June 1, 2009

Adobe posts free public beta of Flash Catalyst

In late 2007, I posted about a new application that Adobe was developing, code-named Thermo, which they previewed at the Adobe MAX conference (in Chicago) that year. At the 2008 Adobe MAX conference (in San Francisco), Adobe revealed the name of this exciting application – Adobe Flash Catalyst – and even released a preview version of the application to Adobe MAX attendees.

Now, you can give Adobe Flash Catalyst a try yourself – it’s available as a free public at Adobe Labs.

What is Flash Catalyst? In short, it’s a design interaction tool built to help designers create interactive Flash content and rich internet applications without having to learn to write computer code. There’s a whole lot more, which I’ll cover in more detail in future posts, but for now, you can do the following:

- Download the free public beta of Adobe Flash Catalyst from Adobe Labs.
- Head to Lynda.com for my newest title, Adobe Flash Catalyst Beta Preview. The entire video title (15 movies comprising of over an hour of video training). The entire training title is FREE to all – no lynda.com subscription is required.


Alexei said...

It looks like a variation of Fireworks (which I love dearly) to me. Definitely some Flash-like elements are thrown in (timeline) but some other things are "dumbed down." The latter, perhaps, is because it's still in beta and not everything is implemented. I wonder if it's going to eventually replace Fireworks. I'd rather see Fireworks have added features to perform this application prototyping role - it already does most of it.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Mordy, for making those videos -- and for making them freely available. I downloaded Catalyst and worked with it for several hours on Monday. It did not impress me. An article on the Layers magazine site, Things I Wish Flash Did Without A Programming Degree, says it better than I could.

ActionScript 2 was an accessible language that empowered designers and graphics people to write simple applications. Developers, however, found the Flash IDE frustrating and under-powered. So Adobe created AS 3, a fully-fledged programming language, and Flash Builder, a terrific IDE for developers. The absence of an easy scripting language, however, locks out designers and illustrators.

The state-to-state transitions in Catalyst go nowhere near allowing the graphics community to do what was possible in Flash 8 with AS 2. Adobe refers optimistically to "empowering better collaboration between developers using Flash Builder and users of Adobe's creative tools". In the real world, this means relegating designers to the increasingly commoditized work of doing UI elements in Photoshop or Illustrator.

I can see and appreciate that Adobe has a larger strategic vision. Pity it doesn't include Adobe's traditional customers.

JimPogo said...

Could be nice for quick comps and mockups.

As Alexei said, it seems like a Fireworks for Flash (which is sort of the complaint that Aongus said). In the real world, designers aren't as clueless as Adobe thinks (all that "passing off" between departments is fairly exaggerated in favor of volume licensing).

Why can't the HUDs be in a formal panel instead of being in the way. I'd turn them off and just use the Properties panel if I could.

Unknown said...

Alexei - yeah, I too was thinking about a "flash variety" of Fireworks when I first saw Catalyst. Especially considering how the HTML components work in Fireworks and how you can easily bring those into Dreamweaver. I woudn't worry about Flash Catalyst replacing Fireworks or any existing Adobe application though. Fireworks is used heavily in HTML/CSS/JS workflows and Flash Catalyst doesn't touch on that stuff at all.

Aongus - I think RC made some good comments in his blog post. I actually wrote up my initial feelings about Flash Catalyst in a blog post a few months back (Futuristic Hype or Realistic Future?). I think it's all about setting the right expectation - that Flash Catalyst seems to have been built as a front-end for Flash Builder. It really is a different animal altogether from Flash Professional. At the same time, this is a 1.0 product that's in beta, so it's hard to get a real handle on where Adobe is eventually going with all aspects of the app. I know there are many aspects of the app that simply aren't functional yet. In the next few days, I'll write a few posts talking about this.

JimPogo - I totally agree about the HUD. Ever since Adobe started showing FC to me, I have complained about how unnecessary the HUD is - I see no reason why we can't just have a traditional Properties panel like Flash Pro does where these elements are found.

Unknown said...

Mordy, I take your point about expectations. Catalyst != Flash Pro.

What provoked my rant was a recent, positive experience with Flash 8. My background is in print graphics, but I was part of a small team doing an e-learning project. With no previous experience of ActionScript coding, I was able to build a high degree of interactivity into the graphics -- sliders, draggable movie clips, quizzes and so on.

If and when AS 2 is eventually replaced with AS 3, this will no longer be possible for people like me. I had hoped that Catalyst would make up for some of the technological deficit but, as you point out, it is a different product with a different purpose.

As a sidenote, coders working on the project found Flash Pro problematic as a development environment, but loved Flex!

Alexei said...

Mordy, when you mentioned Flash Catalyst being front-end to Flash Builder I immediately thought about Microsoft building various tools for its Silverlight (Expression Web, etc.) Adobe tools now look like a similar set of tools for Flash/ActionScript. I think it's a nod towards developers more than designers. Now developers don't receive a half-ready sketch from designers that needs to be further processed before code can be attached. On the other hand, Microsoft tools allow for a reverse workflow: develop code on a simple design and then let designer do his/her job without a need to update code. Hopefully Flash Catalyst can be used like that too, i.e. open FXP and, when I change component design without adding new elements, it should not touch the code. That would allow adapting design to customer likes after all the coding is done.

Bembelembe said...

Nice tutorial and interesting program. I think in future versions.. v2, v3... this could be the enough versatile application. For one thing though I was surprised that Catalyst lacks - exporting to Flash!