Flex/AIR/Flash Catalyst – Things designers should care about

By now you know I am a designer, but you may wonder why I would even care about Flex and AIR. I do classify myself as a designer who codes, but still, I am indeed not a full fledged developer. When it comes to needing CF on my sites, I can do some coding, but not in any other language like PHP, or any what I call heavy lifting on the back end of my sites. Would I like to be a developer? Only if I can still design.

So I made a big deal about Flex to our members (KCWebCore), because Flex and AIR and eventually Flash Catalyst can literally change our lives. With an increase my skill set, I’ll be more marketable, and with an increase in my worth, it’ll change my quality of living. Why wouldn’t I want to learn this?

We’ll start with Flex and why us designers should care.

With every Flex application built, someone will need to make it look presentable and have the look of it fit in with the clients web site. This is where we come in with Flex skinning. Adobe has made Flex skinning easy to do with some downloadable (is that a word?) extensions on http://labs.adobe.com. They have one for Flash (which makes sense) Illustrator and Fireworks (which is awesome). As a matter of fact, if you don’t already, you should have Labs bookmarked for all the great information they have on there.

Flash Catalyst (formally code named Thermo) is a bridge between the design world and Flex. You can either design inside of Flash Catalyst or bring in a Photoshop/Illustrator/Fireworks file. Once you bring in, lets just use a layered Photoshop file for an example, you can target specific layers and turn them into working Flex elements and components. Plus, it isn’t like Contribute or some program that doesn’t let you touch the code, it’s more like a WYSIWYG, Dreamweaver like program that lets you design, but also lets you see the code you have just created. What it allows you to create is working sliders, visually wiring together events and bindings, and much more. Wow! Flash Catalyst isn’t even public yet, so we have to be patient for a bit unless you were lucky enough to be at MAX NA 2008. They gave out a ton of DVD’s with Gumbo on it as well. Gumbo is Flex 4’s code name. MAX also had a ton of  sessions and hands-on sessions. Maybe I’ll add a tutorial for those who have the MAX build very soon. Anyway, once the designer gets done, he hands it over to the develop in Flex 4 who takes the file and finishes up the functionality of the application. You can even round-trip back and forth from Flex 4 back to Catalyst, back to whatever design progam you used. Lots of new features to be added soon, so stay tuned. Visit Flash Catalyst’s page at Labs for more info.

There will be plenty of opportunities for us designers there, but what about AIR? So lets say Actionscript 3.0 is still a bit mystical for you just yet. (I know you are trying to learn it) Even for us Flash designers, turning to AS 3.0 for our code, even the simple stuff, has a learning curve. Even for AS developers, making the switch to Flex has been… shall we say, at times frustrating. (Flash Catalyst can also make AIR applications, or will when released.) You can also make AIR applications out of Dreamweaver and now Flash CS4. WooHoo! With Dreamweaver CS3 and CS4 and Javascript, you can make AIR applications. Yep, no kidding. So first thing, you go and download the Adobe AIR extension for Dreamweaver CS3. There is a ton of good support info, so don’t worry, I won’t explain it all in one blog entry. Just know that it is an amazing opportunity for us Dreamweaver geeks to explore something as cool as AIR.

Flex allows you to use either AS 3.0, or MXML. If that means nothing to you, that’s OK too. Just know that there are some subtle difference between Flex AS 3.0, and Flash 3.0. What this info makes me do besides turn to Colin Mook’s AS book from O’Reily is make me understand that only really good developers will be embracing Flex, AND that they will need a good designer to make their Flex apps look good.

So have I given you enough reason to lean more about these new Adobe technologies? I hope so.

See ya later

Dee

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