Adobe Refresh 2012

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Last month I attended Adobe’s Refresh 2012 event. This is a roadshow where they present highlights from the current and upcoming product line for designers and developers. They talked about the future of Flash and their product strategy, and they showed some very neat tools.

Refresh 2012 in Auckland was held at the gracious Rialto Cinema in Newmarket. I’ve seen a few great films there, so it was fun to see a software presentation instead. But probably not as much fun as Slumdog Millionaire.

DreamWeaver

The first part was a demo of new DreamWeaver features, particularly its integration with Adobe’s Creative Cloud. DreamWeaver hung a few times, and the demonstrator had to change his script to work around this. A few audience interjections suggested that DreamWeaver hanging is a common occurrence.

The presenter later decided that the problem was due to the flaky network connection in the venue. (This is no excuse! I really wish vendors would not insist on assuming that everybody has a perfect network connection. Windows has always been terrible in this regard — just yesterday our network printing services went down, and Microsoft Word hung for about 5 minutes when I tried to print.)

DreamWeaver now supports media queries for responsive design. It also works with jQuery Mobile, and allows easy editing of jQuery Mobile themes. Speaking of that, he also demonstrated jQuery Mobile Themeroller’s nice integration with Adobe’s Kuler colour management tool.

Typekit

They showed Typekit, the webfont embedding service recently acquired by Adobe. It looks quite easy to use and also pretty inexpensive. But recently at Webstock, Jessica Hische was lukewarm about it, recommending Webtype instead. And she should know: check out her URL.

Proto

Proto is a quick prototype editor for Andriod and (soon) iOS. It enables you to quickly create a screen mockup, and it actually generates the HTML, CSS and JavaScript to implement it as you create it. Some features were a bit gimmicky. They claim that the generated code is good enough to actually serve as the starting point of development. If this is true then this is the first tool in the history of the Web that can actually generate good front-end code.

Muse

Muse allows you to create static websites in a similar way to creating print layouts with tools like InDesign. Great for designers who are already familiar with Adobe’s toolset, as you can also include interactivity, slideshows, Google Maps integration, etc., all without writing any code. This appeals to many people, but I dread being the sucker who has to tweak the machine-generated code later.

Well, I’m sure the generated code has improved in the ten years since I last had to wrestle with DreamWeaver’s output. And Muse is still in beta, so they still have time to remove some of the suck from it.

Edge

Edge is like the old Flash tools for creating animations and interactive content, except it produces HTML and JavaScript instead of Flash code. You can also add animations to existing HTML. This is evidence of Adobe’s plans for Flash: keep pushing it for high-performance games and video applications, but deprecate it for simpler stuff in favour of HTML. The world just became a slightly better place. And it may become even better when Edge makes it out of beta.

PhoneGap

PhoneGap is becoming more popular. It lets you develop cross-platform native mobile apps using Web technologies like HTML and JavaScript. It’s used by Wikipedia amongst many others. (Also the fun Untappd app.)

The core of PhoneGap is now under incubation at the Apache Software Foundation as Apache Cordova. PhoneGap is built on top of that and will eventually include stuff like Adobe product integration, while still remaining open source.

Support for PhoneGap is built in to DreamWeaver. PhoneGap actually supports mobile device APIs, so you can for example access location service, contacts, and the camera from your HTML/JS PhoneGap app. There are also plugins for specific application APIS such as Facebook.

Around this point, the presenter was going to give a demo of something or other in his iPhone. But during the break he unwisely decided to upgrade his iPhone’s OS. Version mismatch hilarity ensued, so we took an early lunch break so they could try to sort out the problem with help from some of the many experts in the audience. Sadly, even all that brainpower couldn’t solve the problem, so no demo for us. Even worse, the venue staff weren’t expecting the early lunch break, so the coffee wasn’t ready. I had to wait over 5 minutes for my latte. I think this is what they call a “first-world problem”.

PhoneGap Build is an online PhoneGap cross-compiler. It will produce iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, etc. versions of your PhoneGap app.

debug.phonegap.org is an online remote debugger for PhoneGap apps. You can use the Chrome’s dev tools on your desktop to inspect and edit the DOM while your app is running on your mobile device. This is very cool! This tool is based on weinre, which has been folded into the Apache Cordova project and shoehorned into PhoneGap. But it does seem to work.

Reflections for iPad

For the iOS demos, they used Reflections. It’s not an Adobe product — it’s just very neat. This app mirrors your iPad or iPhone screen onto a Mac. Presenting iOS apps is much, much easier this way. The only thing missing is that you can’t see the finger. Actually, that’s a good thing in most cases.

Photoshop Touch

The demo of Photoshop Touch was very compelling. US$10 gets you an iPhone version of Photoshop, with lots of easy-to-use photo-retouch tools. And they haven’t just shoehorned a cut-down PS into the iPad — they have taken advantage of the hardware with a nice touch interface and clever camera integration for quickly pulling photos and textures into your edits. There was a lot of buzz after the session about Photoshop Touch. I reckon they probably sold an extra hundred copies that day.

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