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In Flash Catalyst CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding demonstrates how to create and publish fully interactive Flash (SWF) micro sites, widgets, portfolios, and applications from static Photoshop, Illustrator, and Fireworks artwork—all without writing code. The course covers planning a project, importing and organizing assets, creating interactive components, defining repeating data lists, and publishing final projects. Exercise files are included with the course.
Before we get started learning about Flash Catalyst, there are some key concepts that you need to know about. First of all, Adobe likes to refer to Flash Catalyst as something called an Interaction Design tool. And this is an important thing to note about Flash Catalyst. It was designed primarily to think about people who design for user experience, or what is sometimes known as UX design. Unlike interactive content where people just kind of sit back and watch things like a movie or an animation, for example, Flash Catalyst is used to create applications that people interact with.
So you'll be designing things that people specifically click on or drag, in order to get somewhere. The ultimate goal for a user experience designer is to help somebody learn how to use an application and to use it, and to use it in an intuitive way. To accomplish this goal, designers will often create something, test it out and then make modifications to those designs based on the feedback. This process is called design iteration. Unlike print design, where a designer creates something once and then publishes it, a user experience designer may put a button in a certain location and if people can't find it or use it in an intuitive fashion, they may modify their design by either moving the button to a different location or changing the design of that button.
As we'll see throughout this title, Flash Catalyst is really good at creating these user experiences and at helping you iterate on your designs. Now, let's take a moment to talk about the building blocks or the ways that we create content inside of Flash Catalyst. When you think about your design inside of Flash Catalyst, it's important to break them down to three basic concepts, something called components, pages and states, and transitions. Components are things that a person would interact with, for example, buttons or sliders.
They're interface points where a user who's using the design or application that you create would interact with your application. Pages or states are different stages throughout your application. For example, you might have a login screen where someone would enter their username and a password, and you might have a different page where they might fill out a form or view information about a product. Finally, there are transitions. These are animations that occur when a user moves from one page or state to another. Throughout this video title, we're going to spend a lot of time focusing on these three main concepts, so that you can plan your projects accordingly and get great results.
Now one of the greatest features about Flash Catalyst is actually what you don't have to do. You can design without writing code. Now I have an asterisk here, but that's because you yourself don't have to write the code, but code does have to get written. The nice thing about Flash Catalyst is that it writes all the code for you in the background. Flash Catalyst uses the Open source Flex Framework to create this code which also means that you can take your Flash Catalyst projects and hand them off directly to a developer. There are two reasons why this is important.
First of all, as a designer you have certain needs or requirements for the content that you create. For example, you may want something to move or animate in a very specific way. When working with a developer, you want to make sure that everything that you create and that your client approved, will translate perfectly through the development process. Second, there is less work for the developer to do. When you hand off your project, all the code is already written. This means a developer can get right to work on the things that he needs to do.
Finally, let's talk about publishing formats. Once you create your content inside of Flash Catalyst, how does the rest of the world consume that content? Well, as is apparent from the name of the product, Flash Catalyst, everything you create inside of Flash Catalyst is done inside of Flash. When you publish a project from Flash Catalyst, you end up with a SWF file, a standard SWF that will play inside of Flash Player 10 or later, or as an AIR file which will play directly on a desktop on any computer platform. In other words, anything that you create inside of Flash Catalyst can be played back inside of a web browser or on a desktop.
And while there are some mobile devices out there that support Flash Player 10.1, the projects that you create out of Flash Catalyst are not really optimized to run on a mobile device. Keeping these key concepts in mind - interaction design, building blocks, designing without code, and publish formats - you have a great foundation for getting started with Flash Catalyst.
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