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Adobe Edge: What You Need to Know

Adobe has released a preview of its new HTML5 tool but what does it mean for you?

Adobe released a preview of its upcoming Adobe Edge software Monday morning. But what exactly is this new program, and why are web developers so excited about it? Here's what you need to know.

What is Adobe Edge?

Edge is a new web development tool from Adobe that makes it easy to create animations and interactive websites with HTML5, the latest revision of HTML. HTML5 tries to add the interaction and multimedia we've come to expect from the web without forcing users to download plug-ins such as Microsoft Silverlight or Adobe Flash.

While there's been a lot of hubbub over how HTML5 will change everything, older web formats such as Flash still rule the web--largely because they're much easier to work with. Although it still has the upper hand with Flash, Adobe wants to ensure that if and when HTML5 becomes the standard, developers will still create it on Adobe software. So Adobe has created Edge as a tool to help developers create complex animations using HTML5.

How does Adobe Edge work?

At the moment, Edge seems to run on an interface similar to Flash. The familiar timeline and other tools are situation in approximately the same places in Edge as they are in the current version of Flash. Behind the scenes, however, Edge is very different. Instead of Adobe's proprietary ActionScript format, the animations created in Edge are coded in a language called JSON. JSON is a form of Java that runs on modern desktop browsers and most mobile browsers, such as Safari.

When Will Adobe Edge be Available?

The preview version of Edge is available right now from Adobe's site, to anyone who has an Adobe ID. This version is really more of a promise than an actual release, however. Features such as compatibility testing with older browsers and support for interactivity are yet to come at this stage. A commercial version of Edge is still months away--Adobe expects to release Edge commercially in 2012.

What does Edge mean for you?

Unless you're a web designer, the preview release probably won't mean much. While you can download a copy of Adobe Edge from the Adobe Labs site, you probably don't have much use for it. In fact, unless you happen to be a whiz with Adobe Flash or HTML5 coding, you probably won't even be able to figure out how to use the software at this early stage of development.

For the average user, the release of Adobe Edge is mostly valuable for what it says about the future of Web surfing. For years now, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari have battled over who has the most HTML5-compliant browser--but these distinctions don't really matter until there's a stream of HTML5 content on the web. A user-friendly tool for creating HTML5 (such as Edge) may be just what the standard needs to really take off.

For now, Adobe says that both Flash and HTML5 can co-exist. According to Adobe, Flash is still stronger for games and streaming video, while interactive web design and advertising will be HTML5's strong points.

Others (cough, Apple, cough) disagree, and think HTML5 is the way of the future--and that Flash is on its way out. iPad owners, at least, would be happy.

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