Short version: If you are a Java / PHP developer seeking to get started with Flex, building on your skills as a server-side developer, this book will do you good. If you are new to software development, or just started out I would recommend you check out Essential ActionScript 3.0 by Colin Mook, then come back to this book when you have some experience doing applications with AS3.
Slightly longer version: Some time ago I reviewed Mastering phpMyAdmin 3.1 from Packt Publishing, and since they had some interesting books on Flash / Flex I volunteered to review a few more.
First out is Flex 3 with Java. It’s a 300 page book, dealing with Flex, Java and how you can build solutions using BlazeDS as a backend.
I first checked out Flex back when the Flex 3 beta came out. At that time I was doing PHP with the Prado Framework, and instantly felt like home within the Flex IDE. However, I never took the time to really get into Flex, and my knowledge of ActionScript was pretty limited at the time.
I’ve now been working with AS3 for six months, and I’ve got a pretty solid grip on it. Most of the work I’m doing is pure AS3 (no Flash IDE, no Flex SDK), but I’ve got some very interesting side-projects built on Flex in the works as well.
The book assumes you have no experience with Flex / Actionscript from earlier. Now, it is clearly written for a more tech-savvy audience. You do not need to be a experienced developer to follow the subjects covered, but it will most certainly help to have done some software development before picking it up. The author gets a bit ahead of himself on some topics in the book, but it’s not a big problem. However, I would have liked to see a “who is this book for” section at the beginning, stating that this books is well suited for developers wanting to pick up Flex.
As expected it spends the first few chapters dealing with installation on the Flex SDK / tools as well as a brief but good coverage of AS3 and the basics of MXML.
Going into this book I was expecting the majority of the contents to cover the actual interop between Java and Flex. The book clearly deals with much more than that. Given that I’ve been trough a number of Flex and AS3 books the last months I think I would have preferred a book that was focusing more of it’s energy on the core subject instead of peripheral topics such as styling, packaging and deployment and i18n support. I totally agree that these subjects are important to master, but I think it would have been better if the book focused more on the actual interops topics as mentioned above. For me the books falls a bit between two chairs, as it does not spend enough time on basics to give the complete beginner a deep enough intro to Flex and AS3, yet not enough on the heavier side for the more experienced developer.
Oh, the book is also available as PDF if you prefer that.
PS: Check back soon as I will have a review of Papervision3D Essentials ready!