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Adobe buffs and brands full Flash suite

Catalyst and Builder go wild

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Adobe Systems is today expected to release code for an environment to unify design and development, plus code and a major re-branding for its next Flash and AIR RIA tool.

The company will that announce Flash Catalyst, previously codenamed Thermo, is available as a public beta. Accompanying Flash Catalyst is beta code for Flex Builder 4.0, the next version of Adobe's Eclipse-based IDE that's yielded to the marketing iron and emerged as Flash Builder.

Adobe said the name Flash Builder was picked to eliminate confusion. People thought there was a difference between Flex and Flash, when Flex applications are compiled to Adobe's SWF file and then played on the company's Flash Player. Adobe also hopes to draw a distinction between the paid version of Flex and the open-source framework that's available for free.

Flash Platform evangelist Mihai Corlan on an earlier Adobe blog said: "When I ask people at conferences 'Who's a Flex developer?' many people are unsure how to answer. Why? Because some of you are using the Flex framework, to create Flex or AIR applications, and not our IDE (Flex Builder), some of you are using Flex Builder, but without using the Flex framework (you use ActionScript 3 to create Flash applications). Thus the uncertainty."

Adobe's now adopting a suite-based naming approach around the ubiquitous Flash Player, which has instant name recognition. Flash Builder takes its place in the suite alongside the new Flash Catalyst and existing Flash Professional tools on the design side.

Capitalizing on that brand will be important as Adobe will compete for hearts and minds against a revamped Silverlight from Microsoft later this year.

The rebranding also comes in the week when Sun Microsystems will bang the drum for its own interface and media architecture - JavaFX. Sun will use JavaOne in San Francisco, California to try and persuade developers that JavaFX is the best way to build interfaces and media content on PCs, mobile phones, and TVs and that it has a viable future. Meanwhile, Adobe has been working with Sun to use JavaFX with its own design tools.

But what is brand without technology in this environment?

Flash Builder 4.0 will introduce the first fruits of an Adobe alliance with PHP specialist Zend Technologies from last year. Flash Builder 4.0 features a Zend framework to simplify the connection using drag and drop to data in back-end systems build using PHP.

There are also up-dated drag-and-drop connections to Java and Adobe's install based of ColdFusion, but not to back-end systems running Microsoft's .NET. Adobe said it would add new connectors over time, but made no specific commitment to .NET.

The builder will also support Flash Catalyst. This code will, according to Adobe, let you roundtrip an element, such as a graphic, that you code into, say, a button or slider between version four of Adobe's Creative Suite of tools and Flash Builder. You will be able to roundtrip and make changes, without losing work and have to return to the start and re-code. Flash Catalyst will do this using the company's new interchange format, called FXG.

Flash Builder 4.0 is due this year, but Adobe would not give a date for Flash Catalyst.®

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