Adobe MAX 2011: an education perspective

MAX 2011 and pre-MAX sessions such as the full-day Education Summit gave educators many opportunities to learn from the industry, from Adobe and from each other.

The room fills up quickly as doors open for the first keynote

The room fills up quickly as doors open for the first keynote

Having been a teacher in Higher Ed for 20+ years, it’s natural for me to look at events like MAX with an educator’s eye. This is a perspective I hope I never lose, to be honest.

While MAX is a great networking occasion for professional designers and developers, it also gives teachers a chance to some important networking as well. They have the opportunity not only to learn new tips and techniques, but to talk to the people working in the industry, learning what skills are used, and what ones may be lacking. I think this is invaluable information; gaining this knowledge can help immensely when planning new courses, or updating existing ones to be more relevant.

The keynotes and sessions revolved around a major theme of Change, in my opinion. In the keynotes, Adobe continued to remind the industry that they are aware of – and actively involved in  – changes in the marketplace and user trends.

Touch Apps

Adobe Touch apps were prominently featured in the MAX Day 1 keynote

Several new  touch apps  were announced, including Adobe Proto – a tablet-based wireframing tool which helps you create interactive wireframes using gestures, then writes native HTML and CSS which can then be ported directly over to Dreamweaver for additional editing. Three other touch apps that caught my attention are Adobe Collage, Photoshop Touch and Adobe Debut.

The beauty of theses apps is that they are firmly entrenched in the cloud, meaning that you can create on your tablet, then sync these files with your desktop based apps such as Dreamweaver, Photoshop Illustrator or InDesign, via the Adobe Creative Cloud.  You can create, share, and critique virtually anywhere. Online collaboration is one of the new workflows, and students need to be aware of where things are heading and how to take advantage of these changes in technology.

Proto - a tablet-based wireframing app, produced a lot of interest from the audience

As well as being apps that professionals can use (think Proto, Collage, Debut and Ideas) apps such as Photoshop Touch,  Kuler  and Carousel (Carousel was announced prior to MAX) are also tied into social networking and sharing. Kuler – a color-theming/color-scheming application –  has always been a community-based service residing online and with the Kuler touch app, you can still share and borrow from that community, or upload your files to the Creative Cloud for use later in Creative Suite applications. Photoshop touch brings community right into the app by connecting right with Facebook from with the app itself. Carousel lets you store, edit and share your images from the cloud to your iOS devices and Mac computers.

The apps themselves are very competitively priced at under $10/app. Note: The Carousel app itself is free, but you do need to purchase a subscription to the sharing service.

Creative Services

Digital Publishing Suite - Single Edition allows single purchase,  one-off publishing using the DPS cloud service

Digital Publishing Suite - Single Edition allows single purchase, one-off publishing using the DPS cloud service

Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, Single Edition was also announced. Now anyone can truly be their own publisher, using InDesign and the online Digital Publishing Suite, small to medium sized business, even individuals, can purchase a single publishing license and place a single, unique, one time annual magazine, book, annual report, interactive graphic novel (you’re only limited by your own creativity) on the AppStore, no monthly or yearly subscription required. Cost-wise, this is likely out of reach for individual students, but I can see educational marketing departments taking advantage of this, or perhaps even programs such Journalism, producing a compendium of students’ best work over a year.

Adobe Edge

Unveiled at MAX 2010, Adobe Edge was reintroduced this year in the keynote, and supported by several Edge-dedicated sessions and labs. This tool allows for the creation of interactive, animated elements for web sites in a visual manner. I think one of its real strengths is the ability of Edge to read existing HTML documents and  enable the user to animate a selected div right inside that HTML page. If you haven’t given it a test-drive, be sure to visit to download the preview version.

Adobe Fireworks CS5/5.1 updates

Even if I take off my shiny new Adobe hat, I have to hand it to Adobe for releasing a CS5 extension that supports CSS3 object export and jQuery Mobile theming. Available on Adobe labs, you can download the CSS3 Mobile Pack for Fireworks CS5/5.1. From a learning perspective – and production perspective – it means that students can visually design elements in Fireworks, then export them as pure CSS3 markup, rather than bitmap graphics. And because you’re just dealing with code, the effects can be further tweaked within an HTML editor such as Dreamweaver. Below are grabs from a tutorial I’m writing, showing both the Fireworks design and the final HTML page.

Web page design residing in Fireworks. Note the selected rounded rectangle

The web page as seen in Safari. The ONLY bitmap in the page is the background tree image. Note also the opacity and gradient fill of the main text container. Currently, Fireworks supports gradient translucency using the Opacity declaration, but this can quickly be converted to RGBA within Dreamweaver.

This is a great learning and pre-visualization feature and I’m very pleased that Adobe has rolled this out for the existing version of Fireworks, rather than holding off till the next release.

Note that the extension is not backward compatible with earlier versions of Fireworks. For more information about the extension, be sure to visit

New Adobe Acquisitions

The acquisitions of both Typekit and PhoneGap were also announced during the keynotes, again demonstrating that Adobe is paying attention to changing trends.

TypeKit ( is a subscription-based service, empowering web designers with a wide array of web-ready fonts under one license.

PhoneGap ( is an HTML5 app platform that allows you to author native applications with web technologies and get access to APIs and app stores, using HTML and JavaScript. PhoneGap was initially made available in Dreamweaver CS5.5 to help test, emulate and create mobile applications.

Wrap up

This is just a sampling of my experiences at Adobe MAX this year. Great Keynotes, top-notch sessions, labs and pre-MAX events, and the opportunity to schmooze with colleagues and friends. There is so much to learn and see, all packed into a few days. The teacher side of me loves seeing where companies like Adobe are headed, what course they are charting for the future, whether its in the companies and technologies they are adopting, or whether it’s the almost sci-fi wish list of potential features and applications demonstrated at the Adobe Sneaks. I was surrounded by people who were happy to share their knowledge and experiences (as well as a laugh or two) and to me, that is what teaching is all about.

For other teacher perspectives, be sure to check out these links:

Mark DuBois’ blog posts about the Education Summit and Adobe MAX:

David Egbert’s post on the Education Summit:

Joseph Labrecque’s thoughts on Adobe MAX: 

If you’re a teacher and you wrote a blog post about MAX 2011 or the Education Summit, contact me at and I’ll be happy to link to your posts from this article.

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