Photoshop, Edge Reflow and Edge Inspect: the new responsive workflow

Today I’d like to talk about something that is not strictly related to development process but that it’s very useful when you are running your company as freelance or entrepreneur or if you are team leader of a team.
One of the most important thing for me when you approach a new technology is not only understand if it could fit all your needs but also understand when you introduce in your team or company how to have the best result as soon as possible.
That’s why I keep always a lot of attention on how to create a flexible and elastic workflow that allow my team to create or modify client side solutions without waste our time.
In last years we rapidly see the grow of an hot topic, strictly related to HTML5 and Javascript, like Responsive Design, so the capability to create an interface that is viewable and usable on different devices (from smartphones to web browsers for instance).
Personally, if I didn’t find anything that help my team to be immediately very productive I usually avoid to introduce new softwares in the actual workflow, but this time we are in the middle of a big revolution where HTML5 and Javascript are the main protagonists.
During last Adobe MAX I saw a couple of interesting demo on Edge “family” and I was impressed on the capability of Edge Reflow and its interaction with Photoshop CC to create user interfaces for different devices in really few time, that’s why I was really waiting to test this feature and I’d like to share with you my first experiment.

rwdTools

Photoshop CC and Edge Reflow

I think a lot of designers create the UI for a project with Photoshop, last Monday (9th September) Adobe released an update of Photoshop CC and Edge Reflow, but we start with Photoshop because the news are really cool.
One of the most boring activity for a designer (or for me when I did it as freelance :D) is to cut all images and prepare assets in different folders for the developers.
Photoshop CC helps us introducing a new feature called Adobe Generator, a new way to automate this long and tedious phase, where the designer has only to follow some simple rules on how to nominate Photoshop levels and the software automatically export all the assets for us, ready to be delivered to the developers team!
For instance if you want to export a particular level as PNG you need only to nominate the level with a PNG extension (for example: “background.png”) and run the new Photoshop command Generate > Image Assets to have all our files ready to be added on the real project.

Photoshop Generate command

To know more about Adobe Generator and in particular to know how to set the name of each level I warmly suggest to take a look to Photoshop.com where there are all the information to do that.
Another option that we have (as you can see in the image above) is the capability to export the UI structure and the assets to Edge Reflow.
If you don’t know what is Edge Reflow I explain it in few words.
Edge Reflow is a tool useful to create responsive design layout and, from yesterday, completely integrated with Photoshop CC.
In fact now you can import in Edge Reflow your layout and you can start to customise it visually for any screen resolution your project will work.

Edge Reflow

The most interesting thing is that you can export from Photoshop an Edge Reflow project, or you can synchronise in real time the changes when the 2 softwares are open.
Then you can create your layout for different resolutions only copying and paste the code generate from Edge Reflow in your favorite code IDE; I mean copy and paste for now instead of import because probably (at 99%) you’ll have to improve or change it a little bit after paste but it’s really a good step forward for a software in preview like Edge Reflow.
With Edge Reflow you can create <div> adding box elements in your layout and you can show or hide elements present in different screen resolution simply with the options in the left side of the software interface.
Another very cool thing is the capability to work with your Typekit account (integrated in your Creative Cloud subscription) to download the fonts needed in the layout made with Photoshop.

Edge Reflow and Edge Inspect

Last but not least, Edge Reflow is integrated with another cool product of the Edge family called Inspect.
Edge Inspect is a simple application that you can add as plug-in in Chrome or you can download in your iOS or Android device from the relative store, and it allows you to test in real time all the changes you are doing in a website or more in general in HTML, JS or CSS file checking in real time the final result in one or more than one device simultaneously.
This is a capability that partially missed in the flash development workflow where the mobile test was a real pain (in particular the first releases of Adobe AIR on mobile), in this case with all those new technologies Adobe decides to evolve and improve this experience giving good tools to develop.

From a developer perspective

Personally I think that the integration of a technology like Node.JS in last Adobe softwares (Brackets, Adobe Generator, Edge Reflow and so on) is giving a real boost to them, and they are opening new horizons in the desktop application field, in particular I suggest to take a look to Node-Webkit, an open source project that allow you to work with HTML5, Javascript (Node.JS obviously) and WebGL to create desktop application for different platforms.
There are many other tools that could help to achieve the same goal like TideSDK for example, but I think Node-Webkit could be very interesting if the project will be well approach by the community.

Conclusions

Demo Photoshop and Edge Reflow

Finally the big players on the market are delivering tools that allow us to create engaging and amazing experience with HTML5 and Javascript like other technologies did in the past (Flash Platform in primis).
The combination of Photoshop CC, Adobe Generator, Edge Reflow and Edge Inspect give us a real flexible and integrated workflow where in few steps we can save a lot of hours spent on the code with great results.
Obviously those tools are new and in “preview” so they are not perfect but they are stable and useful enough at this point to be integrated in the actual daily workflow giving immediately importart results.
I really hope this is the first steps to give us the freedom to create instead became crazy to have layouts working in different browsers and devices.

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Isolates: how to work with multithreading in Dart

Here we are again with another topic about Dart language, first of all I’d like to start this article with an off-topic.

I joined to FluentJS in San Francisco few weeks ago, an event organize by O’Reilly focus on Javascript development, and I saw a Dart language session, the most amazing thing I’ve seen was the passion behind this project, trust me that it’s not easy today find people that believe in that way in something, Seth Ladd, the speaker and team member of Dart, gave us a great technical introduction to Dart but gave us something more, he transmitted us all his passion on Dart, really amazing!

After this quick off-topic, let’s go ahead with Isolates tutorial.

First of all, Isolates is the Dart way to work with threads and allow to take advantage of your multicore computer, but what is multithreading and when we should use it.

Multithreading

This is a good definition for me: “Multithreading is the ability of a CPU to execute several threads of execution apparently at the same time. CPUs are very fast at executing instructions. Modern PCs can execute nearly a billion instructions every second. Instead of running the same program for one second, the CPU will run one program for perhaps a few hundred microseconds then switch to another and run it for a short while and so on.” (source: cplus.about.com)

And when should we use threads?!

Basically every time you need to speed up an intensive process, for example when you have an heavy process like unzip of a big file or a for cycle with a lots of elements, you should use the threads to don’t freeze the main one and allow your user to work the interface without any issues.

Dart adds this capability in 2 different ways because, as you know you, it can export a project for Dart VM or in Javascript, with Dartium we can use the power of CPUs of your multicore computer and create different threads in each CPU where will be executed your code, in Javascript, Dart converts Isolates in web workers.

Before starting with code I decide to show in a chart how we’ll work with isolates, so basically first of all we create 2 isolates launched from the main isolate and then we pass the final informations elaborated in different isolates to the main one.

Isolates Schema

Last note, when you work with isolate you can have a sender and a receiver, so in the main isolate (launched by the application) you have a port object where you can listen when you receive informations from other isolates and you can pass the sendport object where you can send message to other isolates.

port.receive((data, SendPort replyTo){
replyTo.send("something");
});

Another important thing to remember when you work with isolates, if you need to receive messages from other isolates, is that you always set  the receiver in the main isolate, or you will n0t receive any message from other isolates because the execution of your program is not waiting for any reply without a receiver set.

I created a small project around this topic to show the powerful of the isolates, take a look here:

As you can see when I click on MONO link my CSS animation stops until to the heavy iteration is finished instead when I click on ISOLATE  link everything works well because all the iterations are accomplished in different isolates so the main one could go ahead with own job.

When you want to launch an isolate you have to call the spawnfunction method and pass the main isolate sender:

var isolate = spawnFunction(bigForCycle);
isolate.send("data", port.toSendPort());

After that you can operate with your isolate in this way for example:

void bigForCycle(){
 
 port.receive((data, SendPort replyTo){
 var count;
 for(var i = 0; i < FINAL_AMOUNT; i++){
   count = i;
 }
 replyTo.send(count);
});

}

It’s finally important remember to close isolates after received the message so when they have finished to accomplish own function, to do that you have only to call the close method in the main isolate and it will not receive any other information from other isolates.
In my example I launched 2 isolates to accomplish the task, so I created a counter variables to store how many reply the main isolate received, after received all replies I can close the communication with other isolates:

port.receive((data, SendPort replyTo){
 
 counterIsolate++;
 end = new DateTime.now();
 
 if(counterIsolate == 2){
 var finalTime = end.difference(start).toString();
 myH1.appendHtml("isolate total time: <b>$finalTime</b><br/>");
 // if you want to close isolates you have to use the line below
 port.close();
 
 }

 });

The most interesting thing is that you can accomplish the same task in 2 different way, the first one, as I did in my example, with inline isolates and the second one is loading code dinamically from external Dart files.
To take a look to the second one I suggest to read this post made by Seth Ladd.

Isolate technique is very useful also when you are working on a serverside project with Dart because it could optimize some intensive process that you have to achieve during your project.

I’ve just opened a github repository with all Dart examples that I’m working on, so feel free to check out at this link.
Enjoy!

A long weekend with Tizen, CreateJS and JQuery Mobile

Let’s start from the end of my weekend, this is what I’ve just finished:

And now it’s time to explain what there is behind.

What you have just seen is a PoC (Proof of Concept) for an application that I’ve in mind, it allowed me to study, test and having fun with different technologies, in this post I’d like to share what I’ve learnt in less than 24 hours.
I worked with different technologies as the post title suggest, I was really curios to see how I can create good application UI on Tizen OS and understand more about its limits (if there were of course) and performances.
At the beginning, I worked on the 2.5D animation where I had to scale, skew and rotate any images chosen by the user from the Gallery application.
When I started this part I tried immediately the CSS3 transitions, I thought: “They are new, so probably they care about performances on mobile!”, so after 3 hours to play with CSS3 transitions and trying to have a smooth animation on Tizen, I decide to move on Canvas!
CSS3 transitions are very good for web and desktop, but for mobile when you start to do many heavy animations they really suck, in this Tizen device (it has an hardware similar to Galaxy S3) that is so powerful everything has to work well and with them I can’t achieve my idea.

So I moved to Canvas, but I thought to find something that could help me during my “coding time” and that it feels me more comfortable so I remembered that I’ve used long time ago CreateJS for some test and in this case it helps me a lot.
When you work with CreateJS, more or less you are working with Actionscript with some small changes, for any Actionscript developer it should be a good start to move on Javascript, but there are many other options as Dart or Typescript for example that are good enough for any developer that is looking for something more than Javascript (my 2 cents).
But in this case CreateJS  helps me a lot because is highly focused on Canvas development so definitely what I was looking for.
I haven’t any trouble with this library on Tizen, the performance are so good as you have seen on the video and I didn’t write so much code, my Javascript file for the whole app is less than 260 lines, not a lot I guess.

After that I moved on and I start to work with Tizen web APIs to get images from the Gallery application.
In this case the Tizen developer forum and the online guide help me so much, in fact I found a working example in the forum that I had only to customise for my PoC.
The big issue that I found here is if I want to select more than one image, working with Gallery instance, I couldn’t do that or maybe I couldn’t find a way to do that, so I decided to create a quick picker (at the beginning of my application) to allow me to choose more than one image to the time.
To do that I had to work with filesystem APIs instead of the Gallery one, but in a while I had done everything, this is the code to retrieve all images from Image folder of Tizen OS, but you can use to retrieve any kind of files on Tizen OS:

function onResolveError() {
    console.log("error retrieve data");
}
function onsuccess(files) {
    for (var i = 0; i < files.length; i++) {
        console.log("File name is " + files[i].name + " and URL is " + files[i].toURI()); 
    }
}
function onResolveSuccess(dir) {
    dir.listFiles(onsuccess, onResolveError);
}
function openImages() {
    tizen.filesystem.resolve('images', onResolveSuccess, onResolveError, 'w'); 
}

After that I spend few hours to skin my app and get the right look and feel I had in mind with CSS and JQuery mobile and to create this post with the video.
A quick recap of my last experience:

  • on Tizen if you need to improve performances try to work with Canvas instead of CSS transitions
  • when you have to retrieve files (images, video or whatever) remember to set the right privileges on config.xml and then add the code you can find above
  • CreateJS is a really good library if you want to work with Canvas efficiently and without wasting your time
  • CreateJS has a good community and if you have a problem you can find a lot of solutions and suggestions
  • CreateJS is familiar for any Actionscript 3 developer

That’s it!
Ah, if you are asking if I changed my “religion”? Don’t worry, soon you’ll have news about Flash Platform in this blog, but sometimes I want to experiment new things.

Tizen the new mobile OS

Yesterday Tizen conference finished with a lot of great things announced, so in this post I’d like to recap the main news that I’ve catch during this conference.
First of all Tizen is an open source operating system, not only for mobile purpose but also for TVs and automotive market too.
Behind Tizen there are many players but the most interesting are Samsung, of course, and Intel.
Actually Samsung is working on the new version of Tizen, the 3.0, but they have just released the 2.1 that allow any web developer, C++ developer or Unity developer to deliver content on this new OS.
The first devices will be shipped this summer (more or less), in Europe the first operator that believe in Tizen will be Orange, in Asia otherwise will be NTT DoCoMo.
Web development APIs on Tizen are hardware accelereted, so the performance should be incredible, actually if you want to start work with Tizen is quite easy, first of all you have to download the SDK, then inside the SDK you can find the TizenIDE that allow you to create Web Application or Native Application, debug them and prepare for the store.
This IDE is really well done in fact you can debug your application in a simulator (quite similar to the last introduced in Flash CS6 or Device Central for example), directly on the device trough USB, or in the emulator; the simulator and emulator are inside the free SDK that you can download directly from Tizen website.
Web Applications, at this moment, run in Tizen Web Runtime not with Phonegap or other frameworks but Apache Cordova is working to support Tizen export soon and they would like to add on Phonegap buid solution made by Adobe.
Tizen is based on webkit and it’s the most compliant platform at the moment with a score of 492/500.

Another great thing of Tizen is that Samsung created a real platform around it, in fact for the native side you can also create and skin your GUI directly with Tizen UI Builder, a software similar to Apple Interface Builder and it helps a lot during the creation and definition of UI.

I followed a couple of session dedicated on how to port PhoneGap application on Tizen and it’s interesting to know that the porting is so smooth (less than a week for many games).
The Web Runtime APIs for Tizen are very powerful, they allow to work with Bluetooth, NFC and many others low-level features in a really easy way.

At the end of the event any attendee received a device for testing purpose, so after dinner I started to play with Tizen and the Web Runtime, mainly to understand if there are many differences between a Tizen app and a Phonegap one.
As you can see in few time I create an example that works on Tizen with HTML5, Jquery Mobile and Underscore.js

The first impression is positive, everything works well, I didn’t find any kind of problems, the documentation is well done and you can find a lot of resources directly on developers website.
I didn’t try yet to work with platform APIs but I see on the documentation that are quite similar to Phonegap so I don’t think that a Phonegap developer could have any problems to work with them.

Last but not least, Samsung has created an app challenge that will start at the beginning of June where you can win a lot of money so if you want to partecipate take a look at the challenge website.

Finally, Tizen is going in the right direction for me, the big deal will be the penetration on the mature markets, if many people all over the world will start to buy it and use it, probably it should become so interesting, but for now we have to wait the launch of the devices.

Dart: elements iteration and CSS manipulation

In my exploration of Dart I’m trying to work in some easy examples that could help me to understand how to accomplish some tasks with this technology.
In this example I tried to understand better how iteration of elements works in Dart, how to create a layout with custom elements (more or less the same topic of a custom item renderer in Flex for example) and finally how to create some animations with CSS3 at runtime.

To accomplish those topics I decided to create a responsive image gallery that works on smartphone, tablet and web too.

image gallery with dart

Responsive image gallery

Iteration

Dart gives few opportunities to iterate trough elements:

  • with Dart language (a classic for cycle)
  • with an HTML template
  • with elements composed by an HTML template and some dart code to cover the business logic of the final element

I jump directly to the second and third method, the first one is quite easy for any developer 😉
In my sample I decide to use a simple HTML template, so basically you can define inside your html a tag <template/> that will allow you to repeat the HTML inside this tag associating it to a list for example, I give you a quick sample:

 <div id="imageCont" class="wrap">
      <template iterate="data in results">
        <div class="image">
          <img id="img_{{data[0]}}" class="faded" src={{data[1]}} width="320" height="240" on-click="onClick($event)" on-mouse-out="onOut($event)" on-mouse-over="onOver($event)" on-load="fadeIn($event)"/>
          <img id="zoom_{{data[0]}}" src="images/zoom.png" class="zoom"/>
          <h2><span>{{data[2]}}</span></h2>
         </div>
      </template>
    </div>

First of all take a look on how I can iterate this part of code; I add a simple iterate attribute associated to a list object (called results in my example) added in my dart file as a public variable.
The list could be a plain list or a list of objects, in this last case you can create multiple iteration item inside the template cycling trough your objects in the same way you have just seen.
I can substitute my data variable with any other name and I don’t need to define in my dart file, as you can see I can also define some variables inside the template getting values from my list object with this syntax: {{data[0]}} (or {{data[“value”]}} it’s the same, depends how you have create the list object).
If you need, you can also made your source variables bindable and any time you’ll change the values of your list, also the view will change the number of elements or the values showed in the HTML page.

Finally when you need to create an iterable object with a complex business logic and you want to separate from the original HTML file you can do that creating a Web Components, but in this case I suggest you to take a look to the Dart language guide that explain very well how to achieve this topic.

Modifying CSS with Dart

Another interesting topic is how to change, add or remove css styles to my DOM objects.
In Dart is so easy like any other javascript library, so basically any DOM element in Dart has a property called “classes” with its associated method add and remove, so when you want to change your CSS class with another one, you have, if you have any classes already associated to the element, remove the old class and then add the new one:

var myDomObj = query("#idObject");
myDomObj.classes.remove("class-to-remove");
myDomObj.classes.add("class-to-add");

You can also style any single property directly with “style” property and set them directly in this easy way:

var myDomObj = query("#idObject");
myDomObj.style
             ..color = "0xFFF"
             ..fontSize = "15px";

As you can see working with CSS in Dart is relative simple, if you want to take a look to the whole project feel free to download it.

Another cool thing that is so useful when you work with mobile apps or websites is to test quickly and frequently your content on the devices, so with DartIDE (you can find it downloading Dart SDK) you can easily test your content trough a web server that starts any time you are testing your app into the browser.
It’s so interesting because you save a lot of time in this way!

I’m trying to figure out right now an hypothetical workflow to create web app, web sites or any other thing with Dart and HTML5.
I believe that use Dart in combination with Edge Reflow could be the best way to create responsive application for any kind of devices, but we have to wait until the release of Edge Reflow (17th June) to know if my supposition is true or not.
When it’ll be released and I’ve few time to invest, I’ll prepare another tutorial around this workflow.
In the meanwhile I hope you are enjoying those experiments with Dart and if you are interesting in any kind of topics on Dart feel free to suggest trough a comment in this post or sending an email

First approach to Dart

Dart Logo

After saw what’s happend during the Google I/O, I decide to make some experiments with Dart.
If you don’t know what is Dart I explain in a while: Dart is a new language that allow to structure  your code in OOP manner with strong typing but with a lot of flexibility.
It’s so similar to Javascript but give you the opportunities to create classes, libraries, isolates (a good implementation to use shared-memory threads) and so on.
For an Actionscript developer, Dart seems to be the natural evolution to Javascript, during last week, also, Adobe announced an extension for Flash that allow to export Flash animations directly to Dart, so another good point on why choice this great new language.
Starting to work with Dart is very very simple, you have only to download Dart from the website and you will find inside the zip the DartEditor, an editor based on Eclipse that will become your new IDE to write Dart application.
When you are working with Dart to create the UI of your project, you can use HTML and CSS and if you have some Javascript library to integrate with Dart, you can do that!!!
With Dart you can decide to create a client or server side project, you can also export your client project for chromium or Javascript, so it’s very flexible and powerful as you can see.
I will not explain how to install Dart and getting started with it because in the official website the “get started” section is well documented, so I prefer to start with an example of a video player, if it’s your first approach to Dart I suggest to take a look, before go ahead with this post, to that section on the official website.

For the UI part of my example I’ve used Topcoat and Dart for the business logic of my video player.
Topcoat is a new Adobe UI library dedicated to style in a good and fast way the main components in a web or mobile application, if you have worked with Flex is more or less the same concept of a theme, so when you don’t want to waste your time creating a custom UI you can easily use Topcoat for your prototypes or example.

Beginning from the UI side, after created a new Dart project, I create an HTML file where I add a title, an instance of video component, and a div with some buttons and a slider to manage the volume:

<div class="centerClass">
      <h1>VideoPlayer made with DartJS</h1>
      <video id="video" width="640" height="420"/> 
    </div>
    
    <div class="centerClass">
      <a id="playBtn" class="light-button">Play</a>
      <a id="resumeBtn" class="light-button">Restart</a>
      <span id="currTime">00:00/00:00</span>
      <span><input id="volume" type="range" class="dark-slider" value="100"/></span>
    </div>

After that I created my class in the DartEditor, all Dart classes have the extension .dart.
At the beginning of this class I’ve retrieve the id of my components inside the HTML file with query method, as you can see below, it allows me to work with them directly from my Dart class:

volumeSlider = query("#volume");
  currTimeDisplay = query("#currTime");
  player = query("#video");
  playBtn = query("#playBtn");
  restartBtn = query("#resumeBtn");

Then I loaded my mp4 file inside the video component and I’ve added all listeners that I need to intercept events from user or from the video instance:

player.src = "video/test.mp4";

//player listeners
  player.onLoadStart.listen(checkLoading);
  player.onEnded.listen(restartVideo);
  player.onTimeUpdate.listen(refreshData);
  
  // buttons listeners
  volumeSlider.onChange.listen(setVolume);
  restartBtn.onClick.listen(restartVideo);
  playBtn.onClick.listen(playVideo);

After that I’ve only to add the business logic for any interaction and everything will be done:

void refreshData(event){
  currTimeDisplay.text = returnDisplayTime(player.currentTime) + "/" + returnDisplayTime(player.duration);
}
 
void checkLoading(event){
  //after video si loaded I play it
  player.play();
  isWorking = true;
  playBtn.text = "Pause";
}
 
void playVideo(MouseEvent event){
  //managing if I've to play or pause the video
  if(isWorking){
    isWorking = false;
    player.pause();
    playBtn.text = "Play";    
  } else {    
    isWorking = true;
    player.play();
    playBtn.text = "Pause";
  }
}
 
void setVolume(event){
  //setting volume video value (from 0 to 1)
  player.volume = int.parse(volumeSlider.value)/100;
}
 
void restartVideo(event){
  player.load();
  player.play(); 
}

When you have finished you can easily export your project to Javascript from the DartEditor menu (Tools > Generate Javascript) and publish on your website.
Finally this is the link to download the entire project.

As you can see Dart is not a complex language in particular if you have a solid understanding of OOP language, I personally think that many Actionscript developers will be find in Dart a good approach to Javascript and probably new stimulus on create new engaging experiences.