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Adobe Flash Catalyst

Over the last decade, AdobeR FlashR has grown up from a small vector drawing and animation program to the industry leader in software for creating interactive web and desktop applications. However, as more features were added to Flash and it became a powerful program, the software became more complicated to use. In fact, most large Flash projects can be divided into two phases. First is the designer's concept for the visual interface for the application. On the other end is the developer's supporting programming to make the application work. As with any project that requires team work, the designers and developers must work together and communication is key.

Until now, the designer would create graphics for the new project in a program such as PhotoshopR and IllustratorR, import them into Flash, refine the design layout and send it off to the programmer. The programmer would then use Flash, ActionScript or Flash Builder to add the interactive features for the application. It was up to the programmer to implement the designer's vision.

Now, Adobe has simplified this process even further with the release of the Adobe Flash CatalystTM. Catalyst simplifies and enhances the design process, allowing the designer to control the front end programming. As with Flash, the designer has the option to create graphics with the Flash drawing tools or import graphics from Photoshop or Illustrator. But instead of tweaking the design layout on the Flash stage and sending it off to the programmer, the designer can use Catalyst to take the design process to the next level by adding the front-end interactive features such as buttons, text input boxes, image transitions and more. As the designer adds these to the design, Catalyst creates the supporting MXML code in the background. You might be asking yourself how this is different from using the built-in UI components that Flash already has. Catalyst automates the process much more than you will find in Flash.

First, you are not limited to only Flash's generic UI components. Catalyst lets you turn any graphic into an easily customized UI component. Also, the integration between Catalyst, Illustrator and Photoshop is improved. You can edit graphics in Photoshop or Illustrator while still working in Catalyst. Catalyst keeps track of the changes made inside your graphics program via the new intermediate file format (fxg). Once you return to Catalyst, you have the option to apply the changes to your design.

You will notice another difference when you customize your Catalyst components. The process has been simplified and the tools are more visually intuitive. For example, moving from one page to another in a Flash movie will take several steps. You will need to program a trigger, such as a button, to initiate the page change. Then, tell Flash what to do in response to the trigger. Next you will apply a transition effect, such as a fade in, between the pages. Of course, each of these major steps have several intermediate steps. In Catalyst, most of the intermediate steps are done for you automatically, reducing the process to one or two simple clicks of the mouse.

*Adobe provided a review copy to me free of charge.

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