In CS5, Adobe actually has four different Flash authoring tools in the Creative Suite. These are InDesign, Flash Professional, Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder. In reality, Illustrator can also author Flash content, but it doesn't really fall into the same categories that these applications do. So it's a valid question to ask, which application should I use when I create Flash content? Well, let's first take these four applications and split them into two separate categories.
We have InDesign and Flash on one side and Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder on the other. We can define these two groups by the kinds of content that it creates. When we think about InDesign and Flash Professional, we think about creating free-form design that's based on ActionScript. When you look at Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder, we think about structure design using the Flex framework. But even within these two categories, each application does its own thing. If I had to pick a single word to describe the types of content that you can create with these applications, for InDesign, I would choose Design.
I think layout and rich typography where my focus is really on the visual appearance of the content. For Flash Professional, I think about the word Create. Create seems to intone infinite possibilities. Whatever I can dream about, I can create inside of Flash Professional. For Flash Catalyst, I think about the word Transform. The thinking here is that normally with Flash Catalyst, you start off with static graphics that have already been created inside of Photoshop or Illustrator or Fireworks. Flash Catalyst will then help you transform those static designs into something fully interactive and functional.
For Flash Builder, I would use the word Develop to describe what it does. There's nothing design-related here; it's all about writing computer code. Some typical projects that you might create with these applications include documents, presentations, portfolios, or cross-media or what I like to call hybrid documents, those that appear both in print and online are perfect for InDesign. Flash Professional offers the perfect environment for creating rich content, interactive video, advertising of almost any shape and size, and games for a variety of gaming platforms.
The primary use of Flash Catalyst is for creating user interfaces, Internet applications, microsites, and widgets. Whereas Flash Builder is primarily used to develop Internet applications. Now, of course, the lines are blurred. I mean nothing prevents you from creating a portfolio inside of Flash Catalyst. However, this overview should give you a better idea of the kinds of expectations you should have for these applications. More importantly, it may help you decide exactly when you should use each of these applications for a variety of different projects.
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