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I managed to catch half of an Adobe webcast yesterday, previewing Creative Suite 4. It seems their main focus with the release is to improve workflow, easing the integration through the software family, across the whole suite, and with that improve the production process faced by designers and developers alike.

From the outset, their recent press release promises:

“Hundreds of feature innovations.. Delivering radical workflow breakthroughs that bring down the walls between designers and developers.”

So what were they?

Well from what I saw, there’s more ‘live updates’, some things I’d seen intended for CS3 that never quite made it. There was a good demo of Dynamic Link, their platform to facilitate these, which moved video clips from Premiere to After Effects and back, in this case, without the need to render a thing – a process that would ‘usually take fifteen minutes’ takes fifteen seconds in comparison.

Illustrator can now handle multiple art boards at once, embedding them into a single workspace. Meaning others’ updates are synchronised to your working environment. These could then be imported, for example, into Flash – still in their accumulated state.

A lot of Flash and Flex events I’ve attended recently seem to have presented the same message, their attempts to converge the designer and developer, or at least bring them closer together. The new skinning and design options in Flex 4 (Gumbo) for example, or even Thermo as a complete authoring tool, seem intent on doing this.

But I’m undecided, half of me won’t trust the code any ‘WYSIWYG’ editor writes for me. I wonder if designers might soon experience a similar dilemma – Photoshop CS4 has a ‘content-aware scaling’ tool that determines for you what ‘objects’ in a flat image should be resized, or otherwise maintain ratio. See it in action here.

The other half thinks that Adobe aren’t trying to dictate my working environment to me, or forcing me to change a thing. Instead, more trying to accommodate others that might struggle and/or are new to the software, or in my interest, interactive development.

Colin Moock recently presented the ‘Charges Against ActionScript 3.0‘ at InsideRIA, continuing a discussion into whether Actionscript 3’s ‘hard’ reputation is deserved. He criticised CS3 for making ‘simple interactivity hard’ – his example proves his point, the on() and onClipEvent() handlers are no more. But it’s not so bad, just that even the most simple animations require a little more structure now.

But in comes the demonstration of the new animation features of Flash CS4, including tweening by dynamic bezier-like paths with easy and intelligent ways to modify them, ‘scalable’ timelines which automatically reposition keyframes and even creating ‘skeletons’ for MovieClips to quickly animate what would previously have required tedious dissection and some fiddly manipulation.

There’s even 3D effects in the authoring tool – effects being the keyword. I can’t help but think this is the direct result of the impact and rise in popularity in some powerful open source 3D engines, like Papervision and Sandy. The demonstration didn’t impress at all compared to some of the samples from the aforementioned. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a similar vein, some ‘light’ physics simulation could soon be introduced.

The repeated message from Adobe; what previously took the time of a developer to write parameter-based code, whether for interaction or animation, can now be done by a designer in half the time, what they almost suggest, for half the price – because it’s now twice as easy.

I’m sure there’s some more showings today for southern hemisphere timezones, but a whole load of video tutorials are playing over at Adobe TV that are well worth checking out. Everything else can be found at the CS4 homepage.


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