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Adobe Flash Catalyst: Under the Hood - Part 2 The Platform

In Part 2 of this continuing series, James Polanco and Aaron Pedersen provide a 30,000-foot overview of the new Flash Platform.

James Polanco and Aaron Pedersen are the guiding geniuses behind the Web development firm, based in San Francisco. James and Aaron are working on a book for Adobe Press on integrating Adobe Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder 4 (both just released as public betas) into the Web designer/developer workflow. Throughout June, they'll be posting a weekly series of items that takes a peek "under the hood" of these innovative tools. Check back each Monday for a new installment!

Adobe Flash Catalyst: Under the Hood—Part 2 The Platform

By James Polanco and Aaron Pedersen

Flash Catalyst has the potential to define a revolutionary new way of developing Flash Platform applications. When we speak of the “Flash Platform” we are talking about the Flash Player, the Flex SDK, and the design and development tools, which include Flash Catalyst, Flash Builder, Flash Professional, and the Creative Suite. All these technologies can be integrated into a cohesive process that allows us to create and then deploy rich interactive web applications.

Flash Catalyst is important next step, because up until this point designing Flex applications was a tedious and code-intensive experience that left many designers out of the loop. This process also placed an enormous amount of pressure on the developer to take the proposed design and integrate it correctly into the final application.

Adobe realized that many of these obstacles and limitations were created by the architecture of the Flex Components and until a full redesign of the components was initiated, the design process would be a time consuming task. The upcoming release of Flex, version 4, is the first major revision of the Flex architecture that focuses on empowering the designer and enabling design tools, like Flash Catalyst, to create highly stylized Flex applications.

So why Flash Catalyst? Flash Catalyst is a designer-centric tool that has the ability to create and manipulate Flex-based applications. Flash Catalyst can import Adobe Illustrator files, Photoshop files, and a new file format called FXG. The tool takes these files and converts their content into a Flex based project. As you work inside Flash Catalyst all of your changes update the Flex project without you having to write a line of code. To Flex developers this can be a scary prospect, but because of the new Flex component Architecture (Code named Spark), all design is encapsulated inside of skin files, therefore the logic of the application is not compromised.

By enabling these features, Flash Catalyst creates a more seamless integrated workflow for designers and developers. Designers can continue using their favorite Creative Suite tools to generate designs and mockups. They can then take their design files and bring them into Flash Catalyst, which automatically converts the files to Flex code.

Once converted, Flash Catalyst allows designers to breathe life into their creative design by applying interactive animations, defining application states (think login screen, register screen, application screen, etc.) and making continual changes to their design to meet the client’s needs without having to write a line of code. Once the design has come to life, the designer can hand the automatically generated Flex code off to a developer who then adds additional functionality and data integration. Now that Flex developers and designers can work in the same Flex project, collaborative methods have the chance to grow and flourish.

In later posts, we will explore exactly how Flash Catalyst, Flash Builder, the Flex SDK and Creative Suite enable these new workflows and features. We will examine the new Flex components and how they support design integration. We will look at the new Flex project file format called FXP, which enables designers and developers to share each other’s work. We will also look at how FXG enables cross communication among Creative Suite, Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder.

Part 1: Introduction

Part 3: Design Integration Workflows

Part 4: Converting & Skinning Components

Part 5: The Transport