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Adobe updates Edge tool for easier Web coding

A second preview version refines the abilities of a tool geared to make splashier Web design easier. It doesn't address some critics' concerns, though--at least yet.

Adobe Edge logo

Adobe Systems has released its first update to Edge, a tool designed to help the company capitalize on the growing array of Web standards useful for bringing publishing and applications to the Web.

Adobe released a preview version of Edge in July and promised frequent updates on the way to a full-fledged 2012 product release. "This update has been focused on fit and finish--bug fixes and many enhancements to existing features that we think will make the product feel much easier to use," Adobe said in a forum post.

The tool has the potential to bring some of Adobe's substantial design expertise to the difficulties of making flashy Web sites that don't actually use Flash. However, some some Web experts criticized Edge's coding approach, such as its lack of support for the new "canvas" 2D drawing technology in HTML5.

Mozilla's Chris Heilmann offers a good summary of the programming pushback against Edge. Adobe defended its approach, though.

"We needed to start somewhere...The big thing to keep in mind is that this is a Preview 1, not a Version 1, and we will be looking to expand support in future releases," said Mark Anders, an Adobe fellow working on Edge, in a forum post. "We definitely have plans to take advantage of canvas. The reason we didn't do so is that the performance on mobile devices is currently horrible, though for iOS 5 we think that is going to change," he added.

Some of the features Adobe has in mind before a planned 2012 release of Edge.
Some of the features Adobe has in mind before a planned 2012 release of Edge. Adobe Systems

In a similar direction of trying to make money from better Web development tools, Adobe also is working on a program called Muse, a tool for building Web sites for folks who don't want to write code. Edge, in comparison, is more suited to adding effects such as animation to Web sites; the road map includes new features such as events triggered by particular user actions.

So what exactly is in the second preview? Here's Adobe's abbreviated list (more details are available on a full list):

• Smart guides--Precision guide and dimension markers are displayed when an object on the stage is moved/resized, helping to align objects in relation to others.

• Specify semantic tags on managed elements--Change the tag type of each shape, image and text in Edge to reflect appearance in the HTML document object model (DOM).

• Copy and paste elements--You can now copy and paste elements in Edge, to easily duplicate shapes, images or text. Duplicate images will refer to the same underlying asset.

• Align and distribute elements--Select multiple elements, and align and distribute them via new options in the Modify menu.

• Drag and drop z-index manipulation--In the elements panel, you can now control the z-order [3D position relative to the viewer's perspective] of shapes, text and images created in Edge.

• Playhead time editing--You can now type into the timeline's counter to move the playhead to a specific location, or by dragging the numeric value up or down with your mouse. Windows 7 update--An error on the Windows version causing Edge to crash on startup is resolved, no longer requiring users to change the display bit depth from 32-bit to 16-bit.

• jQuery update--Edge's animation framework now works with the latest jQuery 1.6.2.

That's a substantial set of improvements, but they're mostly refinements to the existing technology. It looks like Adobe still has work to do to address its critics. A relatively public, rapid-iteration development program at least offers a good way to engage and make course corrections if necessary.

A look at the Adobe Edge interface.
A look at the Adobe Edge interface. Adobe Systems