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Adobe’s Development of Thermo – Web App Development for Designers?

Thermo Logo

So I have been at Adobe MAX 2007 in Chicago all week. The whole experience has been really great. What was even better than that was a sneak peek at a new application that Adobe says that it will be releasing sometime in 2008 – code name “Thermo”.

I can not tell you how excited I was about this app. What is Thermo you ask? Well let me tell you from my perspective what Thermo is….

Just a week before MAX I was finally wanting to write my first project completely in Flex Builder. This was a really really frustrating thing from a design standpoint. I would be what the industry is referring to as a “Devigner” Half Designer / Half Developer. I can write some code when it comes down to it and I really enjoy figuring out the functionality of an app but I have always done all my sites or apps in the Flash IDE and laid them out in Photoshop before I move everything over to Flash for animation and coding.

When it comes to doing a project by setting up your design in Photoshop and then getting that design into Flex Builder….. well …. let’s just say it. IT IS A PAIN IN THE ASS! As far as I am concerned.

Now what is this new Thermo app mean to me you might ask? Well imagine combining Flex Builder with a visual design tool. Kind of like Flash with out the drawing tools and such.

In the Demo Adobe showed how they had a really nicely designed Photoshop layered comp. Once they launched Thermo they were able to choose the template they wanted to design there app around. In this case it was a comp from photoshop. Once you choose your PSD file you are able to view the layers in a dialog box just like the import dialog that you get in the Flash IDE. Choose your settings for each layer if you like and Boom all your assets are put on a stage that looks kind of like the design view in Flex Builder. Also over to the right you get a view of all your layers. Kind of like the layers view in Photoshop. We took a photo of the app in it’s present stage of production. Sorry for the image quality. The adobe example was showing the design and development of a music browsing app.

Thermo At MAX

Click for Full Size

When you switch to code view you will see code that is MXML code. Adobe explained that the code view is just like using the Flex Builder interface. You will get all the code hinting and power of editing code that you get by using Flex Builder.

Another really cool example that Adobe gave during it’s demo of Thermo was the ability to click on graphical layers or text layers and change them into functional Flex components on the fly. A great example of this was a graphical scroll bar that they had designed in photoshop. Basically consisted of two layers. You had your background square that looked like the track of the bar and the scrub bar that was also a darker square in photoshop. They where able to select these two layers in Thermo > Right Click and tell Thermo to change these layers into a horizontal scroll bar. As soon as they did this if you switch to code view you where able to see that Thermo had rewritten all of the code to tell the app that these layers are now the functional scroll bar. To spare you more reading there where some other graphic and text areas they where able to click on and convert to other components in the app.

Just a week before I was trying all kids of ways to do this same thing. I was laying out my design in Photoshop, taking it to flash to create my MovieClips, then exporting all my assets as a SWC file to use in Flex Builder. This is a really cool thing being that Flex Builder will treat your assets in the library as Components so that gives you great code hinting. The down side of this for me is you can’t just drag a new “component” out of your SWC file and place it on the stage in Flex Builder. Thermo on the other hand will give you a viual representation of where the button or graphic is located and you can drag it around and move layers how ever you like. As a “Devigner” This totally rocks. I think even hardcore code head developers will find this to save them a lot of time.

Look for Thermo next year sometime at http://adobe.com or you can check back here on my blog. I am so excited about this product that I am sure I will be talking more about it as Adobe relases more information about it.

360Flex – A conference for RIA developers

I’m going to be attending the 360Flex conference March 5-7 this year in San Jose, and since registration just opened, I wanted to let people know about it. I tend to be a big fan of conferences that are more developer focused because I think you learn a lot more and you get to talk to the people that are “in the trenches” and building the applications that we all use. This is exactly that kind of conference and while its focus is on Flex, I would suggest anyone looking at Rich Internet Applications register for it.

The conference is both being held at and sponsored by eBay, which is an indication of how deeply Flex has gotten into the business side of Rich Internet Applications. I’m hoping to find out more about what eBay is doing with Flex, but the little bits I’ve been able to glean indicate that it’s a significant investment. And this seems to be the story across a wide range of industries. Midnight Coders is also a sponsor and they provide Flex Data Services functionality across a wide range of platforms including .NET and PHP. Combine that with the murderer’s row of speakers (the list includes some of the best Flex minds in the business) and it means you’re going to see examples of Flex being used to build great experiences for Fortune 500 companies, web startups and everything in between.

It has been a great year for Rich Internet Applications. Flex was released a few months ago and has seen a surprisingly large number of applications built for the platform. WPF and WPF/E have both been made available on the Microsoft side which shows how important experience has become. Apollo is coming down the pipeline which will enable a robust desktop RIA solution (much like WPF). Next year should be even better, and this conference is going to be a great way to see what people are doing and how RIAs are changing landscapes all over the spectrum.

Here are the details:

360Flex Conference is scheduled for March 5-7, 2007 at eBay in San Jose, CA. Come join us for this exclusive event and learn Flex from every angle. We are bringing together the best developers for Flex for this event both from within the development community but also within Adobe.

The conference costs $100, special thanks to our corporate sponsors.

360Flex will have 4 tracks as follows:

  • Flex 101 – Learn Flex A-Z
  • Application – Real-world Flex applications ( Browser & Apollo )
  • Integration – Connect Flex to any server (CF,PHP,.NET,JAVA,FDS)
  • Components – Create custom Flex components