Adobe to give designers visual tool with 'Thermo' project

Adobe Systems next year will release a visual tool for designers to help them more quickly and easily build RIAs (rich Internet applications) and work better with developers writing code on the back end.

The tool, code-named Thermo, allows designers to draw a picture of what an application will look like and then, without having to write code, generate applications from those pictures that have the full ability to interact with users, said Mark Anders, vice president of engineering for Adobe. He and Adobe Product Manager Steven Heintz demonstrated the tool on stage during Tuesday’s keynote at the Adobe MAX 2007 user conference in Chicago.

Adobe, like Microsoft Corp. and other companies providing tools to develop RIAs, are trying to solve the problem of how designers and developers work together, since their processes are very different. It has been traditionally difficult for designers’ vision for the visual presentation of the application to come to fruition once developers code the logic of the application. Moreover, designers that are visually oriented are not typically good coders, and it has been difficult for them to create an application that truly meets their vision for it with the tools available today.

According to Anders, Thermo should help solve these problems by allowing designers to turn their visual representation of an application into a working program before it gets to developers. “We’re really trying to make it so that designers don’t have to change the way they work, and what they give to a developer makes more sense,” he said.

Thermo, which is in the early stages of development, is built on the Flex Builder development environment, a tool the company already offers to help bridge the gap between developers and designers. Flex provides workflows developers can recognize to render visual parts of the application so it’s easier for them to add visual elements to an RIA. Designers using Thermo don’t have to write code for their applications, but they can choose to view the source code and see it in a Flex Builder editor that they can work with if they want to, Anders said.

An early preview of Thermo should be available for designers next year, though Adobe has not set a date for a full release of the product. Adobe usually provides preview releases of new technology that is not fully baked to developers and designers so they can start using it to build applications as well as give the company feedback.

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