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By Mordy Golding | Monday, October 25, 2010

A first look at Flash Catalyst Panini preview release from Adobe

Last spring, lynda.com published Flash Catalyst CS5 Essential Training to show members how to create and publish fully interactive Flash (SWF) micro sites, widgets, portfolios, and applications from static artwork without writing code. Previously, we had published the Flash Catalyst Beta Preview course. This year, we’re trying something new. Instead of a Beta Preview course, we’re going to be publishing a series of videos and blog entries. We’re starting this new series of posts to coincide with Adobe MAX, to take advantage of an anticipated public beta of a new and improved Flash Catalyst. Here is the first of my posts.

At their MAX conference in 2007, Adobe showed a demonstration of a new product they were building, dubbed Thermo— a product that would come to be known as Flash Catalyst. At the ’08 and ’09 conferences, they released public beta versions of Flash Catalyst. Adobe seems to be keeping with the tradition at this year’s Adobe MAX conference by posting a preview release of a future version of Flash Catalyst, code named Panini, to Adobe Labs. It’s obvious that the Flash Catalyst team has been hard at work, because Flash Catalyst Panini sports some pretty big features.

Roundtrip designer-developer workflow

In the CS5 release, Flash Catalyst enabled designers to send their projects to a developer, who could open them in Flash Builder. However, once a developer worked on a project, there was no way to send it back to a designer to make changes.

With Flash Catalyst Panini, designers can start the process by creating an interactive wireframe, which they then hand off to a developer. Using Flash Builder Burrito (a preview release of that product, which is now also available on Adobe Labs), a developer can open the wireframe and add logic and connections to data services, and then send the project back to the designer. The designer can now reopen the project in Flash Catalyst Panini to skin the project and make additional changes. Developers can control which parts are editable and protect other parts. This means the designer can actually preview live data connections while working on the design.

Support for creating resizable applications

Perhaps one of the things designers struggle with most is dealing with layouts that will be viewed across multiple devices and screen sizes. Creating resizable layouts (also referred to as fluid, or liquid) is not only possible now in Flash Catalyst Panini, it’s also really easy to do. I demonstrate how it works in the video accompanying this post.

Better wireframing functionality

In the CS5 release, Flash Catalyst featured a list of ten wireframe components such as buttons and sliders. Flash Catalyst Panini now features an impressive library that contains over 35 components that include things like navigation elements, accordion boxes, and basic building block elements such as body copy or image placeholders. All of the components have also been redesigned to feature a consistent grayscale appearance. What this means is that you can quickly create great-looking mockups and wireframes for just about anything. You can see these new components in the embedded video as well.

While Flash Catalyst Panini is a wonderful peek at what’s to come, it’s still a preview release, so I’d be careful about using it on real-world projects (there’s no backwards-compatibility with CS5, and developers must use the Flash Builder Burrito preview release to open projects made in Panini).

Of course, if you want to learn everything there is to know about using Flash Catalyst CS5, be sure to check out Flash Catalyst CS5 Essential Training in the lynda.com Online Training Library. And you can be sure that I’ll continue to bring you the latest information on future versions of Flash Catalyst here on lynda.com.

Got a request on what topics you’d like to see in a future Flash Catalyst title in the lynda.com Online Training Library? Let me know in the comments below!

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