Microsoft Visual Studio users get Flash capabilities

Offering Windows developers an alternative to Microsoft’s rival Silverlight rich Internet technology, SapphireSteel Software on Monday is releasing an IDE providing Adobe Flash capabilities for Microsoft’s Visual Studio software development platform.

To be formally launched Monday, Amethyst is an IDE with Flex, Flash, and ActionScript development capabilities for Visual Studio 2008 and 2010. Microsoft-based developers can design, code, and debug Flash applications and Flex applications without being forced to use an unfamiliar IDE, SapphireSteel said. Adobe AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) capabilities are offered as well.

With Amethyst, Visual Studio users can leverage the more-established Flash platform instead of Microsoft’s rival Silverlight, stressed Huw Collingbourne, director of technology at SapphireSteel.

“The Flash Platform is arguably the most widely used software platform bar none,” Collingbourn said. “Adobe claims that over 99 percent of Internet-connected computers have the Flash Player installed. Clearly, in order to reach the widest user base, any Web-based application that requires the sort of interactive features provided by Silverlight would, in principle, be able to reach a larger audience if that front end were implemented using Flash.”

Prior to Amethyst, tools for Flash development in Visual Studio “just weren’t there,” Collingbourne said. “Now, Visual Studio users have a real choice,” he said.

Amethyst is visual, with developers able to drag components from the Visual Studio toolbox and drop them onto the Amethyst Designer for building Flash user interfaces. The product works like C# and Visual Basic environments, SapphireSteel said.

Projects can be imported to Amethyst from Adobe tools, including Flex Builder, Flash Builder, or the Flash IDE. The Amethyst Cylon debugger supports simple and conditional breakpoints and “break on hit count,” SapphireSteel said.

Amethyst Professional costs $249. A free 60-day trial is available. After the trial period, the software upgrades to the Amethyst Personal free, limited version of the software unless a license is purchased.

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