Paratrooper Digital

Working with flash catalyst.

We’re taking a look at flash catalyst. There’s a few initial things we’ve found.
  • Your PSDs pretty much need to be pristine.

    Clear out all old items from previous rounds of design, the more junk in that file the more crazy the import is going to be.

  • Object Oriented Design

    If catalyst is a tool that helps create object-oriented applications, it’s going to need object-oriented design to start from. While designers may not need to know polymorphism; encapsulation will be a bigger deal.

    What does this mean?

    Ever find yourself using the same textfield with spaces between words to create a menu rather than creating extra copies of the textfield and changing the copy within them? No more, treat them as separate objects.

    Ever find yourself using the same layer for multiple graphic elements; duplicating pixel content instead of creating a duplicated layer? Break them apart and treat them as separate objects.

  • 40 mb limit

    Seems like there’s a limit to the size your PSD can be that gets imported; 40mb. These days its hard enough to remember getting a 100mb PSD let alone a 40mb one. You’ll need to do all sorts of things to reduce the file size just to get catalyst to open the file. One trick might be if you are using an all in one layer comp PSD you’ll need to export layer comps to PSDs. This isn’t as bad as it sounds if you use the Photoshop -> File -> Scripts -> Layer Comps to Files script.

  • Shapes

    Keep your items that are flat objects or borders as shapes and not as pixel data, or you’ll import it all as pixel data and bloat the hell out of your app.

  • Naming is super important.

    To make sense of the importer panel in CS3/CS4 it totally helped to have all the layers named correctly and in folders that had the right names and not just “lorem copy 43”

  • Fonts for sure need to be lined up.

    Its even more important that the designers and the people doing the importing and development all have the same fonts.

In short. Its going to take a straight up miracle to get designers to create PSDs that can be used to take the most advantage of flash catalyst. I’ve worked as a designer. I know the shortcuts that speed up creation. Unless you can get your designer on board chances are the time you’ll save in prepping assets for flash/flex will probably be spent cleaning up a PSD instead.

Even if it’s a purely academic task, we’re going to reformat some PSDs to be even more cleaned up, and then see how the import goes again. Hopefully we’ll get to test out some of the round tripping for design revisions. We’ll keep you posted.

About Nate Frank

Nate is currently a Senior Presentation Layer Architect at Razorfish Chicago. As an SPLA Nate: participates in technology leadership team and resource allocations, manage fulltime and contractor resources, represents technology for groups of brands across multiple clients, furthers development of standards within the office, architects project implementations and fosters community and mentoring.

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