Adobe Flash Builder 4 Public Beta Release at Adobe Labs

Adobe® Flash® Builder™ 4 (formerly Flex Builder) public beta release is now available at Adobe Labs. The first thing that you may notice is that they are renaming Flex Builder to Flash Builder. This name change will create a clear distinction between the free open-source Flex framework and the commercial IDE.

Flash Builder 4 delivers a long list of new features, plus improvements to many existing features.There are three main themes to this release: developer productivity, designer-developer workflow, and data-centric application development. For an overview of the features included in this first public beta release, be sure to check out Tim Buntel’s What’s New in Flash Builder 4 article and watch the new feature videos. As always, the Flex 4 framework is included within Flash Builder, so be sure to check out Matt Chotin’s What’s New in the Flex 4 SDK article.

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Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade to Flash CS4

Reason Number 1: Easy Integration Between Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop

Adobe® Flash CS4 can import native Adobe® Illustrator files. Further more, Flash automatically recognizes frames, layers, and symbols. In the earlier days of Flash this was way more complicated and somtimes required rebuilding assets totally in Flash. For more complicated illustrations, you may prefer to create your artwork in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop and then import them into Adobe® Flash. When importing Illustrator files, the Adobe® Flash CS4 properties window will allow you to 1) Convert Illustrator Layers to Flash Layers 2) Convert all Illustrator layers to a single Flash layer 3) Convert each individual illustrator layer to a Flash graphic symbol 4) Convert Illustrator layers to Flash keyframes.
The most common way to get your Illustrator work into Adobe® Flash is to use the File -> Import To Stage or Import to Library commands. However, as of Adobe® Flash CS3 and CS4, you can even copy and paste artwork between Illustrator and Flash. During the drag and drop or copy and paste process you should see the same window for choosing the properties of each object in the illustration. When working in Adobe® Illustrator, a symbol is very similar to a symbol in Flash. You can now set options specific to Flash such as name, symbol type, and registration point. In CS4 we can also import Illustrator files with multiple art boards. Here is a great tutorial on working with Adobe® Illlustrator artboards at adobe.com:
Learn Adobe® Flash CS4 Professional – Exporting Artboards to Flash

Reason Number 2: ActionScript 3.0

ActionScript 3.0 is a fundamental restructuring of the language which also uses an entirely different virtual machine. When ActionScript 3.0 was first released, the drastic number of new classes and features was somewhat intimidating. However, it does not take too long to discover that the advantages of moving on to ActionScript 3 outweigh the time and effort of the learning curve. Most of the early migration to verision 3.0 was due to the fact that it is the only version of the lauguage supported in Adobe® Flex. However, in the Adobe Training classroom we are seeing more and more Flash students interested in making the move.

Adobe® Flash CS4 now has full support for ActionScript 3.0 which contains a host of powerful new features that can greatly speed the development process including: improved performance from a class-based inheritance system, unified event handling system, E4X for XML processing, and direct access to the Flash runtime display list. Moving on to ActionScript 3.0 in Flash CS4 also gives you a uniform programming skill set for also working in Adobe® Flex.

ActionScript 3.0 is based on ECMAScript, the international standardized programming language for scripting. It is compliant with the ECMAScript Language Specification, Third Edition (ECMA-262). It also contains functionality based on ongoing work on ECMAScript Edition 4, occurring within the ECMA standards body.

Reason Number 3: New CS4 Interface and Workspace Presets

The most obvious difference in Flash CS3 and CS4 is the changes in the interface and work area. By default there are some new positions for some of the more utilized panes including the timeline and property inspector. When I first opened Flash CS4 this was awkward for me since I have been using the program for so many years with the panels in a very specific layout. However, the workspace presets includes a “Classic” preset that will enable you to quickly move the software back to the CS3 version panel workspace. Of course the panels can be collapsed and moved into a custom work area that can be saved for own personal preference.

Reason Number 4: The Motion Editor

The Motion Editor is a new panel in Adobe Flash CS4 that lets you view and edit animation in a graph-style format. With this new tool in Flash you can visually adjust the properties of your animations such as easing, position, and transparency. The motion editor is docked behind the timeline and before you can use or view the properties in the motion editor you will need to select a tweened object on the stage.

Reason Number 5: Easy Authoring for Adobe AIR

Everyone knows what a great tool Flash is for creating dynamic, engaging web content, and Adobe’s latest CS4 release just makes it even better. Among the great new features is the ability to take all the power of Flash for the Web and put in on the desktop using AIR. AIR capability is built right into the Flash CS4 IDE, which means you can start writing desktop applications right away. Now with Adobe® AIR™ runtime you can reach even more audiences across more devices — web, mobile, and now the desktop. http://www.adobe.com/products/air/

Reason Number 6: Inverse Kinematics with the Bones Tool

In Flash CS4 you can use Inverse kinematics for animating an object or set of objects in relation to each other using an articulated structure of bones. Bones allow symbol instances and shape objects to move in complex and naturalistic ways with a minimum of design effort. For example, inverse kinematics lets you create character animation, such as arms, legs, and facial expressions much more easily. You can add bones to separate symbol instances or to the interior of a single shape. When one bone moves, the other connected bones move in relation to the bone that initiated the movement. When animating using inverse kinematics you need only specify the start and end positions of objects. Inverse kinematics lets you create natural motion much more easily.

Reason Number 7: The Adobe Kuler Panel

The Kuler™ panel is a new panel that enables access to groups of colors, or themes, created by an online community of designers. You can use it to browse thousands of themes on Kuler™, and then download some to edit or to include in your own projects. You can also use the Kuler panel to create and save themes, and then share them with the Kuler community by uploading them.

The Kuler panel is also available in Adobe Photoshop® CS4, Adobe Flash® Professional CS4, Adobe InDesign® CS4, Adobe Illustrator® CS4, and Adobe Fireworks® CS4.

Reason Number 8: New Decorative Drawing Tools

The Decorative drawing tools let you turn graphic shapes that you create into complex, geometric patterns. The Decorative drawing tools use algorithmic calculations—known as procedural drawing. These calculations are applied to a movie clip or graphic symbol in the library that you create. In this way, you can create a complex pattern using any graphic shape or object. Use the Spray Brush or Fill tool to apply the patterns that you create. You can create kaleidoscopic effects using single or multiple symbols with the Deco Symmetry tool.

Reason number 9: Easy to add XMP metadata to a document

In Flash CS4 you can now include Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) data such as title, author, description, and copyright information. XMP is a metadata format that certain other Adobe applications can understand.

Embedding metadata improves the ability of web-based search engines to return meaningful search results for Flash content. The search metadata is based on the XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform) specifications and is stored in the FLA file in a W3C-compliant format. Check out SEO Tips and Tricks blog for more advice on successfully driving traffic to your website.

A file’s metadata contains information about the contents, copyright status, origin, and history of the file.

Reason number 10: Flash Video F4V

You can now create video (FLV and F4V) files that are playable in the Flash Player and in the Adobe® Media Player using Adobe Flash CS4 Adobe Media Encoder. FLV files are encoded using the On2 VP6 or Sorenson Spark codecs. The F4V format is based on the format specified by ISO/IEC 14496-12: ISO base media file format. Starting with SWF files published for Flash Player 9 Update 3 (9,0,115,0), Flash Player has been able to play F4V files. Because Flash Player now supports playback of any H.264 encoded video you can leverage both your existing video assets that you’ve encoded as well as the entire spectrum of tools and infrastructure that support H.264.

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FusionCharts v3 for Adobe® Flex

FusionCharts for Adobe Flex

FusionCharts for Adobe® Flex

Since the early days of Flash with Macromedia Generator, the swf binary has been the hands-down, undisputed, best medium for displaying chart and graph data. With the availability of Adobe® Flex we can now build RIAs with charts and graphs with ease and precision. Now there are also quite a few third party tools for getting the job done and one of the best seems to be FusionCharts. FusionCharts for Flex is a charting component for Adobe Flex RIA solutions. It allows you to embed FusionCharts in your Flex solutions very easily and you can create animated and interactive Flash charts for web and desktop applications.

This tool for Flex offers over 45 types of 2D/3D charts including line, area, bar, column, pie, doughnut (donut), combination, scatter, bubble, scroll charts etc. The functional and cosmetic aspects of each chart can be extensively customized using the XML API exposed by FusionCharts. You do not need to know anything about Flash™ to use FusionCharts.

After downloading the FusionCharts components, it only took me about 15 minutes to build a small XML driven application with dynamic animated charts. In the zip package you will find everything you need to get started including a three step setup guide and full tutorials on how to add your FusionCharts to your Flex applications. There is even a chart explorer which will allow you to browse the different data charts and choose which one is right for your project.

If you have already committed to the Adobe® Flex Charting license that is ok. You may still be interested in what you will find in the FusionCharts package. Both products have their niche and FusionCharts covers some of the aspects not fully covered by Flex charting. Basically, if you’re looking for more chart types and chart configuration options, then FusionCharts may be for you. Also, some charts in FusionCharts suite are highly interactive like the pie and doughnut charts which allow you to slice out individual pie, rotate the chart (thereby seamlessly transforming them from 2D to 3D) etc.

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Fireworks Toolkit for iPhone Design

iPhone Development Graphic

Metaspark (creators of Notespark) just posted a completely editable PNG iphone mockup file created in Adobe Fireworks. They built the template for both CS3 and CS4 versions. This is a really tight graphic mockup with precise attention to detail. If you are developing for this Apple iPhone this may save you some time and effort.

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Adobe Launches New AIR Marketplace

Adobe AIR Marketplace

Adobe AIR Marketplace

Adobe launched a new version of the AIR Marketplace this week with a number of enhancements that should make it easier to find AIR applications as well as make the process for submitting them much easier. There are quite a few new applications being added and they are still offering a free developer certificate so that you can sign the AIR apps you create. Some of the new features include the following:

The ability for a developer to specify a link to purchase the application. While the Marketplace does not enable e-commerce transactions directly, users can click on a link to purchase an application from the the developer’s website.

Enhanced feedback support where users can rate, review, comment and flag an application to provide feedback to the developer. In addition, users can share applications with colleagues and friends and also subscribe to RSS feeds from the Marketplace.

A new self-service web interface that allows developers to manage their profile and applications. Developers can also view download statistics, ratings and reviews through a new application dashboard.

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