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Adobe's Flash Catalyst Moves Forward

SAN FRANCISCO -- Making pictures and content more interactive is usually a job best left to developers. Adobe wants to help change that.

During a keynote today here at the Web 2.0 Expo, Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) CTO Kevin Lynch demoed Adobe Flash Catalyst. The tool, currently in beta, is intended to help designers who work with traditional design tools like Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator add interactive elements via simple menus -- i.e., without programming.

"Flash Catalyst converts shapes into Flex and lets you turn various components into interactive components," Lynch said. Flex is Adobe's free, open-source framework for building Rich Internet Applications.

As Lynch showed,
Flash Catalyst generates Flex code in the background as designers point and click, adding interactive elements like a search box or scroll bars to the page. The software also can connect to services like Facebook to bring in live profiles of Facebook friends, which users can then embed in their designs.

Designers can then give the Flex code Flash Catalyst has generated to developers, enabling them to make further refinements. Developers can also add needed features, like a connection to a backend systems.

The result, Lynch said, is a finished page that's completed more quickly -- and is often more in line with the designer's vision than with traditional methods.

Potential applications range from interactive ads, product guides and design portfolios to application user interfaces.

While Flash Catalyst is now in beta, Lynch said a finished version would be out "soon."

The offering marks the latest move by Adobe to expand the capabilities of Flash. Earlier this week, the company announced a joint venture with Facebook to provide developers with more tools for creating applications using Flash as well as Facebook's development platform.

The new ActionScript 3.0 Client Library for Facebook Platform is a free and open source programming language library compatible with all of Facebook application programming interfaces (APIs), including Facebook Connect.