9 March 2009
The two main products I use day-to-day are Adobe Fireworks and Adobe Flash. Both provide a truly unique hybrid environment in their respective purposes that make my work really fun. Fireworks combines powerful, yet easy-to-use, vector and bitmap tools that allow me to express myself creatively, and Flash combines rich user interaction and motion graphics for almost limitless potential.
Beyond that my average project may touch many other products and technologies, from Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to PHP, Ajax, and mySQL to Propellerheads Reason.
A recent project I worked on was a desktop application designed for product trainers. They use the application to download selective presentational assets from a server—including video, audio, and slide decks—which they compile into a custom presentation for live audiences using the same tool. It was a perfect project for Adobe AIR because it combined online and offline use in a very tight way. When new content is available on the server, it's synchronized with users who downloaded an older version as soon as they open the app with an Internet connect. The administrators use the application to manage all the content, users, and receive detailed usage reporting.
I wireframed, planned the interaction, designed, and even made an AIR prototype of the application using Fireworks. I built the application front end using Flash, ActionScript 3.0, and the AIR extensions, while my partner used Zend Platform on the back end. I was amazed at how easy the AIR API really is to tap into the desktop, and I've now dreamed up a million of my own AIR apps I plan to build!
I get excited when a new door is opened and a product or technology gives me access to something I never imagined I'd be able to create. This was how I felt when I first starting using the computer years ago to create artwork (3D modeling and animation), and also when I started using Flash to interact with the user and make engaging web experiences.
Mostly from interacting with the community: forums, blogs, and private communication with other passionate users. I've gotten to know a lot of experts, and I ask many questions when I'm curious or in over my head, which is pretty much all the time.
When I first started using Flash and was in need of some help, the first place I went to was the forums on the Macromedia website. Today, Adobe.com remains one of the first places I go to: the Adobe support forums, the Adobe Developer Connection, the Adobe Design Center, the Inspire publication from the Adobe Experience Design Team (xd.adobe.com), and Adobe TV. Beyond that I tend to frequent ActionScript.org, Kirupa.com, Flashkit.com, Flashcomguru.com, Senocular.com, and various bookmarked blogs for my Flash/ActionScript needs—as well as Fireworksguruforum.com for Fireworks.
I contribute to forums pretty regularly; I find that helping other people with their problems and challenges can really expand your own knowledge and creativity. I moderate Fireworksguruforum.com, a friendly community for Fireworks users started by Alan Musselman, and I release many of my own Fireworks extensions at fireworks.abeall.com—all content there is free (for now!) and has generated a lot of collaboration with other Fireworks users. I also try to get on board beta testing Adobe products whenever I can, and I present on the technology at times.
My TomTom GPS. I have no sense of direction! I'm pretty old-school with the phones—if I want to communicate with you with my phone, I call you.
I want to own a thermal imaging device. The simple concept of this technology which allows you to see a whole different world that you can't normally see is just a real fascination me.
I want to drag and drop between Adobe Flash Player in the browser and the desktop. AIR has completely spoiled me! I can imagine so many ways to use this now, both with simple file interaction—such as dropping an image into your web gallery and have it immediately uploaded and placed where it was dropped—to actually interacting with custom AIR applications on the desktop specifically designed to interface with web components.
My love of art. While I never had delusions of being a great artist, it was always my interest and I certainly didn't consider myself an engineer or developer—until I started using Flash. Flash opened my eyes to how code is an art form in itself. There's a real art to user interaction, and there's still room for a lot of creative exploration in this area on the web.
I've basically just followed my passion for creativity ever since I can remember and it has led me to places I didn't expect to go. I imagine it will continue to do so. It's great that the digital landscape allows such exploration without intense formal training and that there are so many creative minds out there pushing the limits.
I have endless extension concepts for Fireworks and Flash as well as AIR desktop application ideas, so it's just a matter of finding the time between my more typical web design projects to develop these ideas.
For technology, I just hope the current rate of innovation never slows up, and that my hardware, processor, and brain can keep up the pace!