September 26, 2008

Dreams Un-deferred

Recently:

 

  • My wife: “What’s the hardest part of your job?”
  • Me, instantly: “Waiting.”

 

Edison’s bit about genius–maybe now we’d say innovation–being “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” is as true now as when he coined the phrase.  Put simply, it sometimes takes a hell of a long time to get things done.  Whatever the reasons, it’s worth celebrating when you’ve finally sweated your way to victory.

 

Flash Panels for All

Eight years, man.  Eight freakin’ years it took me to get Flash panels into a mainstream app.  In summer 2000 we cloned the Flash Player, then used it to let scripters extend the LiveMotion authoring environment (dropping in new panels that could build animations, draw shapes, etc.).  Two weeks after becoming the first app to ship such support, however, we got cancelled.  (Flash and other Macromedia apps introduced their own support soon after.)

 

I put the vision on ice until 2005, when we learned Adobe was acquiring Macromedia.  A few days later I met Macromedia CTO Kevin Lynch at an event and said, “I know we can’t discuss anything non-public yet, but do you guys offer any documentation about embedding the Flash Player?”  Since then I’ve ranted, cajoled, browbeat, and wheedled to bring this support to Photoshop and the rest of the Suite.  It got to the point where PS engineers said I’d have to put five bucks in a swear jar each time I brought up “the F word.”

 

You may be skeptical about the impact and merit of Flash panels, but I predict you won’t be for long.  No one will care about it as a feature per se.  They’ll care when we start using it to do really interesting things–making the Suite UI dramatically more flexible, tying community and collaboration into the apps, delivering better features faster through shared code, and more.

 

The Photoshop Nation, Inside Photoshop

Once you have a lightweight way to make an application skin network-aware, all kinds of interesting things can happen.  I’ve always wondered why, when there are millions of active Photoshop users, you’re on your own inside the app.  Why can’t we make it ridiculously easy to add your knowledge to the tools, and to benefit from others’ wisdom?  We’re at the threshold of making that a reality.

 

Flash & After Effects Love Each Other

Back in 1999, long before I came to work here, I started lobbying my contacts at Macromedia and Adobe to create something I called the “Flash Interchange Format”–some XML representation of at least the basics of an animation (object name, position, scale, etc.) so that I could use Flash and After Effects together. Unfortunately Flash remained locked to the inscrutable FLA format.

 

Now Flash is moving to XFL (no, not the one with pro wrestlers playing football).  By dusting off some code we wrote in ’01 (I know, I know–move on already), AE has enabled XFL export for Flash to import.  InDesign also exports XFL, and the format should enable much greater integration with Photoshop and third-party apps in the future.  Vindication.

 

Flash Gets a Real Timeline, More

Suffice it to say I’m very, very pleased to see Flash CS4 to add a more After Effects-style approach to animation, complete with editable automatic motion paths, animation presets, control over individual parameters, and much more.  I always believed Web animators deserved these things, and now they’ll get ‘em.  Check out Lee Brimelow’s video demo for a great run-through. [19-minutes]

 

 

It’s a long road sometimes, and it never ends.  I’ve planted seeds over the last ~30 months that’ll still take years to bear fruit.  (Cue Cake’s The Distance)  But dammit, I’m not just whistling Dixie, and we’re going to make things happen come hell or high water. Always outnumbered, never outgunned.

 

Never surrender.

 

Postscript: I hope the text above doesn’t come off sounding too self-congratulatory.  I’m sure that plenty of other people thought of and requested the same things I’ve wanted, which is why we’re now seeing these features become reality.  And just as Flash is doing things that LiveMotion introduced years ago, Photoshop is introducing some features that have long been in Fireworks, Painter, etc.  The key thing, of course, is that the features get to the customers who need them, by hook or by crook.  That, at the end of the day, is the whole reason I came to Adobe.

Posted by John Nack at 12:17 PM on September 26, 2008
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