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I have been reading about various Flex frame works, Robot Legs, Swiz, Cairgnom (spelling error) and a few others. What I am missing is how they actually work with Flex / Flash Builder. Are they simply libraries that you can use with the Flash Builder IDE? Why should I learn to use one of them instead of just using the IDE as it is?

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I can't speak to using any of the frameworks, but they can be useful. You can code with them to simplify some tasks or enforce a software architecture. I would recommend prototyping with different frameworks and see if they work for you. See if they are under active development or not so you won't be stranded when a new version of Flex comes out. – BennyMcBenBen Jul 1 '11 at 21:59

We use Cairngorm in our projects as follow:

  • We put the compiled library Cairngorm.swc in ./libs directory of our project
  • Then, library is included in the build path in Flex Builder:
    • Right click on your Project > Properties
    • [Flex Build Path] tab (on the left)
    • [Library Path] tab (on the right)
    • Ensure that your libs directory is listed or add it

Like this, we are able to use Cairngorm classes com.adobe.cairngorm.*

You can do the same thing with Astra Flex and use graphical components.

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They essentially try to provide basic functionality that is (hopefully) useful across many projects. Most of them provide an implementation of MVC patterns. The idea is that you don't need to spend your valuable time writing "plumbing" code, as the framework has done that work for you.

These frameworks often demand a large up-front learning cost to figure out "their way of doing things", but have the potential to save you time over the long run as you re-use the framework & knowledge over multiple projects.

Destroyica's answer details how exactly to wire these frameworks up. Most provide a single .swc file that you link into your projects' libs\ folder, though some will offer you the source code to the project that you could add to your projects' src\ folder.

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