Adobe Product Manager Steven Heintz and Senior Principal Scientist Mark Anders provide a sneak peek at Thermo, code name for a product currently under development at Adobe.



Julie Campagna:  Hi, I'm Julie Campagna, I manage the Edge newsletter. Recently Adobe gave a demo of a project codenamed "Thermo" and it has generated a lot of buzz. Interest? Buzz.

Steven Heintz:  Buzz seems like a product manager or marketing term... All right, all right.

Julie:  Buzz? So, today, I've asked Mark Anders and Steven Heintz to sit down and give us a demo.

Steven:  Look at the way people are designing apps today. They're using something like Photoshop, they're doing a static picture of an app, and it's a very hard process to communicate exactly what you want your app to do. And that's where Thermo came.

Mark Anders:  Thermo is a new tool that we're creating, that allows designers to build applications. And what it allows them to do is to start with a picture of an application, like what you do in Photoshop, and to add the interactivity and behavior, but without writing code.

For example, you can take a picture of an application, and if you have something like a box with some text in it that really represents a text input field, you can just select that and say, "Make that into a text input component" and it'll happen. It has the exact same look, except now it actually is a functioning edit box.

Lists are things that lots of applications have. So what you can do is, for example, just grab a bunch of items that in Photoshop you would have just made copies of images of what a thing looks like. And you can just grab those and select them and say, "Make it a list." And it actually transforms it into a list. And what it does is, it takes those images and makes them data to the list, so that if you wanted more so you can scroll the list, you can easily do that.

Another example is taking a picture of something like a scroll bar and saying, "Make that into a scroll bar." And to be able to take the different pieces of the graphics and to map them into logical, functional pieces of a scroll bar.

Steven:  You can also preview and visually see what the transitions would look like in your applications. So if you were to click on something, how you want that fade to look or how you want that menu to slide out, and be able to define with great detail what that should look like.

Mark:  One of the biggest challenges with designing applications visually is that you're designing something, but you actually only see it when the app is running. So what Thermo does, is it uses dummy data to allow you to visually work on it and see exactly what it looks like. You can even run the application with the dummy data. And you get to see it exactly as it will look when it's live.

Of course as a developer, you then come in and you plug in the real logic to go get your favorite music, or a list of products, or a list of contacts, or whatever it is. And that actually replaces the dummy data. But the dummy data makes it so that what you're designing has full fidelity.

For developers, the problem that they've always had with sort of the designer‑developer workflow is that what they get from the designer is not something that they can really use. They get something like a piece of paper that has a printout of what the thing looks like, or they get a bitmapped image or a Photoshop file. And then they have to figure out how to turn that into an actual application.

And now what the designer gives them is actually implemented in the language of Flex. Because in Thermo, when you're doing all of this drawing or you're taking graphics from Photoshop and you're adding behavior, it's actually creating the source code to a Flex application, so that when a designer says, "Hey, here's something that I built, " a developer can look at it and say, "Oh, I see the graphics that you used," and they're actually fully described in the source code to a Flex application.

They can see the behaviors, the transitions, the different states that a component moves to, and it's all given to them in a language that makes sense to them. They can then take this and they can extend it by adding all of the logic, the more programmatic stuff that the designer doesn't want to think about. So it gives them a great way of collaborating, because it's building on the same set of building blocks.

Julie:  Well, thanks so much for giving us a demo. And if you want to learn more about Thermo, definitely visit Adobe Labs.