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Adobe Updates, Expands Flash Tools

Adobe Systems today announced it will begin a public beta of Adobe Flash Builder 4, (formerly named Flex Builder) and Adobe Flash Catalyst, plus the open source Flex 4 framework on June 1. When used together, these tools will allow designers and content creators to make interactive applications with similar functionality as Ajax.

Adobe Flash Catalyst is a new tool that creates applications without coding, even though it does generate XML-based code under the covers. It allows designers to take their Photoshop or Illustrator artwork into user interfaces with user interaction capabilities. Designers can test their applications within the Catalyst IDE to test its functionality before deploying it.

Steve Heintz, group product manager for Flash platform tools at Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE), said the company is not necessarily targeting Ajax, just simplifying the job. "Design is becoming a more important part of every experience," he told InternetNews.com. "There are some things in Ajax that are quite hard to do across the different browsers out there. Flash has been focused on interactivity for a long time."

Everything that is drawn in Catalyst is created using XML code and accessible from a code window, so if a programmer or designer with coding skills wants to, they can look at the code being generated and tweak it if necessary.

Adobe Flash Builder is a design tool for building rich Internet applications (RIAs) using Adobe's Flex language. It's simply being rebranded from Flex Builder for better consistency across Adobe's line, and because Flash is its best-known brand, according to Heintz.

This new version of Builder features a new IDE that improves basic development functionality, adds significant new data-centric development features, and streamlines the design-develop workflow. The main emphasis of this release is increasing productivity thanks to automating many data processes, according to Heintz.

For example, it's possible to build a data-driven Web page using MySQL on the back end and a Cold Fusion server with a wizard that builds connections for the Web site and sets up all of the services.

Adobe also announced the newest release of its open source Flex framework, which provides a common foundation for both developers and designers to create applications that run on the Flash platform. The updated Flex framework offers improved productivity and consistency across applications. Developers will be able to build a UI in Catalyst and build the back-end logic.