Congratulations on getting to open beta with Flash Catalyst!
I know its late in the game to mention something like this but why didnt Abobe just update Flash Professional?
It seems that the arguments for flash Catalyst center around the following:
1) smooth workflow between Photoshop & Illustrator, especially because of the same layer view
2) No coding required to create components out of artwork
3) Can create FXG and FXPs to be used in Flash Builder
4) Can create multi screen aplications
1) 2) and 3) could all be solved by adding a new types of symbols to Flash Professional's 3 currently available symbols(MovieClip, Button, Graphic)
1) could be solved by adding a new Sprite symbol.
Flash Professional needs to be updated to keep up with and match the structure of AS3 anyway.
Sprites were added in AS3 and now wireframe components are being added to the code structure, why not just at that on the design side as well?
Sprites are essentially MovieClips with out a timeline.
So if you created a new Sprite symbol and opened it up in the timeline, you would only see one frame with folders and layers.
A Sprite symbol is essentially organized the in layers and folders and would just like a photoshop file.
And if you really want it to look like a Photoshop layout, then you just move the timeline view over to the right.
This would solve problem 1. Designers could import their artwork into Flash Professional as a Sprite and it would be a seemless experience.
Obviously I'm not saying that a bitmap is a sprite. But I am saying that layers of bitmaps and could be organized inside of a Sprite. And the designer could turn any of the assets into a Button, MovieClip, Graphic, Sprite, and hopefully other Classes and WireframeComponents available in Flash.
2)&3) could be solved by adding a new Symbols for the new Wireframe Components. The Button symbol already has a template with 4 states. Why not update Flash Professional to visually represent more Classes and Component Classes, instead of just the MovieClip Class and the Button Class. Even better, maybe there could be a way to make a template for creating our own wireframe components. Just assign a base class for the wireframe class and a base template, and the introspection view will display accordingly.
States of the component would be listed out at the top instead of frames, just like the Button Symbol used to be. Different layers could be designated for specific graphical parts of the component. The designer would be free to add their own layers if necessary.
In previous versions of Flash, everything was a movieclip and everthing had a timeline. Thats not the case anymore. The timeline is for intropecting MovieClips, but this view could be different when intropsecting different types of symbols such as Sprites, Buttons, Wireframe Components, and even Custom Wireframe Components(extensible).
These new Symbols and also Sprites could export to FXG very easily.
The multi screen applications in 4) look pretty similar to the Slide Presentation Template. Why not just make a new MultiScreen App Template and youre done. these MultiScreenApp Templates could exporte Screens to FXG or export the whole Template to a FXP.
I applaud the work done on the new wireframe components and FXG. Great Job!
But, just cant understand why you cant update Flash Professional with new types of Symbols(Sprites, new Buttons and wireframe Component Classes) and a new MultiScreen App Template.
Flash Professional needs to keep up with AS3 and also needs to export FXG and FXP.
Why doesnt Adobe focus on on this rather than create a new Tool? These features need to be added to Flash Professional anyway.
Isnt there more of a disadvantage to having 2 tools for designers that do the same thing?
I'm sure this issue has been debated before. Can anyone point to me links that have the arguments for creating a separate tool instead of updating?
Has anyone ever suggested that Flash Professional should keep up with AS3?
Has anyone ever suggested making Sprites a new symbol in Flash Professional so that it could be more seamless with Photoshop?
Has anyone ever suggested make Wireframe components in Flash Professional like the Button Symbol in Flash Professional?
Has anyone ever suggested updating Flash Professional so that it would export FXG and FXP?
What is your opinion on this?
I come from a design background, so I can't really answer all of your questions. But I can offer a bit of insight into why I think Flash Catalyst is a good idea (versus trying to adapt Flash Pro to this kind of work).
I've tried to get into Flash many times. But no matter what I want to do, I'm always faced having to write some kind of code. Or worse, I have to tinker forever on the timeline. While CS3 and especially now CS4 have been big steps in the right direction (I can at least find myself around Flash now), it doesn't compare on any level with how easy things are with Flash Catalyst now. I can literally spend 2-3 minutes with my Photoshop and Illustrator design comps and create something that is perfect. No code. Easy. And a developer can take my work directly and take it to the next step.
Personally, even if Adobe would make Flash "easier" and add this functionality, I don't see myself learning it or going there. And to be honest, I don't want Adobe to "dumb down" Flash Pro just for folks like me. It's a pro-level tool that hardcore Flash developers and ActionScript gurus can work their magic on. It should always be that way.
Thanks for your insights. I come from a programming background, so its good to hear a designer's perspective.
But I feel like I'm writing to defend the Designers from the changes and decisions being made in the Flash Platform from what seems to be strong forces in the Flex and Component creating side of Adobe(not that I know).
It just seems like, if Adobe is going to go through the trouble to redefine the Programmer's tool for the Flash Platform (formally known as Flex Builder), why wouldn't they put just as much effort in redefining the Designer's tool for the Flash Platform(formally know as Flash Professional). Flash(oops, i mean Flash Professional) needs to step up and be the design counterpart of Flash Builder.
Why are they building the exact same design tool which has less than 70 percent of the features of the former, just in order to add 2 really cool new features? (yes 2, because new symbols/components is a structure that can include screen views) These features are much less an upgrade than many of the past upgrades Flash Professional has gone through in the past. And its not like these features are just something extra that would be slapped onto Flash Professional. Flash Professional needs these features desprately to keep up with AS3 and Flash Builder!!!
When will Flash Professional be updated with the new Flex 4 components? Wouldnt it make more sense to have just as high quality interfaces for these components as you have in Flash Catalyst.
Does everybody think Flash Professional is Flash 5 and that everything has to have a timeline?
If we just had a "Sprite" symbol for the new Sprite class in AS3, then we could have the exact kind of view you have in Flash Catalyst with nice Photoshop looking folders and layers, because Sprites dont have Timelines.
Layers Flash Professional
(so maybe they should visually upgrade the layers view so that it matches other Adobe Products, layers are still layers):
Layers Flash Catalyst:
Flash Professional already has buttons which have 4 states just like Flash Catalyst, and it can be upgraded!
and the same 4 states in flash Catalyst (yes the 4 states in Flash Professional might need a makeover but the functionality is the same,
and its a view only when looking inside buttons)
If Flash professional can have different views for different symbols, then it can have different views for wireframe components just like Flash Catalyst.
In Flash Professional:
you select an graphic on the stage, right click and select "Convert to Symbol".
(Choices: Movie Clip, Button, Graphic)
In Flash Catalyst:
you select a graphic on the stage, right click and select "Convert Artwork to Component".
(Choices: Button, Text Input, Horizontal Scrollbar, Vertical Scrollbar, DataList, Custom/Generic Component)
Why cant we add these to Flash Professional and turn our graphics into more things than just 3 types of Symbols?
The design tool needs to be a visually representative of the code.
Is there any reason Adobe cant create a win/win situation without compromising quality?
What if Adobe built Flash Catalyst inside of Flash Professional without dumbing it down or making it "easier" (which is the mistake made the last time they tried to upgrade the components)? Wouldnt you agree that its better not to have 2 tools?
I really think they could have done that.
There's really only 2 main features from Flash Catalyst that Flash Professional doesn't have.
( new types of symbols/wireframe components/screens that we can introspect with custom views and FXG/FPX export).
Its seems like they did to Flash Catalyst what you suggested they shouldn't do to Flash Professional.
Doesnt it seem like they made Flash Catalyst into a dumbed down and "easier" version Flash Professional?
I hope that this is just a beta of the next version of Flash Professional, but with the other features hidden so that Adobe can perhaps test the waters without committing to a full upgrade of Flash Professional.
Am I the only one to point this out? No links?
This is a great question and a thoroughly laid out argument.
It does however fail to take into account that Adobe likes to sell software. FC = one more piece of software you need to buy now in order to offer full service design/development services in the Flash Platform.
Cynical, I know, but after all of the thinking I had done on the very same topic, there were only two things I could come up with...
1. Flash's codebase is so old and rickety there isn't much that can be done to upgrade it to a modern Eclipse-like compiler and Markup generator leveraging MXML/FXG, etc.
2. They like to sell software.
This is an interesting topic of conversation, and I think a good one.
I honestly believe the customers would be best served by merging the functionality of Catalyst into Flash Professional. I think that it would be best for the platform to have 2 tools (perhaps even just 1) that are used as the main IDE for Flash Platform development. If 2 tools, then Flash Professional would be renamed to Flash Designer (for designer and animator based projects), while Flash Builder (formerly known as Flex Builder) would be renamed to Flash Developer, for programmer (developer) based projects.
But, that assumes this is possible. As it currently stands it is not. Catalyst, and Builder both use a completely different framework from Professional. The component architecture is drastically different, not to mention the entire backend of the software.
Also, it is not always bad to "reinvent the wheel" as you put it. Often, the only real innovation happens from someone who says "This doesn't work the same way, I can improve the workflow by creating something new"
The way I see the future happening (regardless of Adobes current plans) - IF the Catalyst team mans up and gets all the current functionality issues worked out, gets all of the components in there, and improves performance a bit before the first full release, and also IF Adobe adds Catalyst and Builder to the Creative Suite (why Flex wasn't in the Suite already I will never know), then I see Catalyst gaining a lot of the functionality of Flash Professional, and Flash Professional going away completely. Those are some big IF's, but it could happen.
What I do think NEEDS to happen, is to merge the frameworks of Professional and Builder, so that the users can have access to all of the available components regardless of their IDE of choice.
I think a better way of doing it is to integrate the feature set of FC into Flash, but still have FC as a separate piece of software. I can design and code and I understand the arguments here and can understand why there seems to be confusion and redundancy between the too. However, I can also see how designers can get up and running so much faster with FC and it's incredibly low learning curve. For large shops that have two departments, this is a great idea. Personally, I don't use Flex, I just do my AS3 coding in Flash, so I'd love to have FC make the file openable in Flash or just incorporate FC into Flash, either would work for me.
I will venture that FC will be far less expensive than Flash Professional, so for an entry product, which this definitely is, that's a good idea, both for Adobe and for their customer base.
I viewed Ryan Stewart's recent video (May 31, 2009 "Flash Catalyst/Builder Screencast") and began to grasp where Adobe might be heading. Whether FC is a stepping-stone, or a product that will eventually be full-featured and included in the Design Creative Suite, it seems obvious that the goal is integration (big-time). Ryan demonstrated a simple workflow (that made my head hurt) which went from FC to FB, through CF, all the way to a back-end J2EE app.
Adobe's intent became less transparent when Creative Suite was introduced and FC is right in line, if you look ahead 5 years and make a few unsupported, but logical conclusions.
This obviously doesn't answer the question posed, but after viewing the process, FC fits well into the workflow - right now. Conceptually, anyway. It would appear that FC is geared toward application development focusing on the design phase, as opposed to creating a new generation of freelance web designers ( or depending on your perspective). Maybe that will shift in either direction or maybe FC will be absorbed entirely, but it's obvious that Adobe has a plan. FC doesn't appear to be a casual blip on the radar or something to fill time until the next important release of 'anything'. It seems more like a 'user survey'.
Just speculating, but it's my guess that what we're testing here with beta-1 FC, is simply phase 1 of something much bigger. An upheaval of Flash CS4 would probably make less sense at this point, than a modular add-on that stimulates discussion, providing Adobe with valuable information.
My only fear is that the paradigm shift favors big business and individual users and small business owners will be lost in the perfect storm...
I have to completely agree with your assessment on the future direction of Flash Professional and Flash in general. The thing that hit me first and foremost is that you can have graphic designers take their designs from either Photoshop or Illustrator and make a complete Flash website without any additional help. Flash Catalyst can stand on it's own very easily from that point alone.
I've actually shown the demonstration video to a few designer clients and they got so exited it was crazy. They could see themselves making a complete Flash website without any help or needing to learn Flash itself, which for a artistic person can be very daunting and one of the many reasons that a lot of them don't even try. They did have the same concern I had that once you had it pretty much done, if you wanted to do some additional tweaking, they would have preferred to use the Flash Professional environment instead of Flash Builder, which they all agreed looked like a foreign language and wouldn't touch the thing. They agreed that they would probably just do a work around or ditch the idea if FC couldn't handle it.
So, I agree that would could see FC as a part of the Flash collection and Creative Suite for a long time. It makes perfect sense.
Thanks for your explanation. I appreciate your feedback.
I'm glad we agree that ideally there should be 2 main tools, one for designers(Flash Professional) and one for programming(Flash Builder).
You had mentioned "But, that assumes this is possible. As it currently stands it is not" and the reason being "Catalyst, and Builder both use a completely different framework from Professional. The component architecture is drastically different, not to mention the entire backend of the software.".
You could also argue that, the reasons to make a separate flex component creation tool like Flash Catalyst assumes that updating Flash Professional CS4 is NOT possible. But is the statement about the framework being entirely different really true?
Well, that depends on what you mean by the term "framework".
Framework can refer to 3 things in this case.
1) the component framework
2) the code framework(AS3)
3) the flex framework (mxml, fxg)
If you are refering to #1 then you're right, because Adobe hasnt updated the flash component framework in Flash Professional from Flex3 Halo components to Flex4 Spark components.
Flash components have gone through many iterations, and the switch from AS2 to AS3 was probably more profound than the new wireless component structure(Spark). And now that we have AS3, isnt the only difficulty creating a intuitive UI in Flash Professional, and adding export features?
If you are refering to #2 then I think you're incorrect, because Flash Professional has been updated to AS3 and Flex4 Spark components use AS3. I would totally agree with you, if CS4 did not go through all of the trouble updating to AS3.
If you are refering to #3 then you're right, because Flash Professional doesnt export mxml, fxg, or fxp, but with a little creativity, it would probably be possible to allow such an export. Adding FXG/FXP export features could be solved by creating a new type of project file. Adobe did this for AS2, AS3, flash lite, etc. Why cant they just make a new AS3/FXG file that only allows you to build fxg/fxp exportable assets.
Why cant Adobe make a Sprite class the default document class for AS3/FXG projects and when some adds a movie clip asset, export movie clips as swfs or swcs?
So to be honest, after opening up Flash Catalyst again and looking at it again, I almost get the feeling that its just a Flash Component creation tool with a Photoshop UI, for the new AS3/Flex 4 components(Spark components) that Adobe just refuses to add to CS4. CS4 uses AS3 and Spark components use AS3. CS4 needs to be a visual design tool for all the classes in AS3(as much as possible).
Perhaps Adobe originally meant to name this product...
ADOBE FLASH COMPONENTS
Or maybe Adobe Flex Components(but thats no longer true, because Flex 4 will be Flash Builder).
In regard to "reinventing the wheel". Flash components have been reinvented several times, and I totally agree with you that this is important to "reinvent" components to keep up with new techiques as2,as3,fxg. You are right, this is a positive thing. However in this case, I am using "reinvent in a negative sense.
So maybe I shouldnt say "reinvent the wheel", but "reinvent the car".
Perhaps Adobe is trying to create a wheel for the upperclass RIA programmer Flex car, and isnt making it compatible common designer/programmer Flash car. And when they finished the wheel, and they decided just to make a Segway for the Designers and Flash people to ride, that uses this new wheel.
You might argue that its more approachable for designers, and designers feel at home because the ui is similar. This is precisely why Adobe should hurry up and finish updating the ui of the Flash Professional IDE so that its ui is more compatable with Photoshop and Illustrator. The fact that Photoshop and Illustrator is the standard for designers are perhaps one of Adobe's greatest advantages. They could make the designers happy if they just make a Sprite inspector view with layers like photoshop in Flash Professional, instead of using the old "everything
is a movieclip" paridgim. Flash Professional has already upgraded to AS3 and in AS3 everything isnt a movieclip. So it would be nice if they could make views for some of the new classes and wireframe components.
This is the age old debate, update or start from scratch. I guess I'm saying that I think the hard work of updating to AS3 has already been done, and its just plain wierd that Adobe decides to build a separte tool for components, when they use the same AS3 code base.
Its just insanely exciting to just think about what could have been if Flash updated and brought on more Designers and at the same time linked in the Flex community. Thats what Flash has always been about! The meeting point between Designers and Programmers.
To go this far and quit just because of components just leaves me blue.
It seems that many projects stop at 80% complete and if the developers just spent the extra 20% on fine tuning things then they would have a very high quality product. In this case the remaining 20% is components, ui, and export. I understand that there are probably many things I dont understand, especially when you through in marketing, and product life cycle.
But I think Adobe could have done it, if they put as much effort into it as they did to make an entirely new product.
Maybe we should make some noise before its too late.
I'm still interested in seeing more links that show the logic behind the initial discussions of this debate when it was first decided.
pls keep me posted.
@nwfa & macsavers
Yes, youre right. it does seem to be their plan. I just hope they are just testing the waters. Perhaps after they do the initial selling of Flash Compenents, then maybe they could offer a free update to CS4.
As I mentioned above, the main reason designers feel at home is because of the UI of Flash Catalyst. UI's can be updated, and I believe Flash Professional can and should update itsui for the reasons I mentioned above.
For the record, I do whole-heartedly agree that we should not have 3 separate tools that do essentially the same thing.
As for the "framework" issues.
When I stated "framework" in my prior post, I was referring to all 3 of the things you state, but they are not quite separate points, instead intermingling.
1. The component framework Flash Professional vs Flash Builder (Halo)
Both use the Halo component architecture, true. BUT, that is the end of the similarity between the components.
Professional uses a visual/code-based creation and skinning structure, whereas Builder Halo components are optimized to run from MXML. So, the "code framework" is actually different between the two IDE's. In Professional we are looking at pure AS3, whereas in Builder we are looking at an MXML/AS3 code mix. This is why the component sets have always been different between the two.
As for Spark. These components are built ground-up specifically to work with FXG/MXML - so NO pure AS3 solution is going to work for them.
SO, when I state that it would be "impossible" to add the functionality to Professional, I mean it literally. Though, by impossible I mean: "Not able to do it without adding full MXML functionality to it, essentially making it a completely different software"
I wish it were as simple as saying "They both use AS3 for the code-base, so they should both be able to do all of this" but it isn't. There are more code-bases in the mix.
Though, as I write this, I DO wish that Adobe would intermingle the codes a bit, and INTEGRATE Builder and Catalyst into 1 tool that works better than either can work independantly. This would allow for the same 2 tools (one for the visually-oriented, and one for the code-oriented) with full integration between the two, and the ability to do round-tripping. Perhaps the ability for the IDE to take a timeline tween and have it implicitly be FXG code on the backend. The ability was there in CS3 to export timeline motion as AS3 code.