Head to Head: Flash, Flash Catalyst, and InDesign

Creative Suite 5 made it possible to develop Flash applications with three different products: Flash Professional (FL), Flash Catalyst (FC), and InDesign (ID).  I’ve watched a lot of demos on Adobe TV about this and was inspired to compare all three.  I just posted a four-part series on our video site.  My goal was to build the same application with all three products.  Here is how the four parts break down:

  • Part 1 – Workflow: I import the design from Photoshop into all three products.  Now I can start developing.
  • Part 2 – Flash Professional
  • Part 3 – Flash Catalyst
  • Part 4 – InDesign

Again, my goal was to compare the different version, not necessarily convince you to use one over the other.  They both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Also, there are also TONS of features I don’t cover.  Here’s a little summary of my findings.

Big Disclaimer

Remember, these tutorials were just quick looks at the entire development process.  I tried to keep the features similar and didn’t take full advantage of any application.  For example, in Flash, I would have created my animations with ActionScript to make the easier to edit.  In the case of InDesign, I brought in all the content as image files (no text) to save myself time importing the design.  Using text would have decreased the file size (probably 25%).  So keep this in mind when reviewing the products.  There may be better ways to build your content within your favorite product.

Workflow

Flash Catalyst (FC) was by far the fastest workflow.  I even added additional animations that weren’t in either FL or ID.  Flash would have ranked second here.  InDesign was a little tricky since I had to export out my images from PS before bringing them into my layout.

Animation

InDesign is actually the quickest tool for adding animations mostly because you aren’t animating “changes” between states like in FC.  Flash Catalyst  is the overall champion though.  I was able to create more complex animations (which would normally be a client’s requirement).  I will say FL gives me more advanced animation options (complex motion paths, ActionScript, etc).  With complicated applications, FL would definitely win.

File Size

Here are how the different SWF files compared from each product.  As mentioned above, I could have done a better job optimizing,  but I’m pretty confident the ratios are accurate :

  • Flash: 462 KB
  • Flash Catalyst: 2,850 KB
  • InDesign: 6,704 KB

Conclusion

If you’re a developer, you can’t go wrong with Flash.  It is (and has been) the industry standard tool for creating interactive content.  That being said, if you are struggling with ActionScript or the transition to interactive design, you’ll fall in love with Flash Catalyst.  InDesign users might have some fun with the interactive elements, but I think most will still migrate toward Flash Catalyst.  I see InDesign’s interactive tools applying more toward eBook development than web development.

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