August 05th 2011 | Jens C Brynildsen
Many years ago, Grant Skinner released a really useful tool for modeling your applications and exporting AS2 code. It was never updated to AS3, but now there's a great alternative: Crocus Modeller is an online UML modeling application for ActionScript 3 & Flex programmers that is free (for now) and full of features.
A UML modeling application will let you draw up the skeleton of your application on a high level. The really good apps can also be used to fill in details such as properties and methods and if it can export stub-code to start from that's even better. Crocus Modeler is such an app that can even do a little more than that.
Back in the AS2 days, all my applications would start with gModeler. Using a UML modeling may take a little extra time initially, but you earn so much by getting the architecture right in the first place. Another great advantage is when you're building software as a team of developers. Do the project brief, tell everyone to go to their cubicles and draw a UML version of the app structure and then meet up again to show and discuss what is the best architecture. Being able to discuss and agree on an architecture early on really speeds up a project since everyone knows what they're aiming for.
Unfortunately, the Grant Skinner team never had the time to update gModeler and the only promising alternative named Saffron UML was never completed. Saffron was called everything from vaporware to "just some pretty screenshots" and according to this blog entry by EricD, the developer was even acquired by Microsoft? According to the comments on that post that seems unlikely but Saffron really became a Flash-myth in itself since so many wanted/needed it. Up until now, nothing has happened in terms of Flash based UML editors.
I have to admit that I was a little skeptical to what this Flash-app could do, but I have to say I was impressed. All the basic features you need is there:
The list of features is actually longer, but what impressed us most was the import of even huge projects. The layout of the imported projects could of course have been better but you can't satisfy everyone. For instance - the export to image feature is great, but specifying the resolution is a must. However - this is only the Beta. The guys behind the app, Maciej Pieńkowski and Filip Zawada, are looking for input so give it a spin and see what you think? I'm pretty sure I'll be using this a lot in the time ahead! For now, the app is free but this is a tool I could easily pay for.