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Adobe goes gaga for web standards with Edge tool push

Who needs Flash, anyway?

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Adobe has kicked off its worldwide "Create the Web" tour by announcing a new set of applications aimed at making it easier for developers and designers to build graphically rich, interactive applications based on web standards.

You read that right: web standards, not Flash.

Flash's star has been waning for web and mobile development ever since Steve Jobs infamously banned it from Apple's iOS mobile platform, and even Adobe has taken the hint.

"Our mission is to make the web better and to build the best tools in the world for web designers and developers," wrote Arno Gourdol, Adobe's senior director for web platform and authoring, in the inaugural post to a new company blog dedicated to all things web.

The new tools, announced during a keynote presentation at Adobe's first Create the Web event in San Francisco on Monday, are lumped under the Adobe Edge moniker, which the Photoshop maker says is now its key brand for HTML-related tools and services.

According to Adobe, the tools are all optimized for building web content that is mobile-ready, and are designed to improve productivity without obscuring the underlying web technologies and code. They include:

  • Edge Animate, a timeline-based animation tool that enables building standalone Flash-like animations that support limited interactivity. (An early version was released as Edge Preview in 2011.)
  • Edge Reflow, a product that helps designers create web app layouts that scale to various screen sizes and formats using flexible CSS grids.
  • Edge Code, a browser-based text editor for writing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which Adobe describes as a "distribution" of its open source Brackets project.
  • Edge Inspect, a hosted tool that can synchronize mobile devices and desktop browsers so that all clients display the same web views simultaneously, to help developers optimize their cross-platform code.
  • Edge Web Fonts, a collection of fonts that can be embedded in web applications at no cost. (The free fonts are hosted by Typekit, a fee-based font hosting service that Adobe acquired last year.)
  • PhoneGap Build, which left beta on Monday, a hosted service that allows developers to build HTML-based mobile apps for multiple platforms, based on the PhoneGap technology that Adobe bought around the same time as Typekit.

Most of the tools are still fairly limited in their capabilities. Edge Animate, for example, only officially supports WebKit-based browsers; results will vary for browsers that use other rendering engines, such as Firefox or Internet Explorer. The Brackets GitHub page suggests that Edge Code "isn't ready for general use yet." And Edge Reflow was presented as a demo only – it won't even be available in a preview version until later in the year.

Still, for what developers can get their hands on now, the price is right. The Edge suite is available for download by anyone with an account on Adobe Creative Cloud, the company's subscription-based software portal – and that includes free trial subscriptions, too.

Adobe says it plans to charge a whopping $499 for Edge Animate "following an introductory period," but it's offering the initial release for free to encourage web developers to try it. The company says the earlier, preview version has already been downloaded more than 500,000 times.

Beyond the initial Edge suite launch, Adobe says it will continue to work to improve the quality of applications based on the web, which it says "has become the platform for creative expression." To that end, it says it will not only continue to develop new tools, but it will also work alongside other industry players to improve web standards themselves.

"A web that has a strong foundation built to support creative features is vital to Adobe's efforts to serve its users, allowing them to use this medium to freely express themselves," the company writes in its web mission statement. "A more expressive web creates new opportunities for Adobe to build great tools and services to create beautiful content."

To further spread the message of its newfound HTML love, Adobe will carry on its Create the Web roadshow through the end of the year. Following the kickoff in San Francisco on Monday, the next major stops will be in London on October 2, Tokyo on October 9, and Sydney on October 11, with smaller events scattered around the globe through December 13. ®

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