adobe-logo_2009.gifThe word Adobe (news, site) most often evokes images of PDFs dancing on your desktop. Creative Suite does spring in adding a dash of color. But the Adobe we know offers much more than this and today they are showing just how much.

Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite 2 (ES2), the San Jose-based company's answer to building  automated, document-centric business process applications, is being unveiled today at Adobe MAX 2009. This release is packed with so many new tools and functionalities that, if you are like us, you hardly know where to begin. We gave it a good college try though. Have a look.

Adobe LiveCycle ES First Look

LiveCycle ES is Adobe's answer to document-centric business process management. It is document management software offering a number of tools that enable your organization to manage your business processes from any environment -- mobile, desktop and web.

LiveCycle is a software suite built on top of Adobe Foundation. Adobe Foundation offers the services that allow LiveCycle Modules to be centrally deployed and managed. Adobe has taken a very user-centric approach to the design of their LiveCycle software. What that means is that with LiveCycle you can develop applications with:

  • Intuitive user experiences --easy to use and understand
  • Automated processes -- to increase efficiency and improve the customer experience
  • Improved customer communications -- personalized, secure and automated communications

According to Adobe, although the software can be used for employee facing solutions, their real focus is on the enterprise and helping them acquire and retain their customers.

Adobe's last update of LiveCycle was in June of 2008. The company says it has being doing very well in the market with a 30% increase in sales year over year in both enterprises and government. This new release  is a major software release that offers mobile access, content services, new developer services and more.

What's New in LiveCycle ES2

You can package up the new tools and features that come in LiveCycle ES2 in a few categories:

Document Services

There are three new Document Services with LiveCycle ES2:

  • Forms Automation: Easily create new forms with a wizard and no need for scripting. You can break the form down into sections (or panels) and indicate what data goes into each panel.
  • Rich Documents: Create rich PDF portfolios and embed Flash content within the PDF.
  • Security: MS Office files can now be included in rights managed workflows.

Content Services

Adobe has completely embedded the Alfresco document management software within LiveCycle, providing Content Services.

[Editor's Note: See our article Adobe to OEM Alfresco's Enterprise CMS for more details.]

Users can create ad-hoc reviews, comments and approvals without the assistance of IT. Once the process is started, content is converted to a PDF to provide rights management, inline commenting and review. Dashboards for reviewing the status of process are also available.

In addition to ad-hoc workflows, forms data can be configured to be automatically classified when its submitted, you can search rights protected data that is encrypted, shared reviews are automated and more.

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Adobe LiveCycle Content Services
 

Business Process Management

LiveCycle WorkBench provides a tool for creating review and approval workflows.

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Adobe LiveCycle Workbench
 

End User Access to LiveCycle

You can now work with LiveCycle while you are on the go. Access from the Blackberry, iPhone and Windows Mobile device.

With LiveCycle Workspace for Mobile you can view and manage your tasks within enterprise processes, as well as search, view, edit and approve/deny items. And if you are an iPhone user, you have calling ability as well.

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Adobe LiveCycle Mobile Access

Many users still work from the desktop. Adobe's new Launchpad for the desktop provides one-click access to LiveCycle services including drag and drop rights management, converting documents to PDF and/or sending them somewhere. IT can use it to automate processes as well.

The Launchpad is built using Adobe's AIR runtime.

Developer Tools

LiveCycle ES2 has taken great pains to offer developers new capabilities, including:

LiveCycle Moasic ES2: A composite RIA framework for developing custom applications. It's like a portal, but they don't call it a portal.

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Adobe LiveCycle Moasic

The applications developed can be either browser-based or built on AIR for the desktop. Applications take a task centric view. Each tile (widget) can display content and information from a backend system, and the tiles are integrated together using "auto-intelligence".

Application users can customize their view, and layouts are dynamic and changeable on the fly.

Developers can use ActionScript or JavaScript APIs and have an SDK that includes reusable components in a central catalog.

With the SDK, developers can easily take existing applications and convert them into tiles that can then be used within a Moasic application. Also included are out-of-the-box skins and shells and a layout manager.

Other developer improvements include:

  • LiveCycle Plug-in for Flash Builder 4: You can now discover and consume LIveCycle services in any flex-based application. The Flash Builder is still in beta.
  • LiveCycle Collaboration Services: A hosted service for building collaborating capabilities into new and existing applications (formerly Adobe Flash Collaboration Service).
  • LiveCycle Application Modeling: A new modeling technology that enables developers to create objects that can then be integrated into new application. The modeling software automatically generates the services required to manage the new object. The technology allows developers to write integrated Flex and LiveCycle applications at a higher level of abstraction and with less code.

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Adobe LiveCycle Application Modeling
 

All These New Tools and the Cloud

If all these new tools and capabilities aren't enough, Adobe is also announcing their new cloud-based deployment model for both development and production. Development services include a complete pre-configured Amazon instance, along with Adobe Developer Express.

Production services include 24/7 monitoring, support, recovery and upgrades.

And That's Not All

Like we said, there are a lot of new tools and capabilities packed in Adobe LiveCycle ES2. So much that we've covered most of the highlights, but there's more than we had time for, including most notably, the Solution Accelerators. We'll have more on that in a following article.

Adobe expects to release LiveCycle ES2 sometime before the end of this year. Pricing typically starts at around US$ 50,000 and is based on the number of CPUs, the number of users and/or number of documents. The Cloud-based version is expected in early 2010.