Monday, August 01, 2011

Two new HTML5 authoring tools

More than a year ago, I wrote a blog post bemoaning the lack of HTML5 authoring tools. Then as now, you could create sophisticated content using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, but you had to hand-code everything. Now, we have beta versions of two different HTML5 authoring tools that promise to make the process a lot easier.

First, there's Sencha Animator, which focuses on CSS3 effects (transitions, animations, transforms, and anything else you can define in CSS3). It provides an interactive timeline for creating animations with keyframes. Next, Adobe announced the first preview version of Edge, its authoring tool for HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. Like Animator, Edge uses a timeline, but it's considerably more sophisticated: The user interface is designed to look and work similar to those of Flash Professional and After Effects, its animation framework is based on jQuery, it natively imports and exports HTML, CSS3 and JavaScript, and it stores all its animations in a separate JavaScript file rather than modifying the CSS3 file(s).

With Adobe jumping into HTML5, the obvious question is whether Edge is a replacement for Flash Professional? Not yet. Both Sencha Animator and Adobe Edge remind me of Swish Max4, an Australian authoring product that outputs Flash but is considerably simpler and easier to use than Flash Professional. Edge is still early in its development; when Adobe releases a new tool like this, it's typically a year away from commercial release. In addition, different browsers implement different portions of HTML5, and it will take time for the most popular browsers to fully implement the specification (which isn't even scheduled for ratification by the W3C until 2014). However, we're getting closer to the point where HTML5 becomes a viable replacement for Flash for a variety of applications.

Given that Adobe is cannibalizing itself with Edge, there's an obvious concern that the company might cripple Edge in order to keep Flash viable. If Adobe was the only company creating HTML5 tools, that would be a legitimate concern, but other companies are competing in the authoring tool space. If Edge creates inferior content, developers and artists will use a competing product. My belief is that Adobe would like nothing more than for Edge to make up for all the revenues that it's losing as Flash is abandoned, and that means that it can't create a second-rate authoring tool.

Adobe and Sencha are working to make HTML5 look and work more like Flash, and additional companies and organizations are inevitably going to release their own authoring tools. We may only be a few years away from witnessing Flash become a legacy application.
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