design


It’s official–Thermo is now Flash Catalyst! Ryan Stewart and I did a demo of the current (very early) build of Flash Catalyst at the day 2 keynote at MAX, and we also made a video of the same demo for this month’s issue of the Adobe Edge newsletter, which just came out today. Julie Campagna and the Edge production team did a great job putting the video together–check it out!

(By the way, I just noticed that when I introduced the ecotours comp in this video, I said “I created this design in Adobe Photoshop”. That’s demo-ese for “I’m pretending to be the visual designer in this workflow”; the comp was actually designed by the folks at Gotomedia, who also created a lot of the other assets we used in the day 2 keynote–thanks guys!)

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Wow–nearly 600 people have downloaded Snackr in the last two days! Thanks to everyone who’s sent mail or posted comments; it’s great to know people like it. The most common requests so far seem to be:

  • Allow multiple selection in the feed list, so you can delete a bunch of feeds at once. It seems like a lot of people imported large feed lists from their existing blog readers, then realized they didn’t want to actually see all of those feeds in Snackr.
  • Support Asian language characters. Currently, Snackr uses Myriad Web, and the font is embedded in order to make fade animations work properly for text, but that font only has Latin characters. I’ll either need to add an option to use the system font (and turn off fade animations), or maybe build a version that embeds a font with Asian characters in it (though that would probably lead to a huge installer).
  • Ability to keep a list of items to read later (e.g. by starring them). I’ve been wanting this for awhile but haven’t gotten around to implementing it yet–now I have some incentive!
  • Posting the source. I do really want to do this, but I need to set aside some time to make the code slightly less embarrassing :)

I also noticed today as I was using it on my machine that for some short posts, the popup seems to “bobble around” a bit and end up at a very thin size (it’s different from the jittery animation on Vista/Linux; this is happening even on OS X). It’s intermittent, but it reproduces pretty regularly on certain kinds of posts. Has anybody else seen this? I’ll have to look into it–it must be a recent injection, as I never noticed it before.

I’m planning to make regular updates to Snackr, though things are pretty busy; I’m hoping I can carve out enough time to release a new version in a couple of weeks. Snackr should automatically notify you when an update is available.

Keep those cards and letters coming!

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I realized a few months ago that, unlike pretty much everyone else I know, I don’t regularly use an RSS reader. Not that I haven’t tried—I used FeedDemon early on, and more recently tried out Google Reader—but never managed to form the habit of checking them regularly. Both of them are fine apps; the problem was with me. Every time I sat down and saw that I had a gazillion unread items in my hundreds of feeds, I didn’t know where to start. Eventually I just gave up trying to keep up.

Around the same time I came to this realization, Adobe AIR 1.0 was publicly released. I wanted to try to write an AIR app just for fun, and it occurred to me that I might be able to make something that would solve my RSS problem.

The result is Snackr, a ticker-like widget that lives on the bottom (or side) of your screen and scrolls random items from your RSS feeds. (It’s called “Snackr” because it lets you nibble on your feeds. Guffaw.) Here’s what it looks like on my desktop:

I’m actually finding Snackr really useful—it helps me keep up with blogs I want to keep up with, and also gives me a great smattering of items from sources I wouldn’t normally read regularly. Please try it out and let me know if you like it! (Of course, it’s still an alpha, so please expect bugs; there’s a list of known issues on the Snackr website.)

Snackr has also been really fun to write, and along the way I figured out some tips and tricks for doing various things with Flex and AIR. Some notes on that after the jump.

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From a web application I recently used that shall remain nameless:

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Normally I don’t like to spend a lot of time just posting links to other people’s blog posts, but since MXNA is down, I wanted to point out Rob Adams’s excellent blog post about the paper prototype studies we’ve been doing on Thermo’s UI. His post has a lot of great tips on how to effectively set up a paper study.

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It’s been busy here in Thermo-land, as we work furiously (no really! we’re furious people!) to turn our vision into reality. I have a fun side project that I’m going to post about in a little bit once I get a few bugs worked out. In the meantime, here’s a video interview that Ryan Stewart, Thermo evangelist extraordinaire, did with me about designer/developer workflow in Thermo and Flex 4. It was our first video, so it’s a little blurry and off-center, but just pretend it’s artsy and edgy and you’ll be fine. (We did edit out the part where the siren went off when someone went out the wrong door in the cafeteria.)

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I’ve been so busy that I completely forgot to mention that my article on designing Flex 3 skins and styles using Creative Suite 3 and Flex Builder 3 went live on the Flex Developer Center when we launched Flex 3. Check it out for information on how to use CS3 with Flex Builder, as well as the new CSS Design View in Flex Builder.

Also, Juan Sanchez of ScaleNine, who built the CS3 Flex skin templates, has just posted some great tips and tricks for using the skin templates. Thanks Juan!

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A number of people have written me over the past few months to mention that they’ve had trouble getting the Reflection component to work in various cases. I haven’t had time to look at each of the problems, but I do have an updated version of Reflector.as that may work better. If you’ve been having trouble with the original Reflector code, try this one out and let me know if it fixes your problem.

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I’m going to be at IxDA Interaction ’08 in Savannah this weekend with some other folks from the Thermo team. There was a recent thread on the IxDA mailing list with lots of interesting thoughts on features interaction designers would want in a design tool, and I’m hoping to chat about the subject with other folks at the conference. If you’re going to be there, let me know–maybe we can meet up!

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A new face in the Flex blogosphere: Ethan Eismann. Ethan is on the Experience Design (XD) team at Adobe, working on the design of Thermo, and I’m sure he’ll have all sorts of interesting thoughts on design. Welcome Ethan!

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