash breaks right click, flash breaks the back button.

    ASP.NET serves regular HTML which has none of the problems mentioned above. Do I loathe flash? Oh, yes. Yes I do.

  3. #3
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    But ASP.NET is great for serving XML data for your rich flash apps (or silverlight apps) to consume and do purdy stuff with.

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    SitePoint Guru Chroniclemaster1's Avatar
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    To say that a little more explicitly, there's no such thing as a "flash web application". Flash is all UI and front end stuff. The web application portion is still ASP.NET, PHP, or ASP, so you don't get to abandon that and "do it in flash" instead. You have to pass your data back and forth between .NET/PHP, your database, and Flash. It's tricky and touchy, but as you've seen Flash is gorgeous and let's you do a lot of amazing UI. I believe that one day they will work out the accessibility and other bugs (not anytime soon mind you), and Flash... or something like it will dominate UI design. It's a lot more difficult than HTML, but as editors are developed to exploit it the way we exploit server side technologies, I think it will become more widespread. Just like Visual Studio 2005 (and the release of the free Express editions) did for .NET
    Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
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  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard Mike Borozdin's Avatar
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    Have you tried AJAX? If it still not enough for you, then I strongly recommend you to try Silverlight, it's similiar to Flash, but it uses XML files (XAML) for GUI, it doesn't invent a language (like JavaScript) instead it uses JavaScript and any .NET language (since 1.1 versions).

  6. #6
    Chopped Liver bronze trophy imaginekitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chroniclemaster1 View Post
    To say that a little more explicitly, there's no such thing as a "flash web application". Flash is all UI and front end stuff. The web application portion is still ASP.NET, PHP, or ASP, so you don't get to abandon that and "do it in flash" instead. You have to pass your data back and forth between .NET/PHP, your database, and Flash. It's tricky and touchy, but as you've seen Flash is gorgeous and let's you do a lot of amazing UI. I believe that one day they will work out the accessibility and other bugs (not anytime soon mind you), and Flash... or something like it will dominate UI design. It's a lot more difficult than HTML, but as editors are developed to exploit it the way we exploit server side technologies, I think it will become more widespread. Just like Visual Studio 2005 (and the release of the free Express editions) did for .NET
    Excellent reply.

    I also do honestly believe they will work out all of the accessibility problems but by then ASP.NET, PHP and AJAX are going to continue to surpass it and most likely will incorporate all the things that flash can do.

  7. #7
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    Thanks all for the replies.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Guru Chroniclemaster1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NAWA-mark View Post
    I also do honestly believe they will work out all of the accessibility problems but by then ASP.NET, PHP and AJAX are going to continue to surpass it and most likely will incorporate all the things that flash can do.
    Interesting. Well they're first going to have to get decent support for VML and applications like VS or Dreamweaver to make it developer friendly. That's a cool idea though. Who's going to win the race? Is Adobe going to develop web friendly Flash, or is a web company going to come up with user friendly vector graphics to challenge them.
    Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
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  9. #9
    SitePoint Evangelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by NAWA-mark View Post
    My biggest beef with flash is that screen readers can't use it at all and by extension google can't see, archive or rank any of the text in a regular flash file. A few of the other reasons I avoid using flash: flash breaks bookmarking (saving favorites), flash breaks right click, flash breaks the back button.

    ASP.NET serves regular HTML which has none of the problems mentioned above. Do I loathe flash? Oh, yes. Yes I do.
    Sorry, but you don't know what you're talking about. Please treat the readers of Sitepoint with a bit of respect, and learn about something that you obviously know nothing about before spouting rubbish as fact.

    As you obviously have a prejudice and hatred of flash I'll lay out the facts for readers who have a bit more of an open mind to the truth of the matter, and can see beyond such old myths trotted out by typical anti-flash trolls.

    "screen readers can't use it at all"

    Any object within flash can be assigned a tab index, name, description and keyboard shortcut with a few clicks in the accessibility panel. If necessary, you can manipulate your application using the actionscript accessibility class method Accessibility.isActive() to present whatever is required to the users screen reader. You can actually go far beyond what is possible with standard html in that you can add your own voice prompts and alternate navigation. The Royal National Institute of Blind were happy enough to use flash 6 for a game years ago, and since then flash accessibility has improved through each version.

    "and by extension google can't see, archive or rank any of the text in a regular flash file"

    Again complete nonsense.. Contemporary flash development typically uses swfobject to embed that provides easy insertion of alternative content if necessary. In the context of application development, why would you actually want your data to be exposed to spidering? That'd be great for your online bank account i'm sure

    "flash breaks bookmarking (saving favorites), flash breaks right click, flash breaks the back button."

    Swfaddress solved bookmarking and back button use a long time ago. You have a fully customisable right click menu that you can populate with whatever you want, so once again you are wrong. Many criticisms you've levelled are equally relevant to ajax, but flash has many advantages over it in application development - e.g raw port communication (e.g construct an ftp/email/vnc client in flash? try doing that in javascript) streaming audio, video and data (bidirectional), fantastic drawing and bitmap api, and great cross platform ubiquity and stability versus a mess of ajax hacks to get things working on different operating systems and browsers. No ajax solution will ever be able to provide these facilities because they aren't available natively within html. Silverlight may be able to offer some of this in a few years once it matures.

    There is also flex which is ideal for application front ends - it's similar to silverlight but is away to reach versus 3.0 and has similar xml based scripting, while retaining access to all the power available in actionscript 3.0

  10. #10
    Chopped Liver bronze trophy imaginekitty's Avatar
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    No need to be insulting. If I'm wrong, I'll own up to it. I'll openly admit it is the misuse of flash that is its biggest problem. Show me one flash based site that follows all of your points and I'll show you 100 that do not.

    Prejudice? Yeah, maybe but flash offers very little and by your own post was (and I believe still is) very flawed. If you can honestly tell me that flash has never had the problems that I mentioned then I'll never speak bad about it again. That's a promise.

    Let me state a few things that I should have before. flash does have it's place. It can be useful. It is a horrid thing in the wrong hands. If I come upon a web page that makes noise, I close the window immediately. If I come upon a web page with small text that doesn't allow me to upsize it, closed. If the menu starts bleeping at me when I roll over the items, closed. Do I hate flash? Yep, I have it blocked. It's only partly the fault of flash though. It's more the fault of weak developers. The same can be said for static HTML as well though. Nothing makes a web page as worthless as a control freak developer.

    Let's all relax for a minute though and have a civilized discussion. I'd appreciate that very much.
    Since you're the flash-evangelist around these parts perhaps you can answer a question I've been asked recently, has flash solved the problem with fixed text size?

  11. #11
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    @stevewebdev2005:

    You start your post by 2 full paragraphs bashing another poster. That is very confrontational in a way we are not used to here. If you feel that you need to correct information or comment on opinions by other posters, please just do so. No need to get confrontational.

    "and by extension google can't see, archive or rank any of the text in a regular flash file"

    Again complete nonsense.. Contemporary flash development typically uses swfobject to embed that provides easy insertion of alternative content if necessary.
    Hmm. As far as I can see the search engine SDK you linked to only allows the spider to index the contents of a swf file. If the swf is actually a full blown application (as implied in the original question) it will likely pull data from the server and display dynamically. I.e. to have a search engine crawl your "app", say a product catalogue, the spider must actually simulate the execution of the flash app. And it still needs a way to link to specific products, which is not possible if the catalogue is dynamically built by a flash app on a single html page.

    In the context of application development, why would you actually want your data to be exposed to spidering? That'd be great for your online bank account i'm sure
    Hmm. I would *really* like my product catalogue to be indexed. Getting information about my products or services out there may be the primary objective of building a web site in the first place. True, some information is private in nature (should not be indexed), but that's orthogonal to SEO.

    "flash breaks bookmarking (saving favorites), flash breaks right click, flash breaks the back button."

    Swfaddress solved bookmarking and back button use a long time ago.
    No, it is not solved. Flash may offer a workaround, but turning a single page into an application - which in my experience is how "flash" websites are built - works against the nature of http/html. Flash is an plugin which can run entire applications. Applications which have internal state which is not easily captured in URIs, as is the case with plain http/html. As soon as you start using variables to hold state between user interactions (which is almost always), you start the slippery slope away from the stateless nature of http/html.

    Many criticisms you've levelled are equally relevant to ajax
    That is very, very true. Like flash, some "overdone" AJAX sites store excessive amount of state in the browser, which - like flash - is not easily captured in an URI. AJAX is definately not as capable as flash - it is but a bandaid until someone comes up with a better solution. I haven't dwelved too far into silverlight yet, so I wouldn't if silverlight has an answer to these problems.

    Note: I have no beef with flash. Done right flash can be a welcome addition to a website. But building full websites in flash (or silverlight or single-page AJAX) has too many problems atm.

  12. #12
    Chopped Liver bronze trophy imaginekitty's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input honeymonster.

    I, too, was speaking of an fully flash-based site and perhaps I wasn't clear on that point so that's my fault. I also (as stated above) believe that flash has it's place. It's just not a good plan for an entire site but people still want just that and are willing to pay for it so there are a great abundance of 100% flash based sites, I'm sure.

    In my pages I avoid it when possible; and it's usually possible.


    The only other point I would add is this:
    Quote Originally Posted by stevewebdev2005
    You have a fully customisable right click menu that you can populate with whatever you want, so once again you are wrong.
    Populating a right click menu with anything other that what is expected is not proving me wrong. If the right click menu contains anything other than what it contains outside of flash then it is broken.
    Last edited by imaginekitty; Oct 22, 2007 at 10:22.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by NAWA-mark View Post
    perhaps you can answer a question I've been asked recently, has flash solved the problem with fixed text size?
    I'm not aware of any problem with fixed text size, it's a few lines of code to dynamically change font size of a textfield. If you want you can add a listener to the mousewheel+control key and update text size with that.


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