I actually got a version of it at Adobe MAX. And to answer your question NO WAY! When Flash Catalyst finally takes off, it will open up a new segment of designers to dabble in Flash. But this will only benefit RIA designers and developers by taking some of the weight off their shoulders. Flash Professional will still be used by advanced ActionScripters and animators, mainly because Flash Catalyst will only have rudimentary animation available, and the Flex framework currently has a base file size of around 300-400K... meaning you won't be using it to build advertisements. Flash Professional CS4, on the other hand, has beefed up it's repertoire of tools... I think Flash CS4 alone, will make it more accessible to designers than previous versions of Flash.
The bottom line is the lines are being blurred. Flash Catalyst will be the Powerpoint of the Flash Platform. (I'm not trying to mean folks.) It is just as important to the Flash Platform, because it will allow designers to create SWFs when they didn't have or want the technical skills necessary to build them before.
They still have a long way to go though, and I'm sure they will be adding a ton of features. In the mean time... check out Flash CS4. It frickin rocks!
Who wouldn't prefer a 'Powerpoint' dummy from the hand of a Graphic designer than a graphic userinterface from a Flash technician engineer....;-)
will Catalyst only benefit the designer working on RIA's? or can it be used to create simple websites too?
From the sounds of it, Adobe is trying to bridge the gap between developer and designer. This won't only benefit the designer, by allowing them to build simple websites and RIAs. It will also benefit developers by taking some of the load off their shoulders! Allowing them to focus on the meat of the application rather than having to deal with visual assets.
Designers will be in control of how everything looks... even after handing it off to developers. Developers will be in control of how it functions... even before the designers touch it.
Catalyst effectively separates the code from the design. The designer goes in and creates layouts, describes their purpose in a visual manner. All the while, Flash Catalyst is writing well-formed MXML code for the developer to use later.
Actually, this product frightens me a little, as a UI developer. The thing is, creatives aren't really UI experts... they are messaging design experts who are mostly concerned with two things: the marketing message and their portfolios. I know this because before I was a developer I was a designer (I also have a BFA in sculpture). On the other end of the spectrum are server engineers, who are only concerned about the machine. The one person among all of the stakeholders in the development of an application that is truly concerned about - and has expertise to serve the needs of - the user is the UI developer.
Unfortunately, both designers and SEs often have antagonistic relationships with UI developers, each from their own perspective seeing them as a hindrance, rather than a compliment to their own skills: designers see us as 'technicians' always 'tearing their designs down' and SEs see us as... 'designers'. Neither appreciates that the role is not just technical; it's actually quite an art to tie all the stakeholders' interests together to deliver a usable product.
I think Adobe is giving a power to designers they don't really deserve to wield, given that they are not really user-oriented, and relegating UI developers, who made ActionScript the success it is, to being integration technicians. I think we'll see a glut of bland apps coming out of this tool, as well as a lot of bloated, not-very-usable ones if it catches on.
BTW, in response to another poster, using mxmlc, the command-line compiler, it's actually possible to get an optimized Flex app with a base size of about 50K, with an RSL of the flex framework riding along for about 53K with a one-time load. Wouldn't know that if I wasn't a 'technician'.
Truly remarkable UX is only possible with a human at the helm of the presentation tier. I've been hoping for more integration between the traditional 'creative' stack and the Macromedia-acquired 'web' stack for a while, but I'm kind of scratching my head over this approach to it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'm wrong and it won't bode as poorly for good UX/UI as I think it will.
I don't think it will be that bad. At my company, UI designers are actually a part of the "creative domain" with heavy technical skills. At any company you will have a spectrum of skills. It is the companies' responsibility to choose who is designing these user experiences. If they choose designers who don't fully understand the importance UI design to build their applications. Then their product will fail...
Don't get me wrong, I have concerns too! Like how in the world can they expect to optimize the imagery of these applications without getting a real Flash designer in there to fully utilize filters and vector movieClips. Or how far can the designer take an application without getting a developer involved.
I am really more anxious to see designers getting their assets into a digestible form for Flash. Right now, it feels like they throw their projects over a wall and move on to the next project. I think this will help designers get their feet wet in building applications... maybe even convince some of them to rethink their career goals!
As far as the file size goes...50K sweet! Have you seen this? What if the entire framework was cached? GREAT IDEA! http://www.onflex.org/ted/2007/06/flex-3-thursday-dramatically-smaller.php
I would love to dump all those banner ads on the designers so we can focus the fun microsites! Because right now, our designers can't even do those efficiently... it takes someone who's very proficient with Flash to cut all the corners and get them down to size.
6145466477, is the player cache the same thing as a signed RSL (SWZ)? I like the link but didn't see any info about how to implement it on the command-line or in a flex-config. Yeah, it's actually about 44K when you include the framework.swc library as an RSL. The strange thing is that if you statically link it, the combined total of base app plus framework is around 185K, as opposed to 44 + 43 separately.
I definitely hear you about designers throwing assets over the wall. I'm dealing with that headache as we speak on yet another death march project that resulted from the perfect storm of late creative and difficulty integrating assets. We were going to do all the creative with a skinning library I developed previously, but to save time (because the deadlines are immovable, but not for creative, so as usual technology has to pay the price for slow production) went with FLA integration. Although it will still save time over the vector approach, I'm having to do a ton of production work to make the FLAs digestible by our application. I tried to advocate for tight control over the creatives to get the assets delivered in a strictly defined fashion, and versioning, but neither flew, no surprise. So I'm back to doing the old-fashioned, time-gobbling approach of making changes manually in my re-organized FLA when the designer throws changes over the wall.
I'm similarly skeptical about optimization.
6145466477, LOL, I paid a little closer attention to your link... that's exactly what I'm doing in my app! You include the framework as an RSL via the sdk, pointing to the sdk SWZ with a SWF failover, and deploy them with your app. I do it via a config file I target from an Ant script that uses the <java> command and a local (i.e. in the src/ root) copy of the sdk so it runs on every dev's machine regardless of platform or whether or not they have the sdk (e.g., server engineers who don't have Flex or the sdk). It's yummy :-9. One thing that isn't so yummy and not so well documented is that it causes security problems. There's a workaround however, either using the use-network compiler flag via FB3, or more reliably the Global Security Settings for Flash Player to add your project folder as a trusted folder, which also gets around a lot of the other thorny issues the security model causes developers locally:
Actually, I just noticed the title of the above article: "Improving Flex application performance using the Flash Player cache" ;-)
What I don't want to see out of Adobe... more application sprawl. I appreciate the great new features touted by the Catalyst team, and the tight mxml integration, but I think that an effort must be made to integrate this stuff into Flash. There is waaay too much overlap in Adobe's products lately. As the Suite grows larger, more expensive, more confusing, and with new versions being released at such a rapid pace, it is becoming harder to justify the costs and large learning curve of the Flash platform to my company. For my freelance web work, I've dropped Flash almost entirely as a solution due to the built-in capabilities of modern browsers using only the old technologies we're forced to keep current with anyway (html/css/js).
Don't get me wrong, I'm an Adobe fan... I'd just like to see some consolidation where it makes sense.
I wouldn't drop Flash if I were you... unless of course you want to work in print! Adobe is pushing the platform pretty hard. At Adobe MAX, I scarcely heard about anything except the Flash platform.
The reason for the overlapping applications, is that Flash is so ubiquitous, not only in penetration rate, but in how people are using it. It has moved way beyond it's initial purpose as an animation tool. It's now used for Rich Internet Applications, Desktop Applications, and (eventually) Mobile Applications... not to mention all the miniscule purposes to use Flash. The Flash platform has to address all those needs. And the creative suites will need to tailor itself based on those needs.
The market is changing too. I find myself doing more and more video to supplement my web work. Not to mention sound. I actually won a copy of CS4 Web Premium, but in reality, I actually need applications from CS4 Production Premium. My fiance, needs Print... so really for us, the Master collection is what we need. BUT IT"S WAY TOO EXPENSIVE!
I think you both hit the nail on the head. I was completely flabbergasted when Thermo (now catalyst) was announced. Being a long time designer turned Actionscript programmer I was lured into the Flex world by drag drop video tutorials. Flash couldn't easily deliver on the high level coding front, so flex came out, YAY! Unfortunately my excitement waned by being disappointed by the horrible eclipse based IDE, swf file size (flex 2), meager component set (still no video player and so much more), and framework constraints. My biggest disappointment came from the ridiculous hoops needed to jump through in order to create a "smooth" designer/developer workflow.
The problem with the designer/developer workflow between flash/flex currently is that the designer really needs to have a good understanding of the flex framework and available component set, their limitations, and design to those constraints. More times than I can count I've worked with designers who come up with interesting or complex UI concepts that could only be implement by basically starting from the UIComponent and working your way up from there. I thought Flex was supposed to give us a leg up from coding a movieclip from the ground up to produce something unique? Maybe in some cases it does, but not in the really creative cases. From my perspective, Flex easily creates extremely vanilla Visual Studio, style apps. (obviously there are exceptions as some people have the time, resources to massage an application to look super sick).
I've actually stopped working in Flex these days and gone back to compiling everything in the flash IDE or using ANT and working off the Stage or out of the library as we did in the old days. Doing this, I can actually work with my most creative designers much much easier.
Why would adobe build a new product to do what Flash should have evolved to do? Flash can import illustrator, fireworks, and photoshop files and create graphical assets easily. Why wouldn't the additional MXML behind the scenes code writing functionality be built into Flash? Why wouldn't Adobe create a new window or menu item for defining stage assets as vertical or horizontal scroll bars? Is a new "Bridge" application really the answer? How much will it cost? I already had to give my first born to Rumplestiltskin for the last upgrade.
Taking a look at the UI for the Catalyst in the videos on Labs only confirms my fear about learning yet another toolset, menu structure, etc. under the guise of improving workflow. Just like Flex, I'm sure some use cases will, in fact, benefit greatly from the tool.
Here's my $0.02
I would love to see Adobe focus some seriously heavy resources on creating more and more useful high level components that actually integrate with the designer work flow. Designers building new interfaces want to incorporate whatever the hot widgets of the day are and customize them to their application. If Adobe makes it so ridiculously easy to create seriously advanced applications using cutting edge components or code libraries, then there is still a reason to use flash over ajax and js not to mention the actually innovative applications that might start popping up.
Hmmm, have to say I disagree. Designers (me being one of them) learned Flash because that was the best tool at the time to get the job done. While we know Flash well and can build complete UI's with it, it is far from ideal.
Catalyst is Flash for UI designers, and I love what it's intended to do (beta shortcomings aside).
I'm willing to learn any new workflow that gives me back time to design over implementing a design. My time should be spent on look (assets & layout) and feel (behavior of and between assets).
With iOS not supporting Flash and the dawn of HTML5 the writing is on the wall for Flash. This thread raises an interesting issue: there really is no Adobe product specifically for designing information architectures and improved user experiences.
I have designed the UX for an iOS app in Illustrator and by provided the static look and feel concepts to the developer to produce in Objective C and working with him to ensure my images were reproduced optimally.
Then I designed a UX for a Windows Phone 7 app the same way - produce static mock ups in Illustrator and then work with the .NET developer to make it happen. This was less than ideal and obviously threw up some interesting issues late in the development of each project.
The best mobile user experiences will rarely come from web sites optimised for mobile devices via user agents - I think this should be a last resort if the functionality of the application is very basic or project constraints such as time and budget dictate this as the necessary course of action.
The most intuitive and satisfying User Experiences on these devices are dictated by the platform's native functionality, style and behaviours so where possible good UX would work within the environment to appear seamless and native also.
Microsoft has a product Expression Blend which incorporates Sketch Flow - I couldn't learn it as I'm too used to Adobe UI's - but the program allows the development of working prototypes in wireframes for user interfaces. Expression Blend is similar to Dreamweaver in that it also has the code design split views which makes it much easier for UX specialists and hardcore developers to collaborate on projects and make it possible to deliver them more expediently,
Adobe should develop a superior product to Blend with options to export wire frame - or even full blown gorgeous UI's - for the major mobile platforms iOS, WP7 and Android - everypone wins. The companies have better apps on their devices, user has an improved experience and Adobe and vendors like Apple, Microsoft and Google will continue to get richer.
That's my two cents.