Flex SDK 4.5.2 in Flash Builder 4.6 Pre-Release with ICU

Published: 12th December 2011
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For Globalization of Flex Applications!

The pre-release version of Adobe Flash Builder4.6 has a new Flex SDK version 4.5.2 with integrated AIR3 and enables invoking important globalization features.

Flex is a highly productive, open source framework for building and maintaining expressive web applications that deploy consistently on all major browsers, desktops and operating systems. Adobe Flash and AIR are platforms to develop rich internet applications. Flash is used for browser based applications, AIR for native platform applications. Both have support for globalization features like locale aware formatting/parsing, collation, case transforms, localization and multi-lingual text rendering. However, text normalization, transliteration, Unicode character properties, encoding conversions, charset detections, Unicode string utilities etc., are not included.

Why We Need Globalization
Applications are accessed by users from different geographical areas. Globalization lets you create applications for all your customers in all the languages that you support. Your application can process data containing numeric values, dates, currencies, and times. You can format each of these types of data differently for different countries and regions. You can also develop applications in languages other than English.

Globalization is composed of Internationalization, or developing language-neutral application functionality that can recognize, process, and respond to data regardless of its representation. That is, whatever the application can do in one language, it can also do in another; and Localization, or taking shared, language-neutral functionality and applying to it a locale-specific interface.

Globalizing Flex Applications
Globalized Flex applications avoid errors and confusion for your customers. This is evident in date formats. For example, a date in the form 1/2/2004 is interpreted as January 2, 2003 in the United States, but as February 1, 2004 in European countries. Currency formats are also important. Think of how your customers would feel if they found out the correct price for an item is 15,000 American dollars, not 15,000 Mexican pesos, which is equivalent to about 1600 American dollars.

Your website can also accept some form of text input such as customer feedback. You might want to support that feedback in multiple languages using a variety of character sets.

Using Flex SDK for Globalization
AIR and Flash can invoke, through ActionScript, the services of external dynamic libraries providing rich globalization support.

AIR applications can use globalization services provided by ICU. The AIR ICU extension is easy to build using the publicly available Adobe Flex SDK or using Flash Builder 4.6.

ICU
Open source ICU (International Components for Unicode) is a set of C/C++ and Java libraries providing Unicode and Globalization support for software applications. ICU is widely portable and gives applications the same results on all platforms and between C/C++ and Java software.

Here are a few highlights of the services provided by ICU

* Code Page Conversion: Convert text data to or from Unicode and nearly any other character set or encoding. ICU's conversion tables are based on charset data collected by IBM over the course of many decades, and is the most complete available anywhere.
* Collation: Compare strings according to the conventions and standards of a particular language, region or country. ICU's collation is based on the Unicode Collation Algorithm plus locale-specific comparison rules from the Common Locale Data Repository, a comprehensive source for this type of data.
* Formatting: Format numbers, dates, times and currency amounts according the conventions of a chosen locale. This includes translating month and day names into the selected language, choosing appropriate abbreviations, ordering fields correctly, etc. This data also comes from the Common Locale Data Repository.
* Time Calculations: Multiple types of calendars are provided beyond the traditional Gregorian calendar. A thorough set of time zone calculation APIs are provided.
* Unicode Support: ICU closely tracks the Unicode standard, providing easy access to all of the many Unicode character properties, Unicode Normalization, Case Folding and other fundamental operations as specified by the Unicode Standard.
* Regular Expression: ICU's regular expressions fully support Unicode while providing very competitive performance.
* Bidi: support for handling text containing a mixture of left to right (English) and right to left (Arabic or Hebrew) data.
* Text Boundaries: Locate the positions of words, sentences, paragraphs within a range of text, or identify locations that would be suitable for line wrapping when displaying the text.

As discussed early on in this article, the above features of ICU are in addition to the features provided by Flex / Flash Builder, such as locale aware formatting/ parsing, collation, case-transforms, localization and multi-lingual text rendering.

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