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Some Thoughts on Adobe Catalyst

February 2nd, 2010 Categories: Catalyst

I attended a user group presentation on Adobe Catalyst today (2/2/2010), and I thought I’d express some of the thoughts I had, and on code generation in general.

This product seems to spark up a lot of debate, and I think it’s because most conversations are only focusing on two roles (designer vs developer) when there are actually three roles that need to be considered. Those are designer, developer, and (man I hate using this term, but haven’t got a better one) interaction designer. And this is such a touchy area because (putting the science of interaction design aside) in terms of implementation this is where designer and developer overlap.

So there is some overlapping interests in terms of how the application behaves, and there’s only one tool– Catalyst. So who gets to use it? Wrong!! Most hard core developers I know who have tried Catalyst swear they will steer clear of it. Our preferred interaction design implementation tool is the same one we use for developing the rest of our software. In my case that would be Flex Builder. In the designer’s case, it will probably be Catalyst (maybe?).

So if it was so cut and dry, only one tool for this overlapping area, both developer and designer could learn to use Catalyst and get along. I don’t think that’s likely to happen anytime soon. So now the problem becomes one of getting Catalyst and Flex Builder to work nicely together. And I’ve only used Catalyst a little bit, and from what others have told me, making changes in Catalyst and importing them into Flex Builder seems to be pretty smooth. What I haven’t seen is how it goes the other way. If I make changes in Flex Builder, and the artist needs to make some changes in Catalyst– does that work as well?

I don’t know to tell the truth, but until I see how this interaction is going to work out, the jury is still out on whether this overlap of responsibilities is going to work out. I suppose if it were able to compartmentalize all of the Catalyst generated fluff where I could just “use” it and not have to work in it, I think I might be able to live with that. I haven’t seen how this is going to work either, though.

Like I said, I just wanted to get some thoughts out there, and we’ll see how this continues to play out in the coming months. It may be that it ends up being too expensive for my employer to use, in which case it will be business as usual.

Sean Murphy sent me this link that I know my fellow developers will get a kick out of. Warning: If you’re a designer or a print publisher, you’ll probably be wondering, “What was so funny about that?”

Catalyst question in Adobe Forums

Anyway, I’d be very interested in taking a look at his site, I hope he’ll post a link to it. More than anything to see what kinds of projects can be accomplished by Catalyst all by itself in the hands of an experienced artist.

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5 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Adobe Catalyst”

  1. casey!
    February 4th, 2010 at 21:17

    Oh great, now these U|X guys are getting there own tool 😉 Geesh, the lengths designers will go through just avoid learning even the most basic fundamentals of programming Although you don’t see me browsing the the Photoshop isles of Barns and Noble to find what colors best complement “sunset orange” either. Here’s my question: Will this become a disruptive technology? I like your 3 roles of development (maybe we can agree to call it 2.5). So perhaps this means the the middle role can now be filled by a designer who’s slightly technically inclined. Or maybe a developer who’s not afraid to pick up a color wheel. But I’m with you, probably too early to tell.

  2. February 4th, 2010 at 21:24

    Right. I tried to make it as clear as I could in my post that I hold a very strict distinction between “interaction design” as a concept, and “interaction designers” as a profession.

    Maybe it’s just because I’ve never gotten to work with a great UX professional (well Casey, you know exactly what/who I’m talking about). The guys I’ve worked with– far from your vision of a designer who picks up some technical skills– are people who weren’t good enough artists to make a living out of it, and so gave their resume a punch with some new buzzwords.

    In other words, if Catalyst becomes a tool for failed graphic artists turned interaction designers– I’m out.

  3. February 4th, 2010 at 21:26

    That last use of “interaction designers” in my previous comment should have been surrounded by gigantic air quotes.

  4. February 6th, 2010 at 15:05

    Liked your comment on the forums Casey, I think it really sums up what that particular designer thinks of Catalyst, the do-it-all new Flash authoring tool. My vision of catalyst would be to have the designers work in it. It seems tailored for them, and if they aforementioned designer can work in it, I’m going to have to say any designer could work in it. Anyway, they can export it as a flex project, or as a library (which would be the magic way you wouldn’t have to mess with the auto code to much John), and we could use it to actually build the project. But as John mentioned, it completely fails when you try to make the workflow go both ways. I’m hoping they address this issue. Here is a link to a forum post I did (and to what i hope is a more intelligent issue with catalyst)

  5. February 8th, 2010 at 13:40

    I just read an interesting thread on a LinkedIn forum for one of the groups I’m involved in (Adobe Flex Developers). There was some speculation regarding something Adobe may or may not have in the works regarding round-tripping between Catalyst and design tools (Photoshop, etc.)… but that’s not what I wanted to point out in this thread.

    Here’s the link:

    If you go there, search for Alan Holden’s first comment, I think he nailed some of the thoughts I’ve been having but haven’t been able to articulate. In case you can’t see it, he’s basically saying that in a perfect world software development would follow the waterfall model, and that’s how Catalyst has been designed.

    Unfortunately the waterfall model doesn’t apply well to most real world projects, especially because those at the top of the waterfall have nothing to do when the process is below them, so they start doing their job over again. At this point the waterfall is broken, and you need another iteration– which Catalyst doesn’t seem to handle so well.

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