Flash Alternative: Adobe Previews Edge HTML5 Software

Designers and developers can use the HTML5 authoring tools to create animated graphics using HTML, CSS3, and JavaScript.
Making good on its promise to deliver HTML5 authoring tools in the wake of Apple's rejection of Flash for iOS devices last year, Adobe on Monday plans to release a free preview version of Edge, software that allows designers and developers to create animated graphics using HTML, CSS3, and JavaScript.

Adobe Edge, available at Adobe Labs, should look familiar to the company's customers: It borrows the workspace and user interface conventions of After Effects and Flash Pro.

Edge works with HTML code natively. It can be used to open existing HTML files and to animate the graphics with only a few lines of code added to the page's header. These "includes" point to external JavaScript and JQuery code generated by the application that gets executed when the page is loaded.

In an online demonstration and phone briefing, Josh Hatwich, a senior computer scientist at Adobe, showed just how easy it can be to create animated graphics using Edge. "If I had seen this a couple of years ago, I'd have sworn this was made in Flash," he said.

Edge utilizes a built-in version of the Webkit rendering engine. Its output should work on modern desktop and mobile browsers including those on Android, BlackBerry Playbook, iOS, HP webOS, and other smartphone mobile devices, along with Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer 9.

Edge is not a replacement for Flash. As preview software, it is far less capable than the mature Flash authoring tools, but in the next six months to a year as Edge gets new features, it's likely to become a popular alternative to Flash for creating straightforward animations and transitions for the web. Adobe plans to release a paid 1.0 version in 2012.

Adobe clearly sees Flash becoming a more specialized offering as customers look more toward HTML5 as a platform for creating interactive web content. The company has already released several other HTML5 tools and add-ons, such as its Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool "Wallaby."

Adobe product marketing manager Heidi Voltmer said that Adobe expects the Flash platform will remain the preferred choice of developers and designers working on more sophisticated projects like 3D gaming and media applications, particularly those dealing with premium video and enterprise applications.

Hatwich added, "There are a lot of things that HTML5 just can't do at this point."

While that's true, those things are going from a lot to few very quickly. Tools like HTML5 game engine Impact and commercial entertainment like the web version of Angry Birds are demonstrating that HTML5-based games can work. As soon as a new major game franchise based on HTML5 emerges--which may happen with help from Facebook's rumored HTML5 gaming tools--the scenarios in which Flash offers the optimal solution will become fewer still.

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