I love the Gaia Framework for Adobe Flash! It’s an incredible tool that I wish I had known about when I was burning through development time on boring, low-level tasks like creating navigation and page transitions, preloading, asset management and dynamic font loading.
Gaia is an open-source, Rails-inspired framework for developing Flash in the IDE. It facilitates rapid development through a simple API and allows developers to use as much (or little) of the framework as they desire. Steven Sacks, who authored Gaia, says that the framework is for everyone – designers, animators and developers. That was a concern for me at first because, rarely, does something aimed at multiple targets actually hit all of them. But as someone who has designed for the web, animates and develops in Flash, I can definitely say that Gaia is a cross-discipline tool.
There is practically no learning curve for Gaia – it builds on what you know about Flash Development and allows you to create a fully-functional site in about 5 minutes. It’s that agility that makes Gaia well-suited for demos for clients – especially those clients with little-to-no imagination who need to see comps in the context of a browser in order to adequately assess the quality of a design. In the past I was hesitant to waste time building such demos because that work rarely contributed to the finished project. With Gaia, little work is wasted, so initial demos can easily become the basis for project development.
Gaia is extremely lightweight – between 20k and 30k depending on optimization. The framework comes pre-integrated with the industry standard third parties such as SWFObject for embedding, SWFAddress for deep linking, Greensock for tweening and Thunderbolt for debugging. Gaia is configured through a JSFL panel inside the Flash IDE. You don’t need to concern yourself with how Gaia works in order to use it. However, if you do want to take a look under the hood, all of the source is included when you download Gaia.
It is important to note that, while Gaia speeds up workflow, it does not allow you to be lazy. Memory management and performance optimization of your content is still your responsibility. Gaia is well written so you don’t have to worry about optimizing its code but it’s up to you to write good clean code. So remove those unused listeners and clear references to unused objects so they get marked for GC.
In case you aren’t yet convinced that you should used Gaia know that it’s widely used by agencies around the world and is used to develop sites for high-profile clients such as Disney, Mercedes-Benz and Gillette. It is also well supported with documentation, wiki and an active developer community. The docs contain sample code and demo sites so it’s easy to get started. Learn more about the Gaia Framework for Flash here.