Flash Builder4/Flash Catalyst Beta release: Sensation or Disappointment?
On June 1 all Flash developers and designers finally got the so much anticipated Flash Builder 4/Flash Catalyst Beta release. If you missed this event because of some reasons, go to downloads for Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder 4.
In this post we are going to sort out why new Adobe products are already considered to be a sensation in the Flash world and whether beta versions proved their value in practice.
Flash Builder is nothing else than a new name of Flex Builder “Gumbo” release. Though the name change caused mixed feelings among Flash developers, in fact it is intended to separate tools for creating Flash content and frameworks of other parts of the Flash Platform.
Flex Gumbo is enriched with lots of new features and improvements focused around three main areas in mind:
- Designer/developer workflow: now designers and developers can better cooperate as it ties up Gumbo and Adobe’s creative tools, such as Flash professional and flash Catalyst. It’s enabled through the new FXP (FleX Project) format. It’s a way to easily transport Flex projects between Catalyst and Builder. The only thing which is not fully improved is compiler. Adobe team claims to have made lots of optimizations in this direction – well, waiting for final release!
- IDE productivity: The new features in this development section are totally mind blowing. Prior to Builder 4, it was sometimes challenging for developers to connect to different data intensive applications and manage the data within a Flex application. But a brand new approach to using data in Flex changed all that. Data Centric Development tool is simply awesome. Automatic getter/setter generation, event code generation, the new Package Explorer, and support for ASDoc tooltips – all these will save a great bunch of your time as well.
- Architecture changes: to help achieve a smoother workflow between designers and developers, the framework provides a clear separation of the visuals for a component and the rest of its behavior. You set skins by pointing your component to MXML skin files. Drawing rich graphics using MXML tags will make your MXML files quite wordy. Though all is nicely separated so it should still be easy to work with.
New Adobe products were initially announced as powerful Flash development tools with design in mind. And Flash Catalyst as a new professional interaction design tool comes as the main engine for this collaboration.
However, what we see from Flash Catalyst beta is that the bridge between design and code for developers needs some more work over it. So far, it looks like a one-way workflow that allows designers to easily make prototypes of data driven flash website. For now Catalyst appears to be a tool for designers mostly. This is what developers should remember so far. Basically this Flash application enables designers to create the interface using animated working interactions and then hand it off to developers who will implement the database interaction. Amazing thing is that no special ActionScript or Flex skills are required. This is a godsend for non-coding web designers.
Its interface will be familiar to Adobe products users as it offers panels for layers, project library, components and timeline.
And here are some features you are able to experience in Beta version of Flash Catalyst:
1. Empowering interactive design: you can add interactivity based on states and events instead of timelines, do interaction design without coding, all your designs will work exactly as you create them, nothing will lose in translation.
2. Fast design: Turn static graphics into dynamic content by selecting objects and specifying actions from menus. Easily move between application states. Converted artwork can be combined into a custom component.
3. Smooth cut-paste workflow between Adobe Creative Suite and Flash Catalyst while maintaining your work.
4. As you create your project in design view, Flash Catalyst is representing the design as well-formed MXML code behind the scenes. In this release you can’t share your project with Flash Builder 4, but this is being worked on for future versions.
5. It comes with a set of simple looking Wireframing controls, it will help create mock-ups which will be more understandable for clients. With this controls instead of standard Flex ones, a client will easier understand that they are seeing just a prototype, not the finished application.
Flash Catalyst still has a few raw sides which we expect will be fixed in the future releases:
– designers will need to learn how to fit their Illustrator and Photoshop design comps to Catalyst, it’s not so obvious at the beginning.
– another kind of timeline which is provided by Catalyst also needs some examination.
– developers can’t switch from Design to Code mode and edit projects there. Of course, items can be added via the Catalyst UI, but doing it directly in the code would be much more efficient.
Despite of everything, Flash Catalyst in tandem with Flash Builder 4 are going to make life so much easier! These products arouse super lively interest in Flash developers and designers. As a result, you can already download free themes which can be used in Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder 4. Of course, Beta version reveals some rough edges with ability to use flash builder, but the number of new empowering features is quite impressive. This is just a first take of a complex task. And we have no doubts that this revolutionary software focused on interaction and collaboration enables to increase creative productivity and has all chances to bring Flash development on the new level.
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