Adobe Flash Professional to get HTML authoring features

I have just attended a session on the future of Flash Professional, the designer-oriented authoring tool for Flash, here at Adobe MAX in Los Angeles.

One feature that caught my attention is that export to HTML is coming to Flash Professional. Adobe already has a research project called Project Wallaby which converts .fla files to HTML 5, though I have heard that it is not very good. This one looks more promising, and we saw how a simple animation can be published to HTML and JavaScript and look exactly the same. Some of the key features:

  • There will be a limited ActionScript 3 to JavaScript conversion included.
  • There will be “guardrails” in Flash Professional, so that if you choose to work for HTML then incompatible options will be greyed out.
  • The exported code will use the same libraries as Adobe Edge, a new animation tool for HTML, and you will be able to open it in Edge and do further work on it there. The Edge approach uses jQuery as well as its own format for storing animations.
  • I got the impression that this feature will be in the next version of Flash Professional, which we can call for the sake of argument Creative Suite 6

We also got a glimpse of a future version of Flash Professional which will be 64-bit and use the native Cocoa framework on the Mac – but this will NOT be in the next version.

This move strikes me as significant, in that it shows Adobe’s ability to repurpose its tools for HTML 5 alongside Flash.

Does it mean that Flash is dead? That makes a good headline, but it is not the case. In fact, I have picked up some anxiety here among developers and designers concerning the future of Flash. They like targeting Flash and do not want to return to puzzling out endless browser compatibility issues, and having to limit their designs to what will work in the lowest supported version. They will have been reassured to hear about energy going into Flash development; the session I attended on concurrency in the Flash runtime was packed.

Stage 3D, the new GPU-accelerated 3D API in Flash, enables fast graphics that bring console-quality games to the browser. It will be a while before this is achievable in HTML that works across all popular browsers.

Flash is not going away, but nevertheless Adobe is in transition, and I am hearing more about HTML 5 at MAX this year than has previously been the case.

I am also seeing more focus on Flash as a cross-platform runtime that you bundle into your mobile or desktop application, using either the iOS packager or the Captive Runtime, so users will not even know that they are running Flash and will not need to download it separately.

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