Adobe-Macromedia: Integration cornucopia!

I came to Adobe largely because integration between Flash and Photoshop just sucked–a situation that burned me every day as a designer. Back in 1999, when I learned that Adobe was planning a Web animation tool, I wrote to my contacts there and at Macromedia to suggest a "Flash Interchange Format" that would let everyone play nicely together.  I just wanted the tools to get the garbage tasks out of my way so that I could do my job.  Despite many assorted efforts, however, the stars just never aligned.

Fast forward to the present: we’re now starting to realize some of these long-sought benefits.  In just over a year of Adobe and Macromedia being a single company, here’s new integration we’ve been able to deliver (continued below/in the extended entry):


  • Flash does rich import of PSD files for the first time.  I once calculated that getting a 20-layer PSD into Flash intact took 168 steps; now it’s more like two, and the results are far richer.  Not only does Flash preserve layers and their names; it also can handle layer nesting, blending modes, layer effects, and more–even preserving live text. Check out the screenshot. If you use Photoshop and Flash, there’s your upgrade right there.
  • Copy/paste to Dreamweaver: Want to move a chunk of a design to Dreamweaver?  Copy it in Photoshop, paste in DW, and the latter will pop up its embedded Fireworks optimization engine (equivalent to Save for Web).  Once you save the resulting JPEG/GIF/PNG, you can select it and jump back to Photoshop, where the original PSD will open up.  Copy and paste again to update the optimized image.
  • Export of high-res imagery to Flash via Zoomify: Photographers are laying out hundreds of dollars for 8, 10, or more megapixels, then paying for the data in storage and processing time, only to chuck 90% of when going to the Web.  That’s some weak sauce.  I’ve posted tons of examples of how Zoomify export from Photoshop lets you work around screen & bandwidth limitations.
  • Fireworks does better PSD import and export: We heard you. In addition, Fireworks’ new Pages feature works great with multiple imported Photoshop files.
  • Photoshop embeds the Flash Player: You can now use SWF files as the front ends to Photoshop scripts, opening a huge door to the Web.
  • Export of Flash Video (FLV): If you’re using Photoshop CS3 Extended and Flash CS3 Professional, you can now export video from Photoshop as streaming Flash video.  If this doesn’t tell you we’re in a whole new world, I don’t know what will!


  • Symbols work more like Flash.  Did you even know that Illustrator had symbols?  Probably not, because creating them was subtle & editing them was a real pain (sorry, guys–but I know you know).  Now they work just like they do in Flash: Select artwork and hit F8 to create a symbol.  To edit it, double-click it and you’ll be editing right there, on the artboard, with the rest of the document ghosted out.  You can even specify whether it’s a graphic or a movie clip & give it an instance name.
  • Flash does high-quality AI import.  Now when you import an Illustrator file into Flash, you’ll get options for preserving layers, layer and object names, symbols, blending modes–the works.  It even gives you a little object-by-object incompatibility report when it hits things that don’t map well (e.g. really complex nested blending in Illustrator).  Here’s a screenshot.
  • Copy/paste from Illustrator to Flash:  Just as important (maybe more so), these same import hooks work when you copy and paste from AI to Flash.  Even blending modes and symbol names are carried over.  Damn!  (Sorry if I’m a little breathless, but I suffered through this workflow sucking for years.)
  • Support for SWF panels*: Illustrator can now be extended with SWF from Flash and/or Flex, providing integration with kuler as well as a new technology called knowhow.  Mordy Golding’s got details.


  • In addition to what’s mentioned above…
  • New Adobe panel system: The Flash interface has been revised to use the new panel system that’s shared with Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.  (The teams plans to bring the system to apps like Dreamweaver and Fireworks in the future, but time didn’t permit it for CS3.)
  • More Illustrator-like pen tool: I don’t have all the details here, but the pen tool in Flash should now be more powerful & more consistent with what’s in Illustrator.  At the same time, Illustrator has added a Flash-like Eraser tool (on the heels of the Flash-inspired Live Paint introduced in CS2).

There’s more going on (mobile integration via Adobe Device Central; XHTML export from InDesign; Web presets in Illustrator; Photoshop layer styles & video layers in After Effects; video-oriented crop overlays in Illustrator…), but I’ve got to cut myself off at some point. 🙂

* A note about nomenclature: The word “palette” has been replaced by “panel” across the Suite, but the two are interchangeable.

0 thoughts on “Adobe-Macromedia: Integration cornucopia!

  1. As a longtime fan of LiveMotion, I’m psyched to see Flash embracing the integration that LM had years ago! Now how about an After Effects-style timeline? 😉
    [Heh–patience, Grasshopper. Actually, I’d challenge the Flash team to come up with a timeline that offers the best of AE and the best of the current Flash UI, as each has its strengths. I think it’s eminently doable. –J.]
    And hooray for the Illustrator Pen tool making its way to flash!

  2. Yes John — the Pen tool in Flash even shares the same keyboard modifiers that Illustrator uses. The most important part is that the underlying vector engine in FL is now the same as in AI. That means when you copy and paste art from AI to FL, the number of anchor points, their exact positions, and their control handle locations retain their fidelity. It may not sound big, but anyone who has ever tried to copy a circle from AI and pasted what looked like an odd egg shape into Flash knows what I’m talking about 🙂
    [Oh, I know. I still remember reconstructing the British Airways logo in Flash after an import of the original file produced… well, modern art. (Granted, this was probably Flash 4, but I’m glad to see the problems nailed head-on.) –J.]

  3. Nice highlights. I’m keen to start working with this stuff just for the easier integration when it comes to Flash authoring!
    Clipboard pasting into Flash from AI! How long I have waited for thee!

  4. Toss my AE timeline request in with Joshua’s. ;^) The Photoshop/Flash integration is the best thing in the CS3 Suite, IMHO. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, John.
    [Heh–I’m just the messenger, but I’m glad to pass along the props. –J.]
    I placed my order and can’t wait to begin saving hours of time that were normally spent dissecting complex PS files for import into Flash. One question that we have discussed before- Flash’s poor image compression. Has this been addressed or will we still need to save all of our jpegs in Photoshop?
    [Last I heard–and I’ll need to confirm that this did indeed happen–the Flash team was looking to pick up a better JPEG compression library. I’ll try to some more info on that. –J.]
    Congrats on the amazing product release!
    [Thanks! –J.]

  5. “A note about nomenclature: The word “palette” has been replaced by “panel” across the Suite, but the two are interchangeable.”
    I’m curious about this change, from a linguistic standpoint.
    Is it because someone finally decided “palette” might too easily confused with the meaning of a traditional artist’s palette?
    Or because so many people just can’t spell palette correctly, perhaps thereby making it difficult to use reliably as a keyword when performing searches?
    If the former, the naming paradigm was set long enough ago that its use now should be well accepted and ingrained. New users shouldn’t have a problem learning the term either.
    If the latter, I could take it two ways: Either it’s just another part of the overall relaxation of building good language skills that we’re seeing everywhere these days, or UI designers are recognizing that they should have made the term simpler all those years ago to begin with, and are just now recifying their error.
    Either way, I’m still going to refer to them as palettes, and I’ll capitalize it when I’m referring to any of them specifically, e.g.: Layers Palette, because it generally follows proper noun grammatical rules. To me, a panel (or pane) remains as the name for a clearly defined section of a dialogue window.
    Heh, like anyone but me cares about these things. Well, apparently somebody’s been thinking about it. Hence the change. It still doesn’t make much sense.
    Picayunely yours,
    Phos…. ;o)

  6. The real reason for the panel/palette nomenclature change is neither of the above. The actual reason is that we wanted to have consistency across all of the Creative Suite applications in what we call panels/palettes.
    Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign called them palettes. Flash, Dreamweaver, and Adobe’s video products called them Panels. In considering one or the other, the main reason we chose “Panel” is because some of the panels in the DVA apps are quite large and have some different functionality than traditional palettes, and it didn’t really make sense to call them “palettes”. So we went with “Panels”.
    Of course, you, the customer, can continue to call them whatever you want. I’m sure many (most?) customers, and many people internally here at Adobe will continue to call them “palettes” for years to come.
    Mike Talvensaari
    Product Manager, Creative Suite User Experience.
    [Thanks for the clarification, Mike. –J.]

  7. Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium
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    Please, show us that there is still some respect for us europeans.

  8. Thanks for the post, John… I appreciated this “new integration” checklist when I read it last night.
    Trivia point on panel/pallette… one of Kevin Lynch’s first projects at Macromedia was the “Macromedia Studio” integration towards Director 5 days, which included a common extensibility architecture (Xtras), interface conventions, other commonalities across the tools. Kevin Mullet was the lead on the Macromedia User Interface (MUI) project, and I remember long discussions where we debated that a “palette” was something where you made a single choice, like an artist choosing a color, while other windows which did not offer such modal choices were not palettes. Anyway, I’m getting a kick out of seeing the distinction between palettes and panels being made now…. 😉

  9. I read about the “Copy Animation to ActionScript”. That’s at least as good as the PS / Flash Import function. If you whant to do a quick animation and shrink it’s largeness, you can let your animation translate into AS3. That’s a great step forward!
    [Indeed. I have big hopes for script-based animations passing from app to app. FWIW, we worked out an XML-based mechanism (AMX) for moving animation from After Effects to LiveMotion. I would like to see that kind of thing brought forward and made more powerful so that you can combine your tools of choice in a variety of ways. –J.]

  10. JN: “More Illustrator-like pen tool”
    Thankfully seven years of that horrible MM Pen are gone! Yay! Good work!
    JN: “Copy/paste from Illustrator to Flash”
    That’s worked OK for years (except for gradients). You just gotta have it in RGB, silly.
    [It’s much more than that. Now things like transparency, symbols, and even layers & their names come through via the clipboard.
    Your comment prompted me to do a little testing, and in a few minutes I was able to crash Flash 8, then discover that even a simple gradient would get turned into a PNG. CS3, by contrast, handled everything I could throw at it, even preserving complex gradients. I’m impressed, at least. –J.]
    JN: “New Adobe panel system”
    The so-called “New Adobe panel system” is really a grayed down version of the “old MX panel system” I’ve been annoyed with for four years. What’s new except the name and color?
    [Iconic panels, auto-reveal of tools and panel docks, single-column toolbars, dragging to reorder panels within a set, revised screen modes (F key), and probably more I’m forgetting. –J.]
    Too bad it didn’t go the other way — Flash should have inherited the actually good CS2 Palette System.
    [Honestly I have a really hard time going back to CS2 palettes now, but maybe that’s just me. –J.]
    At least we have John’s classic Paltte Well tip to get by the next two years ubtil CS4 reverts to the proper way.
    JN: “A note about nomenclature: The word “palette” has been replaced by “panel” across the Suite, but the two are interchangeable”
    In addition to Mike Talvensaari’s comment above, I’d add that a “palette” is a little control panel, like Swatches. A “Panel” contains one or more Palettes in movable groups. I don’t work for Adobe like Mike does, but this is the understanding on the street.

  11. Has anyone at Adobe thought about making Illustrator “plug in” to Photoshop. Now we have Smart Objects where I can click on the layer to enter Illustrator.
    Absolutely. First, though, we had to set up an architecture that would let PS support non-native data types. There are lots of interesting places we could go from here. –J.]
    I imagine a world in which “Illustrator” layers and “Photoshop” layers can co-exist in the same file. I want to be able to select an “Illustrator” layer and all of the Illustrator tools become available to me. And when I select a “Photoshop” layer, the Photoshop tools are available to me.
    Would that ever happen? It is a years-old dream for me.
    [Me too. –J.]
    If that dream won’t come true, then when will I be able to save Illustrator files as PSD files and keep all of my vector shapes as vector masks or Smart Objects?
    Is anybody with me on this?
    [Yes–I just wish we could get there a bit faster! But we’re getting there by degrees. –J.]

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