Adobe Flash Catalyst CS5 review

Price when reviewed

For many years, Flash was a simple vector animation format and the only way to create it was to use the dedicated Flash Professional. With Creative Suite 5, Flash is being pitched as an all-purpose web platform with multiple means of production, and the most significant element to this is the brand-new Flash Catalyst.

Included in all three Premium CS suites, Flash Catalyst is intended to take over the creation of interactive screen-based content from the frame-based Flash Professional.

At first sight, however, there isn’t much to it. Hit the File | New command and you’re presented with a simple dialog in which you set the default screen size and background colour. With the basic drawing toolset you add graphical elements such as straight lines, rectangles and a few other shapes.

User interface elements such as scroll bars and buttons are dragged onto the stage, and elements can be styled using settings such as fill and stroke colour, plus basic blur, shadow, bevel and glow.

At this stage, designers will be feeling baffled. This isn’t the advanced hands-on creative power for which Adobe is famous. The tools provided here are embarrassingly limited.

Adobe Flash Catalyst CS5

There’s no need to feel confused, however, as Catalyst isn’t designed to be a ground-up authoring application. Instead, as its name implies, it’s designed to transform artwork created elsewhere, particularly in Illustrator, Photoshop and Fireworks.

Catalyst’s main job is to bring this static artwork to life, and it does this in a number of ways. First, it lets you add media files such as SWF Flash movies and FLV and F4V video. Using the Interactions palette, you can then add play and control actions without having to write any code.

Catalyst’s most powerful feature is the ability to quickly create different states for components and screens using the Pages/States panel that runs across the top of the screen. It automatically adds basic transitions or animations between states, and you can then smooth, manage and preview them via the Timelines panel.


Software subcategoryWeb development

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes

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