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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Adobe Demos "Thermo" RIA Design Tool

Adobe Thermo Sneak Peek Part1

Adobe Thermo Sneak Peek Part2

At this morning's keynote at the Adobe MAX event in Chicago, Mark Anders and Steven Heintz of Adobe gave a sneak peek of a new application being developed by the company code-named "Thermo." Thermo is what they're terming a "rich internet application design tool." Its goal is to allow designers to create Flex-based RIAs without the need to touch any code and to create a more seamless workflow between designers and developers.

With Thermo, designers can build a web app UI and the MXML code to control it is automatically rendered by the application. Developers can then access that code and tie the UI to the rest of the application. Some conference attendees were rightly reminded of Visual Basic, but Thermo seems much smarter -- and, of course, is aimed at web app developers.

The demo at the conference was very compelling and drew the loudest applause of anything presented. Thermo has basic drawing tools that can be used to wireframe an app, but what really makes Thermo special for designers is that it understands Photoshop images and uses layer data to capture information about various UI elements (the application also plays nice with images from Illustrator and Fireworks). In their demonstration, Anders and Heintz imported a user interface mockup for a music browsing app. Thermo recognized the layer data from the PSD, allowing the duo to easily edit various elements inside the UI.

The presenters really got the MAX crowd rocking by showing off Thermo's "Convert artwork to..." feature. In a matter of a couple of clicks, a text input box on the UI went from static image to actual form field with the MXML code rendered automatically. Thermo even preserved styling of the form element from the PSD mockup.

The code view for Thermo is actually the full Flex Builder application, which means that it is a powerful development tool for programmers, as well. The idea is that developers can write underlying business logic for a Flex application while designers work on look and feel all from inside the same environment, and the process is as painless as possible for both sides.

Thermo was quickly the most buzzed about thing at the conference, and it was easy to see why. Anders and Heintz turned a static image of a web app interface into a working mockup -- complete with dummy lorem ipsum data created by Thermo -- in about 15 minutes without touching any code. Thermo allows designers to create interactive Flex-based applications without coding, then hand those apps off to programmers who can complete the development process by adding business logic.

Adobe expects to release an early version of Thermo sometime next year. For now they've set up a vague info page on the Adobe Labs site. When it drops, Thermo really could be a game changer that drops the barrier for entry into the web app market just that much more.

Note: Josh Catone is at the Adobe MAX 2007 conference in Chicago, September 30 - October 3, courtesy of Adobe.

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