Lots of talk on FlashMX these days. Timothy Appnel is asking if Flash is the Internet Application Runtime that enables a new breed of lightweight browserbased applications, Kevin Werbach is looking for examples of compelling applications and Macromedia's CTO Jeremie Allaire is pointing to some very interesting examples of Rich UI flash applications.
We have recently put two of our flashbased 2D/3D designtools online, a Volumeplanner and a Floorplanner. Both tools are part of our Architect0r series. A set of tools based on Flash, XML and VRML (Cortona VRML plugin needed) that can be delivered through the browser or in a Groovetool.
Our company, Suite75, has been focussing on creating userfriendly designtools for the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) industry and over the years we are turning more and more to Flash as our main development environment. Our goal is to build very easy tools that enable consumers to design/customize their closets or bathrooms, Renters to plan officespace online or (future) buildingowners to design a modular building based on a prefab system. Flash is a very powerful tool to build rich user interfaces that can be delivered through the browser. However what i really find most interesting is that we're using these tools as a kind of rich XML editor, to create and edit data in a visually compelling way. The XML-output can be used and reused in a lot of different ways for instance to view as a 3D model in VRML or X3D or to generate a list of materials or a preliminary pricequote.
While Flash is an extremely powerful environment to build and deliver lightweight and userfriendly interfaces,we also became aware that the way this information is being processed and communicated to and within a company is crucial for succesful adoptation of these kind of tools. It's good to see that with the release of Flash MX it is becoming easier to build enhanced functionality like saving and sharing designs or to quickly chat about them with a salesperson or designer but when you try to build all this functionality into one tool you risk the chance it's getting less lightweight to build and deliver and a lot more difficult for users to operate.
That's where Groove kicks in. A customer can start by surfing to a website where he can use a rich flashbased tool to customize a design and when he decides to order or ask for a pricequote, he can choose take all this data easy into a secure Groovespace. By clicking on a button a dedicated Groovespace is being created and a salesperson/advisor of the company is notified and invited automatically to this space. In there, they can guide the customer smoothly through the process. Groove offers a very intimate and rich environment to communicate and quickly build an understanding relationship.
Wrapping them in a Groovetool adds easy realtime collaborative designing and viewing to these normally standalone designtools and next to that, all data is be securely stored within a Groovespace without the need of a server. The consitent XML data of the design can be (re)used or exported to DWG/DXF/SVG or VRML by a variety of other Groovetools like our CADViewer, that can easily be added or deleted from the space if needed. Our Architect0rtool for Groove is a demo to showcase the capabilities of these kind of tools and has been freely available since the launch of Groove 2.0. If you haven't tried it out yet , take it for a spin and let us know what you think of it.