Flash the cache

Tom Shelley reports on how collaboration technology could be enhanced by Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia

Tom Shelley reports on how collaboration technology could be enhanced by Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia

Flash, until now mainly used for Internet advertising animations and online games, is set to be used big time for engineering collaboration, following the acquisition of Macromedia by Adobe. A preview of Adobe Acrobat 9 – which was delivered directly to the laptop being used to write this article – made use of the free Shockwave Flash player plug-ins in its browsers, and gave a good taster of what is to come.
The online presentation, which could have been part of a collaborative exercise, was delivered through what Adobe calls its Connect technology, with the audio side of the interaction handled separately over the normal telephone.
As Adobe senior product manager Chris French, put it, the opening interface “looks very different”. One of the first things we noticed was that menu items in a PDF file could either be shown on a grid or delivered in the form of a ‘sliding row’, familiar to players of Shockwave games – and this led us to ask what else could be done with this games type technology. We were shown a working calculator, and French told us: “Some interesting stuff can be done with Flash. PDF files could be made very brand aware.”
We were then shown how a .wmv movie file shot with a camcorder, could be turned into a Flash format that will play directly inside Acrobat reader. This could then be edited, marked up to emphasise features of interest and have ‘sticky notes’ attached to particular frames. A frame of interest could be captured as a ‘poster image’, and other frames, that the sender wanted the recipient to pay attention to, could be called up from a listing at the bottom of the screen.
Both the Shockwave animations, and the edited video files, could be invaluable both for engineering design collaboration, and also to make company brochures sent as PDF files, much more animated and informative than they are at present. While the presenters did not go beyond the calculator, whose buttons could be pressed to perform calculations, machine simulations with working controls are clearly going to be something users can expect to be able to obtain by email and run on their desktop, without having to install massive virtual reality applications that require vast amounts of memory to run them in.
Back with more traditional Adobe Acrobat functionality, we were shown interactive 3D models created as IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) which is a format which comes from the architectural sector, captured geospatial information, and enhancements to ‘Compare’, which allows users to see what changes have been between different versions of information sent as PDF files. In the new version, colour coding is used to show what types of changes have been made to documents, as well as highlighting that they are changes. Forms authoring has also been simplified.
As usual, the software comes in various versions. The standard version contains forms creation, conversion, Adobe Reader enablement, document security and the ability to combine multiple files into a PDF. To get review and commenting Adobe Reader enablement will require the Professional version – which is a “rebranding of Acrobat 3D”.
But the ability to convert and mark up videos requires the Professional Extended version, which will also include Adobe Presenter, geospatial collaboration with PDF maps and 3D sharing, collaboration and interoperability. Attendance in collaborative meetings will, however, only require the installation of the latest version of the free Adobe Acrobat version 9 player.


* Extensive use has been made of Shockwave Flash technology following the acquisition of Macromedia

* Shockwave animations can now be included in PDFs, and video files converted to Flash files and marked up and edited

* Collaboration meetings only require the users to have the free Adobe Acrobat reader on their machine

Tom Shelley

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