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Finally, a Visual Way to Design Interactivity!

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Now you no longer have to use ActionScript to creatively develop Flash applications. Author and Flash developer Chris Converse delves into Adobe InDesign 5’s new features, such as multi-state objects and the Animations Panel, among others, that let you design interactive content in much the same way you could in Flash.

For more on Chris's DVD, visit his website, codifydesign.com.

One of the most impressive aspects of the interactive features introduced in InDesign CS5 is the way it visually resembles the way I work in Flash. Being a Flash developer for nearly 10 years, I construct many of my projects using multi-frame movies clips, animations, buttons, videos, and hyperlinked text.

Over the past few years, much of my Flash work has existing solely in code, controlling animations, movie clips, sprites, and video with pure ActionScript (the code used to control Flash interactivity). While this is a fast and efficient way to develop Flash experiences, it is not a very visual way to work. This can slow down my creative process, because I have to constantly publish my work to see what it looks like.

With the addition of such features as multi-state objects and the Animations Panel, among others, InDesign allows me to design interactive content in much the same way I would if I were coding it in Flash. What's more, I feel like I can now “see” my interactive process. I’m really excited about the possibilities being opened up with InDesign CS5, which inspired me to develop the video series Creating Interactive Documents, as well as this article.

Cross-Platform and Cross Media

The first interactive capabilities of InDesign did not begin in CS5. Earlier versions of InDesign contained interactive features that carried over to PDF files, including buttons, bookmarks, and hyperlinks. InDesign CS4 gave us the first version of the SWF export feature (the file format that Flash and Catalyst publish to), which supported hyperlinks and buttons. This meant that you could design a document in InDesign, and then print it, publish to PDF, or publish to SWF—all from the same document! Given that both Adobe Reader and Flash Player exist on multiple operating systems (both desktop and mobile devices), this makes InDesign the premiere design tool for a cross-media design and deployment.

Recent announcements by Adobe also show InDesign as the center of its new Digital Publishing Magazine Workflow, which will allow designers to publish their InDesign documents to Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch). The conversation also includes plans to support for Google's Android and possibly HP's webOS platform as well.

These are truly exciting times for designers, and InDesign is sitting at the heart of the possibilities.

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