May 22, 2010

Configurator 2.0 is here!

I’m delighted to announced that Adobe Configurator 2.0–now supporting both Photoshop CS5 and InDesign CS5–is available for download from Adobe Labs.

I characterize Configurator as a “bag of Legos,” letting you remix any/all of the tools & menu items in each application. The idea is to simplify the app interface by making it present “everything you want, nothing you don’t”–and to do it in a democratic, community-driven way.

Highlights in Configurator 2.0:

  • Support for HTML content (thanks to WebKit being embedded in CS5) that can drive the host app (running menu items, actions, and scripts, and switching tools). If you can create simple Web pages, you can create interactive CS5 tutorials.
  • Support for containers (groups switched via tabs or menus, and accordions)
  • Improved layout controls
  • Support for popup windows. These can contain HTML, video, and/or other panels.
  • Localization support (e.g. create a panel in English & have it auto-switch to translated text strings, changing button sizes as needed)
  • Numerous “JDI”-style enhancements (e.g. being able to hide the script/action icon on buttons)

I’ll try to put together a nice, polished little demo soon. In the meantime, if you’re willing to suffer through my scintillating, “wizard of aahs” public speaking style, you can check out this demo I did for developers last month. (Skip right past the first 5:40 or so.)

I’m adding some fairly detailed notes & tips in this post’s extended entry. For that info, read on.

The Configurator 2.0 User Guide (PDF) is available online and by clicking the “?” icon in the app. Here are details I find interesting:

  • Because of very significant architectural changes between CS4 and CS5, it’s not possible to use CS4/Configurator 1.0 panels directly in CS5, nor is it possible to target CS4 using Configurator 2.0. You can, however, simply open a C1/CS4 panel in C2, then export it for CS5. Therefore if you’re creating a panel that you want to run in both versions of Photoshop, you’ll need to use both versions of Configurator to author it.
  • Interactive HTML:

    • To create HTML links that drive Photoshop, you use simple syntax that specifies the path to the command, action, etc. To call the command File->New, for example, you’d use the syntax “a href=adobe://photoshop.cs5/Main/File/New.” That is, you don’t have to write any code; you just specify a path.
    • Enabling Web-hosted HTML content to drive applications is incredibly powerful, but security was obviously a big concern. Therefore you can call tools and commands in Photoshop via HTML, but you can’t specify parameters, and you can’t specify arbitrary chunks of script to execute. You can call scripts that the user has installed (i.e. stuff they’ve trusted you enough to have put onto their machines), but the script can’t live online.
    • In my demo I mentioned a Knowledge panel that we had planned to ship inside CS5. We still plan to make it available (more details shortly), but if you want to kick the tires early, here’s the source file. (Export it to run it in Photoshop.)
  • Sharing panels:

    • If you want to share your authoring files so that others can edit your panel, make sure to ZIP up the source .GPC file along with the “.assets” folder that sits next to it. The assets folder contains text strings such as URLs.
    • When you export a panel you’d like to give to others, you can either create an Extension Manager file (.ZXP), or you can simply distribute the generated files.
      • Making the ZXP file is easy: just double-click the MXI file that Configurator exports alongside the other panel assets.
      • Even though a ZXP is just a glorified ZIP file, when posting them online I tend to wrap them in one more layer of ZIP-ness to avoid MIME type problems.
      • The only downside to ZXP/Extension Manager is that on Vista & Windows 7, if a recipient isn’t running in administrator mode, they’ll get a permissions error when double clicking the file. The workaround is for users to right-click the Extension Manager icon, click Properties, select the Compatibility tab and check the “Run this program as an administrator” checkbox. Of course, at that point it might be simpler just to have people grab the ZIP file and place its contents into the “Adobe Photoshop CS5/Plug-ins/Panels” directory.
  • The localization support is esoteric but pretty cool. Here’s a sample file that shows the way text strings & button sizes change when you switch among languages (via the Current Locale popup menu). You can specify your own text strings and URLs in each language, and you can even use the Panel Loader widget to pull in separate sub-panels in various languages (e.g. if you want three buttons per line in English but just two per line in German).

If you create some cool panels, please let us know via the comments, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Posted by John Nack at 3:08 PM on May 22, 2010
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