The upcoming product will enable designers and developers to better work together.
SAN FRANCISCO-Adobe's "Thermo" will heat up the rich Internet
application battles, with the aim to better enable designers and
developers to work together.
At the Web 2.0 Expo here April 23, Steven Heintz, senior product
manager for the new product under development at Adobe, demonstrated
some of the product's capabilities for the first time to an audience
outside Adobe's core user base. Adobe last showed Thermo at its annual
Max event in October, Heintz said.
Thermo is an upcoming Adobe product that makes it easy for
designers to create rich Internet application user interfaces. Thermo
will allow designers to build on familiar workflows to visually create
working applications that easily flow into production and development,
Adobe officials said.
In an interview with eWEEK, Heintz said Thermo will see its first
public beta release later this year, with a general release next year.
He said Thermo will likely have a long beta process, similar to Adobe's
roll-out of its Adobe Lightroom photography software, which went
through a comprehensive beta process to gain maximum feedback from
potential users of the technology.
Heintz said the next generation of RIAs will continue to challenge
designers and developers with groundbreaking interfaces and creative,
engaging experiences. However, these new applications will demand even
greater cooperation and iteration between RIA designers and developers,
One challenge is that developers and designers take a very different
approach to creating a new RIA experience, Heintz said. Developers
start out by dragging components onto a form, whereas designers prefer
a more free-form approach-drawing out what the UI and controls should
In his talk at the show, Heintz gave a sneak-peak of Thermo,
including how Thermo enables designers and developers to create working
application prototypes starting with static comps created in
traditional graphic design tools.
Heintz said Thermo will change the way RIA design occurs by allowing
a designer to specify fluid application transitions and motion. In an
interview, Heintz discussed how using Thermo, properties and events
could be "wired up" in an application design without having to write
code. In addition, developers will use Thermo to selectively turn
artwork components into functional controls and assign design-time data
so interactions and behavior can be visualized when access to final
data isn't practical, Heintz said.
Adobe's Thermo is not the first tool to address the issue of
designer/developer workflow and helping the two groups work better
together. Microsoft has tried to bridge the gap with its Expression
Blend solution. That is why "Thermo is a pretty big project at Adobe"
that the company has been working on for a couple of years, Heintz said.
The company also has put some of its most senior developers on the
Thermo project. "We have people from the Dreamweaver 1.0 team, the
Flash 1.0 team and the Flex 1.0 team working on Thermo," Heintz said.
"It's a big, strategic project with a lot of senior people on it."
Adobe also has been working with some early customers to map out the overall direction for the tool, he said.
"Thermo is a design tool that allows designers to choreograph the
motion of a rich internet application, and it spits out code that can
be handed off to a development team," Heintz said. "The genesis of the
technology came about because of the growing challenge of developers
and designers working on projects. We wish we had more 'devsigners.'"
He said a "devsigner" is an ideal person who is a hybrid of a
designer and a developer and who knows things like HTML and X M L, as
well as Photoshop and Flash. "They need to be masters of Photoshop as
well as vector tools," he said. "It's hard to balance all of these
technologies in one person's head."
Typically designers make visual assets and vignettes and throw them
over the wall to the developers to translate into code, Heintz said.
"Thermo fits in that middle place between designers and developers,"
he said. Thermo will be a standalone product that works with all of
Adobe's design tools.
"It's intended for interaction design," Heintz said. "That used to
be owned by developers, but we're empowering the designer to own more
Although all the players in the RIA space are having to deal with
the challenge of helping designers work more efficiently with
developers, Microsoft has taken a very developer-centric approach,
Heintz, said. "Their pedigree is with developers, Adobe's strength is
the designer community. Thermo is much more designer-oriented."
However, "There are a lot of similarities with [Microsoft] Blend's
role in creating a Silverlight experience, as Thermo has a similar role
in creating a Flash experience," he said.
According to the Adobe Labs page on Thermo, the upcoming technology
will: use drawing tools to create original graphics, wireframe an
application design, or manipulate artwork imported from Adobe Creative
Suite tools; turn artwork from Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or
Fireworks directly into functional components that use the original
artwork as a "skin;" define and wire up interactive behavior, such as
what to do when a user clicks on something, without having to write
code; and easily design UIs that work with dynamic data, such as a list
of contacts or product information, without having access to the actual
data source. Moreover, design-time sample data can be used as a
realistic placeholder when laying out an application, testing
interactivity and choreographing motion, the company said.
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.