Tom Lauck’s

It’s A Walk Off! Flex MVC Frameworks Settle it on the Runway


After years of using a homegrown approach to MVC for Flash and Flex, it was time to take look at the various frameworks for Flex.  I figured “I might be of service,” David Bowie style.

This will be a Straight Walk Off, Old School Rules

Zoolander parodies aside, there are half a dozen characteristics that could be expected of a good MVC framework.  The approach was to gather a pulse on what frameworks are being discussed, download and view the source, and work with some examples.  The following criteria will be used throughout:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Minimal Footprint
  3. Maturity
  4. Scalability
  5. Active Community
  6. Some brains behind the operation (its subjective, but ‘done the right way’)

Arp Framework

Arp is(was?) Aral Balkan’s attempt at MVC for Flex. Although originally created for ActionScript 2, at Flash Forward in Austin, this looked promising. Then again, Flex was just gaining traction, so everything was looking promising. Aral has done a great job with his projects,, <head> Conference,, and his many contributions to the Flash and Adobe community. Unfortunately, however, it seems that Aral has since stopped actively developing Arp, thus eliminating Arp as an option.

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Ángel Blesa owns this project, and as one may easily surmise from his name the project is Spanish. Therefore, it is difficult to speak to the quality of the project. But, if you do speak Spanish, then this may be something to look into. However, for an English-only speaking developer, Guasax is a hard sell. Even the video tutorials are in spanish. Another quirk that factored into Guasax not making the cut was the run-time XML config files.

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At first glance, MVCS seems more like a blueprint than a framework. But, Joe Berkovitz is smart (#6 Some brains behind the operation). Joe has some interesting thoughts on Flex application architecture, and is well worth the read. It is difficult to find an active community and it is really more of an approach rather than a framework. Luckily, a framework is included in the example code. Overall, MVCS’ approach is an interesting one, however, not fully applicable if searching for an MVC framework.

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Adobe Cairngorm

Cairngorm is one of the original Flex frameworks, and it certainly has a very large backing in enterprise environments, especially since it is sponsored by Adobe. It could be said that if you are developing Flex in the enterprise, you are/should be familiar with Cairngorm. Cairngorm also has a relatively small footprint. However, Cairngorm is not a silver bullet. Although Cairngorm serves its purpose, it is a little too complex in most scenarios. Thus, if the point of a framework is to become more efficient, the complexity of Cairngorm can do quite the opposite. This is especially true for those who aren’t familiar with frameworks.

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Given the issues Cairngorm, would it not be nice if a framework took the good of Cairngorm and corrected the bad. A huge proponent of Cairngorm since it came out, Cliff Hall set out to do just that. PureMVC has gained a lot of steam since its creation, has a small footprint, is scalable, and simple. PureMVC has also been somewhat future-proofed. By keeping the concept simple and generic, PureMVC has been ported to almost every useful language. Furthermore, it is easy to find very informative documentation, overviews, and best practices. Although still relatively young and smaller community compared to Cairngorm, PureMVC seems to be evangelized among the developer community at the moment, and rightfully so.

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Time Will Tell

After looking at several frameworks for Flex, PureMVC hits the criteria stated at the outset almost perfectly. As such, I am developing with PureMVC on a current project and have been very pleased thus far. Yet, time will tell if PureMVC sticks as the de facto standard Flex MVC framework.

To the readers, I would love to hear about your findings with Flex frameworks. Perhaps you have used a framework not listed here? Or do you have a different observation or opinion?

27 Responses

date: November 6th, 2008

It’s sad that PureMVC is the best that we can come up with. It’s not very easy to explain to new people, the naming is odd and in the end few of these frameworks do anything to really help speed up development of your applications more then something that is home grown specific to that application. I feel like more things need to be released, I think if you plan on moving to one of these you should also clean up what you have been using and release that open-source. Just ranting, not to put pressure on you but I can’t wait for a second round of frameworks to come out that address some of these issues better. I would also think to include Parana, Mate, Lowra, and a few other frameworks that have caught my eye in this type of assesment but not all of them are MVC’s.

spoken by: Tyler Larson

date: November 6th, 2008

I like PureMVC but I’m not sure its complexity/learning curve is worth it. Mate seems to hit a sweet spot in this respect. Spicefactory MVC is pretty interesting too, but not sure how well its being supported.

spoken by: James Law

date: November 6th, 2008

@tlyer larson I can see what you are saying in regards to the naming and learning curve for new people. However, I feel like it will be a while before I would feel comfortable putting my solution out there.

In fact one thing I appreciated about PureMVC is the level of documentation and clear diagrams showing how everything is working. I feel like there has been a lot of time put into creating support for new developers trying to get up the PureMVC learning curve, and I personally would want to do the same if I released my home grown version. Ongoing, quality support is a huge factor when using open source in production.

spoken by: tom

date: November 6th, 2008

I don’t see how Cairngorm gets C for simplicity and ‘minimal footprint’, while PureMVC gets A in both. To me, it’s the other way around — Cairngorm is slim and a pretty short learning curve. PureMVC is too generic to be simple. And where is Mate in this comparison…?

spoken by: Ola Bildtsen

date: February 6th, 2009

I tend to disagree with @ola bildtsen’s opinion of Cairngorm. For one, I have seen peoples faces when they first see Cairngorm, and it is usually confusion. Secondly, I always tend to like more generic frameworks, because I don’t feel tied down. Call it OCD or lack of commitment, but thats my take.

spoken by: tom

date: December 7th, 2009

Then I must have to disagree with @tom, as if you wants to see PureMVC from its first look, its also looks very confused! And I think every framework patter does have a curve of learning, but after that things been learned, then only can be compare with the Simplicity of that learning process with others. And in that scenario I’m with @ola, Cairngorm is much more simple to learn than PureMVC, where PureMVC gots A in Simplicity, sorry but I can’t catch this.

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Nov 6 2008