Adobe Limiting Free ConnectNow Accounts Even More

A few years ago, I signed up for one of Adobe’s free “ConnectNow” accounts when they launched acrobat.com. I was extremely impressed with the quality of the interface and the amount of features included with the free account. From the time the service launched, Adobe has always allowed up to three participants in a free ConnectNow meeting room at a time. ConnectNow proved a great resource to use when training clients how to use their new content management systems, holding meetings with small groups of people and more.

Unfortunately, though, Adobe sent out a notice yesterday informing all of its ConnectNow customers (the free accounts, at least) that they are changing things. The main change is that, as of Nov. 4, they will only allow two people in the meeting room at a time.

Add the Extract Filter to Photoshop CS4

Adobe Photoshop CS4For those of you that upgraded to Photoshop CS4, you may have noticed that the “Extract” filter is missing from the program. From what I’ve read, Adobe’s reasoning is that they are building a better method to extract an image from its background, so they’ve gone ahead and removed the filter (among others) before they’ve provided another solution.

Thankfully, Adobe has provided us with a stopgap solution for the time being. On Adobe’s Web site, you can find a zip archive that includes the “ExtractPlus” filter, along with seven other plugins for Photoshop CS4. If you want to use the extract filter, go ahead and download the archive and install the plugins according to the readme.

Adobe Announces New Flash Platform Tools

Adobe has announced the beta availability of Flash Builder 4, Flash Catalyst and the open source Flex 4 framework. Flash Builder was previously known as Flex Builder Рinteresting name change.

Adobe notes regarding the Flash Builder 4 beta launch, “…is based on the open source Flex framework and comes with a powerful set of new features to simplify RIA development. Formerly known as Adobe Flex Builder, the new IDE improves basic development functionality, adds significant new data-centric development features and streamlines the design-develop workflow. ”

The Flex framework should bring together for both developers and designers who build Flash applications.

Flash Catalyst allows designers to take art from Photoshop and Illustrator and transform the art into user interfaces that developers can use to build the actual final working interface.

Adobe Flex Builder 3 Pro Free To Unemployed Developers

Adobe has announced that if you are an unemployed developer, you can download Flex Builder 3 Professional for free. Check out the details here – note that this is not for commercial purposes, just for learning.

You must also agree to the following terms:
1) I am not currently employed or being paid to develop software applications or web pages
2) Adobe Flex Builder 3 Software I receive under this program is for my personal use to learn about Adobe Flex and improve my skills
3) My license to use Flex Builder 3 under this program will not be used for production or commercial purposes, nor will it be transferred to any other person or entity, including to my employer should I become employed.

What a smart idea by Adobe – developers who are on the bench can learn a new tool and then can bring the tool to their next employer and push them to buy the commercial version. Everyone wins – I like the idea.

Microsoft Develops a Web Site Testing Tool

Presumably as an answer to Adobe’s Meermeer testing suite, Microsoft is currently developing a tool to allow you to compare your Web site among various browsers. The tool is currently called “SuperPreview” and is apparently going to be a part of the next “Expression Web” suite (which seems to be a cross between the next incarnation of FrontPage and Microsoft’s answer to Dreamweaver).

Having not tried either Meermeer (MM) or SuperPreview (SP), here is a list of the pros and cons I’ve been able to gleen from various blog posts about the products:

  • SP will be a standalone application and will apparently not require an Internet connection. MM will be Flash-based, hosted solution.
  • SP only works on Windows, and will, initially, only support IE, Firefox and Safari (the demo version only supports IE). MM will work from any Flash-enabled browser.
  • SP allows you to overlay one browser’s rendering above another browser’s rendering and will even allow you to overlay the live site on top of a Photoshop file. MM has a feature called “OnionSkin,” which apparently allows you to overlay multiple views of the site on top of each other. I’m not sure if it will have any support for Photoshop files or not (wouldn’t that be ironic if Microsoft’s tool supported Photoshop and Adobe’s didn’t?).

It will be truly interesting to watch the development of both of these tools. I will definitely be pushing for the ability to use both in my professional life (and, if I can afford it, in my part-time side work, as well). For now, though, we all have to continue using IETester, MultipleIE and BrowserShots while keeping multiple browsers installed locally to try to test our sites in multiple browsers.

Adobe Alternatives Part 2 – DreamWeaver

Using the WYSIWYG and Source Editor in Split mode with QuantaPlus

Okay, admittedly, it would be nigh impossible to find a Web development application with the same list of features Dreamweaver has. However, QuantaPlus (and the rest of the KDE Web Dev suite) still offers a great deal of functionality. While the WYSIWYG portion of QuantaPlus isn’t nearly as reliable as Dreamweaver nor are the code completion and hints quite as nice as those in Dreamweaver; Quanta does offer a lot of other features that you won’t find anywhere else.

Through the QuantaPlus interface (using some of the default plugins), you can work directly with a concurrent versioning system (CVS), you can search and replace text within all files in a specific directory and much more.

Also, QuantaPlus offers the ability to check your spelling within the document you are creating, which is another feature you won’t find in Dreamweaver.

There are many other features built into this application. In addition, you can find a bunch of additional extensions created by users. You can either download the extensions from the QuantaPlus Web site and install them manually or you can download and install them automatically through the program.

Because QuantaPlus is dependent upon KDE, it’s only available in Linux. However, it is free and open-source, so if you are a Linux user and a Web developer (or a coder of any sort, as QuantaPlus is actually designed to work with many languages other than those used in Web development), you should definitely give it a spin.

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