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InDesign Development & Common Extensibility Platform (CEP) Technology

In September 2013, Adobe announced that they would be discontinuing the CS Extension Builder and would replace it with a new development framework based on HTML5 and JavaScript. CEP technology allows developers to build extensions that can run across all Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) platform. Clearly, this is a significant win for plug-in and extension developers as it cuts down on development time and resources. However, as plug-in developers move legacy plug-ins from CS 5.5/CS6 to CC and CC14, they must keep in mind several issues before the plug-ins can be ported to CEP extensions. Last quarter, we have helped our clients to adapt this change by integrating the latest web frameworks like AngularJS with extensions, thereby following a strict MVC driven approach as used to be the case with C++ plug-ins. We have structured the extension in a way that it can be extended to use with multiple apps. This, we have achieved by architecting app-specific implementations separately and creating a core services layer. As an example, one of our new extensions is running seamlessly in InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator and InCopy.

Tips For “Plug-ins to Xtension” Porting Projects
  • CS5 onwards model and ui separation needs to be done so that model plugins may safely work in background threads, and, the user interface for a set of features can be refactored easily at any time
  • CS6 onwards, significant UI changes need to be done using Adobe Express View Engine (EVE) to take advantage of localization friendly services
  • If any third-party libraries such as boost, xerces, curl, GSOAP etc. are used in the legacy plug-in projects, we need to check if the old libraries are compatible with the latest OS SDKs; and if obsolete we need to build those libraries using their source code and then dynamically link them with the plugin.
  • We need to make changes to code caused by the changes in the public API in SDK.
  • Our experience is that most legacy plug-ins neither have good engineering specs or documentation; nor good test suits for benchmarks. Porting projects must build their own benchmark test suites to avoid bug discovery late into the porting projects
  • As legacy plug-ins have evolved, users have extended their template and test documents through multiple versions. There are data model changes across plug-in SDKs that creates bugs with legacy documents. Some documents may need to be re-created when plug-ins are moved across to CC

We have in-depth knowledge and experience in helping customers move their plug-ins to extensions. We are supporting developers in US, Germany, Switzerland, Australia with their InDesign projects. Our customers trust us as we deliver high quality services with transparent business practices at cost-effective rates. If you are looking to port your plugins to CEP and/or looking for a team to support your xtensions, talk to us.

Mobile/ iPhone/iPad /Blackberry/Android Solution

Do you have a strategy roadmap for your mobile needs? If not, is mobile on your mind?

Smartphones, tablets and mobile internet devices are redefining the user data and information consumption paradigm. Consumers and corporate workforces are leveraging the proliferation of 24×7 connectivity and large screen/compute power to enable enterprise access, social media access and information access like never before. The first wave of mobile apps were about putting great UI, interactivity and branded experience in the hands of the consumer. Now, it is about connecting the dots – mobile, web, cloud and UI technologies coming together to create solutions that empower the mobile user/worker.

Pariksha Labs is a leading provider of mobile solutions – both strategy consulting and application development. We have a mature in-house team of consultants, developers, UI designers, and we can deliver across a host of mobile platforms.

If you have a mobile strategy roadmap Pariksha can help you build its components. If mobile is on your mind, Pariksha can translate your vision into a roadmap. Talk to us, and you will be glad you did.

Flash v/s HTML5: It’s a war out there…is flash loosing out..?

Last week, Adobe released a preview of its HTML5 editor, “EDGE”. Early critics have pointed out the cumbersome UI and adobe lovers have pointed out the familiarity with flash development environment. It remains to be seen if Adobe will go on to dominate HTML5 tools given that for once they don’t control the HTMl5 standard (and may even be lagging behind on few counts) and till they acquired MacroMedia, they were indeed lagging behind even on website development tools (remember the Dreaweaver v/s GoLive no show) ?

However, one thing is certain – the impact of Apple refusing to support flash on its iPhone/iPAD devices has hurt the flash dominance of web rich media content.  Apple’s march towards global domination is led by necessities, apple has always been into developing product for its customers that supplies high intelligence at the cost of least power, and hence criticizing flash is a natural reaction.  What has not helped is adobe’s lack of aggressive evangelism of flash players on emergent android smart-phone and tablets. Instead, adobe may have tried to push away smart-phone OEMs with a licensing based business model for flash player which has further pushed users into adopting HTML5 as the lingua franca of mobile rich media.

One major concern in the apple camp is that they don’t believe that flash is open standard. In their own words – “just being widely available don’t make it open”. Apple believes that flash products are 100% proprietary and has been pushing for open web standards (w3c) in its products. Adobe counters by pointing out that most web users are missing on rich user experience since 75-90% websites do have flash content.  

Non availability of flash on iPAD has neither slowed down its adoption nor created any major frustration for its users. One major pitch for flash has been video streaming. However, with the modern h.264 streaming available via http streaming to iPhone/iPAD devices, usage of video has gone thru the roof even without flash support – just look at the traffic statistics from youtube, videmo, Netflix, facebook, abc, cbs, cnn, msnbc etc. This has further contributed to the growing feeling that flash is also “dispensable”.

Another significant reason for the rapid adoption of HTML5 v/s adaption of flash for mobile is that Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not touch screens using fingers. Most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript? Flash also drains more battery causing concerns from phone/tablet vendors.

So far, adobe has done promise, promise, promise but not deliver, deliver, deliver when it comes to Flash Player for the mobile.  With “EDGE” is adobe accepting a graceful “I am beaten” posture? Time will tell…

New generation print publishing apps?

InDesign Project Details – Pariksha has worked on InDesign CS4, CS5, CS5.5 on Windows and Mac environments and used their C++, JavaScript and Flex SDK to develop various applications.   Some of them are given below

  • Automating the Publishing workflow for one of the major Publishing company.  This involved development of InDesign Plug-ins to support Interactive Media within InDesign e.g. Audio, Video, Slide Shows etc.  Exporting of InDesign files to a proprietary format which was then used by a publishing application (developed in AIR) to Design Magzines and publish them on Web.
  • An application for a InDesign Product company that helps user to manage various page item positions by measuring their position and distances relative to other page items.
  • An application for end Customer to manage their InDesign Templates and generate InDesign files on demand by picking up a particular Template and filing it with the data specified separately in an XML file.

The project we are planning to work on is to develop the basic Plug-in in C++ and then use Flex UI to allow user to do the functions that are currently not part of InDesign e.g. linking to resources on Web etc.

Resource Profile

General

  • Should have good academic background and should be regular BE / BTech / ME / MTech / MCA from reputed institutes.
  • The minimum experience of the candidate should be 3+ years.

Technical Skills

  • Experience in development of InDesign Plug-ins (Client and Server) using C++(must) and/or JavaScript
  • Understanding of how to make the plug-in scriptable.
  • Should be comfortable with both Windows and Mac development environments
  • Should have good understanding and implementation experience of Object Oriented concepts and Patterns
  • Excellent communication and collaboration skills
  • Experience with Test Driven Development and Agile Methodologies in a distributed team environment is a plus.
  • Experience of developing Flex extensions of InDesign is a plus.

Top-notch flex developers

Flex Project Details  – Pariksha has developed various rich internet applications using Flex.  Some of them include

  • A Video Asset Management System that allows users to manage their videos on cloud.  They can import, search, browse, catalog, export, Share the videos on various social media sites and also run a 24*7 online TV channel.
  • A Security Monitoring System that allows remote monitoring of the videos from various cameras installed.
  • A Graphical Reporting Tool that allows the Management to review the status of various Customers, Projects and Employee Tasks through drill down Pie and Bar charts with filtering.

The projects we are planning to work on include

  • Develop an application that will allow mobile users to browse through various TV channels, see their program schedule and watch any program on the go.
  • A workflow based application where a form has to go through various stages.  The form designing and presentation will all be done using Flex.  The Form Design will be stored in XML format and will be dynamically rendered when needed and form data in a database.

Resource Profile

General

  • Should have good academic background and should be regular BE / BTech / ME / MTech / MCA from reputed institutes.
  • The minimum experience of the candidate should be – 2+ years for junior position (1 position) and 4+ years for senior position (1 position)

Technical Skills

  • Experience communicating with a REST based service using Flex a must
  • In addition to Flex/Action Script, hands on development experience with XML technologies.
  • Implementation experience of any Framework (Cairngorm, PureMVC, Mate, Swiz)
  • Should have good understanding and implementation experience of Object Oriented concepts and Patterns
  • Understanding how to bridge Java Script/Action Script, HTML/Flash
  • Excellent communication and collaboration skills
  • Experience with Test Driven Development and Agile Methodologies in a distributed team environment is a plus.
  • Experience of developing Flex applications for Livecyle, InDesign or any other Adobe product is a plus.

Benefits of Why Adobe LiveCycle Forms

These days, increasing number of enterprises are using e-forms to perform many important tasks and achieve results. These forms can include simple forms where users are required to leave their email address and a message to multi-page complex forms that include calculations and logic. Though most of the e-forms are designed in HTML along with JavaScript, many other technologies such as Adobe LiveCycle forms are becoming popular.

Adobe LiveCycle Designer is a desktop tool that allows you to create and deploy the dynamic and interactive forms based upon XML forms. This Adobe designer is a WSIWYG tool where you are just required to drag and drop the fields onto the form. This tool also provides features to bind form fields into data sources including web services, XML Schema, and ODBC data providers. It helps the developers to integrate the visual designing process to integrate smoothly with existing data infrastructures and enterprise technologies.

After the template is ready, Adobe LiveCycle Forms can create output form as HTML and PDF like a PDF form designer. In addition, you can merge the existing enterprise data and data from other applications before presenting it to the users. Besides its capabilities of form creation and data merging, it offers various other features such as data extraction from submitted PDF. Moreover, it also allows server side processing for data.

There are many advantages of Adobe LiveCycle forms. They can capture data in the most useful way from the internal as well as external users. It can deliver to any browser, remove delay if manual processing and routing, reduces the expensive costs of gathering paper-based information. In addition, it improves the data consistency and accuracy by reducing the possible human errors. It can integrate with existing enterprise applications and data infrastructure. The most important thing is you need not touch even a single desktop for deploying forms in the entire enterprise.

LiveCycle forms can be used in various daily life applications such as travel request and approval, application for services and benefits, and expense management. More such applications include loan applications that communicate with back end systems, customized solutions for online insurance, and survey portals for your audience and more.

In the LiveCycle form designer, the form is viewed to comprised of three sections; the graphical layout of the form, the form scripts and a hierarchical structure of logical form elements. While form layout is created by drag and drop, the elements are selected from a library in the Designer which contains all the elements and fields normally found on the forms such as text fields, radio buttons, checkboxes and drop-down lists, and selection of graphical and structural elements like lines, curves, image fields and tables. You can create dynamic forms by using JavaScript for the form elements.

Know about the Capabilities of Adobe LiveCycle forms

Adobe LiveCycle forms is the excellent applications introduced by Adobe under its ES2 module. While searching for a reliable, cost-effective and secure application to extend our core business processes, I found this application very suitable to our enterprise’s requirements. Once I started exploring this option, I become fond of it. I can use it as PDF form designer or can create and deploy XML-based templates as HTML forms or as Flash guided experience. If you are interested in such an excellent application, read more.

The Adobe LiveCycle forms applications can be easily accessed using Adobe Reader® or Flash® Player software or web browsers. You can use to capture data and integrate it directly into the back-end systems of your organization and streamlining format-driven business processes. In addition, it also help s improves the data accuracy.

Let me count a few important capabilities of this LiveCycle forms designer. It can create and deploy form templates immediately without any hassles. Moreover, it can process form templates. This Adobe application offers an enhanced used experience with its dynamic forms and guides.  In addition, it can integrate with many LiveCycle modules.

Along with Adobe LiveCycle Forms ES2 comes the Adobe LiveCycle Designer ES2 or the PDF form designer. It has the graphical design features that can design and organize forms which can be used to create the exact look and feel that is seen in paper-based forms.

These forms have several components that make it easy for the designers to integrate all the elements required in a real life form. These components include fields, objects, and scripts packaged and all these can be packaged together to make a reusable component such as address block or financial information sections. Using prebuilt form fragments or the collection of the components make it easy to quickly create new forms. In addition, it automatically changes in the forms that affect the global fragments. Another advantage of using this application is you can combine many PDF forms into a single PDF form packages to make it easy for the users to quickly access the required forms for their transactions.

These days, most enterprises are making use of e-forms for all purposes. By providing e-forms with improved user experience, they can exact faster response time and lower exit rate. The LiveCycle forms can provide more enhanced user experience to the end users which keep them stay on the page. Deploying the e-forms designed with Forms ES2 can make it more convenient for the users than traditional forms.  In addition, you can provide better user experience by deploying the wizard-like guides to help the user through the process of data capture. Designers can design high level guided experiences with the help of an intuitive WYSIWYG guide builder that uses a common data model. It helps them reducing the length of code and simply the data integration.

All the Adobe LiveCycle ES2 modules have provided support for XML. Similarly, LiveCycle Forms also support XML. It helps you integrate forms quickly with your existing enterprise applications. In addition, you can also exchange quickly the data with core business systems. Using PDF form designer, you can easily and quickly embed PDF forms with content and data from key applications. Moreover, it will automatically verify information using add calculations and validations while the user completes the form.

Furthermore, it offers the features for returning the captured data to main applications using SOAP-based interfaces.  It helps in making your existing applications more useful and hence better ROI. It helps speed up the processing time and reduces the possible human errors.

The Adobe LiveCycle Forms integrate not only with your existing applications but also with other LiveCycle modules which helps you increase the functionality and utility of your forms automation solutions.  For instance, if you are using Adobe LiveCycle Digital Signatures ES2, you can use it beyond firewall. Similarly, you can use Adobe LiveCycle Process Management ES2 to automate the business processes that make use of forms. In addition, Adobe LiveCycle Reader® Extensions ES2 can be used if you want users to fill forms offline and mail or fax the completed forms with dynamic barcode technology.

The Adobe LiveCycle Form is designed in the Adobe LiveCycle Designer. The form has three main parts; the graphical layout, a hierarchical structure of logical form elements and the form scripts. Built on J2EE, it can easily integrate with all the existing enterprise infrastructures.

RIA to improve Software as a service for the software manufacturers

Increasing number of software manufacturers is shifting their “Software as a service” portfolio towards RIA. RIAs are offering more convenience, enhanced functionality and saving the resources. The main reasons why these manufacturers are making this shift is there is no install efforts, truly cross platform and new business models based on SaaS.

As of the earlier scenario, it was a quite complex job to distribute software within a company. It meant lots of efforts for installing and maintenance. In addition, it involved huge investments. However, things are changing and different now since business software practices are changing for good. Most of the business software manufacturers are developing business software as ERP, logistics, SCM and more and distributing them on internet leveraging the advantages of Software as a service models.

Though most people cannot relate Web 2.0 with business software as Web 2.0 is associated with virtual meeting points such as social community portals, Facebook, YouTube and others. However, the business software vendors are using both portals and platform to increase the usability of their software. The most important thing to be kept in mind is that Internet has become the largest communication platform and browser is regarded as the universal user interface. The most important advantage that SaaS can have from RIAs is distribution of the software. Earlier, any software needs to be installed on a local PC for each employee concerned. However, now things are changing as business software can be used within a browser. A few common examples can be Google Docs and spreadsheets.

What has made things possible and easier is application databases are available on browsers. Moreover, anyone authorized can perform data processing in real-time in little time. It is the RIA applications developed using technology such as AJAX, Flex and Java made this possible. These RIAs offer better functionality and more usability and moving the web applications to completely new horizons. Looking at its advantages, more business software manufacturers are integrating RIA based applications in their businesses and moving their products on internet. Most of the emerging RIA technologies offer desktop-like UIs with better response. Advanced business process applications are more benefited by these better UIs than those developed using plain HTML.

Furthermore, for operating these RIA-influenced SaaS, operating systems hold not much importance because these can be run on any end user device such as PDA or smart phones. However, it depends upon the RIA technology is use.

Let us recapitulate what we have discussed above.

Earlier, software is used to be installed either on the individual end user device or as an HTML application. But now, RIA based software can be installed on a centralized server. With your internet connection being perfect, you will not face any problem running these applications on your PC without encroaching extra space for software installation. It means lesser maintenance jobs too.

With earlier software applications, business software components need to be compatible with the end-user device concerned. However, with RIA based SaaS, there is no such issue. With every new version, only the capacity and performance of the server is most important thing. There is no need to upgrade hardware in your device.

With these applications being available on internet, businesses have easy access to any software after paying a regular fee to the vendors.

Indexing flash content

Search engines do not index Flash content, as they cannot extract usual content such as text and links from the Flash files.  Search results do not show much of the Flash content, which is quite frustrating for the web developers who work hard to get their Flash web pages indexed and ranked in the search results.  However, things now are changing as Adobe and Google are working together to get this hitch removed away.

Since Google is launching a “deep algorithm change”, it can seek pages, which earlier could not be tracked.  Moreover, Adobe is supplying the Flash reader technology that helps read Flash files and extract text and links from it.  It helps in better indexing and ranking.

Let us learn some details about how this works. In addition, there are some caveats that you should know because some developers think it as a kind of magic wand which frees them of any work that goes in ensuring that their Flash applications are search engine friendly.

Google can index Flash files

For some time, Google team was working on to improve how they crawl and index rich content. The team was looking for ways to crawl rich content like Flash and JavaScript. Though it was able to extract some links and text, it was not that useful. This new Adobe technology is less error prone and Google can crawl and access any version of Flash in different languages.

New development from Adobe   to collaborate search engines

Adobe has developed an optimized Flash player for search engines. It is collaborating with Google and Yahoo! However, Yahoo! is not supporting the technology as yet. It is planning to support searchable SWF.   It is working with Adobe to find the best solution.

Though Adobe’s new technology is not available for all search engines such as Microsoft’s Live Search or others, they are developing it to become available at broad level to make SWF content easily searchable.

Though earlier Google’s help documentation had that use Flash –only images sparingly or embed them in textual form, now Googlebot can extract textual content and links. It can better crawl and index the Flash content.

It started in 2008 when Google announced that, in collaboration with Adobe, it is developing a technology to improve the capability to Index Flash content.  The new algorithm from Google had made it possible to index all kinds of Flash files, Flash menu, buttons, banners, to self contained Flash websites.  Before this Flash indexing system came into being, developers and designer faced problem about presenting data via Flash content and they had to work hard to present their data.

How Google does this?  Google does it by creating a snippet for each website.  In addition, it also uses words present in the Flash files for indexing. Its indexing algorithm also has the ability to discover URL.

Conclusion

Google’s ability to read and index the Flash content include indexing of the textual content as displayed because Google can interact as a normal user. It can discover links within the Flash content and in addition, it can load external content and associate with parent file.

UI impact on ROI

UI or User Interface refers to the face of the machine or the product that user looks, touches or hear to. It is the medium of interaction between the user and the machine. For instance in a website, the UI is the display and layout of the webpage. UI of any product is directly related to its look and design. Keeping all other factors aside, we can say design of the UI has a direct impact on ROI. How? Let us have an insight on this issue.

Design is a term that does not have a set definition. It is difficult to quantify or describe it. The value of a design depends upon the views and thoughts of the onlooker or the user. In the same manner, the value of UI depends upon the users. Does it have any economic benefits? Certainly yes!

Let us talk about a website. The online success of a website depends upon the user interface design of the website. If a website meant for selling products, sells more products, obviously it has better ROI. An appealing interface definitely attracts more visitors and pushes increases sales of products. In addition, it also increases its reputation and market exposure.

A perfect UI depends upon the understanding of the user’s needs and expectations about a product. While designing the UI, the designer should keep in mind the objective, the target user and the website’s efficiency.

Since a website is the part of the advertisement campaign of a company, its User interface design is very vital to create a long lasting impression and it has direct impact on ROI. A better interface design of course increases the usability of the website and helps better navigation between the pages of the website. It is an agreed upon fact that the value of a website lies in its ability to interact and communicate with its users. Thus, more effectively, it lets users make sense of the content; the website attracts more visitors and hence more potential customers for the business.

User Interface is directly related to the usability factor, which means how effectively a user receives the most significant message from the website. A perfect UI have very high usability factor and that lets the user to reach the most important message in one click only.

Higher the usability factor, higher will be the return on investment. A better usability is beneficial to both, users and the company.

Users are benefited from usability because they will enjoy interacting with the website and they will be satisfied because they are not frustrated. It will help them achieve their goals quickly and efficiently. They will cultivate trust n the website. If users to your website or the product become satisfied due to better user experience, they will return and recommend your product to other users too.

Apart from users, providers also get various benefits from better UI. These benefits include reduced development time and costs, reduced support costs, reduced user errors, reduced training time and costs and hence better return on investments.