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Macromedia to test Linux support

The software maker will soon begin tweaking its development tools to run on Linux PCs, a Macromedia executive tells programmers at an annual conference.

Macromedia will begin experimenting with Linux support, releasing versions of its development tools that work with the open-source operating system, a company executive said on Thursday.

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Speaking at FlashForward, an annual conference for developers who work with Macromedia's Flash format, Chief Software Architect Kevin Lynch said the company would begin soon by offering optimizations to allow Flash MX, its main set of tools for creating Flash content, to work smoothly with Wine, an emulation program that allows Windows programs to run on a Linux PC. Depending on developer interest, the next step would be to produce Linux-native versions of Flash MX and other applications.

"What we've been investigating is, When will it be time to bring our tools to Linux?" Lynch said. "I think it might be happening now."

Macromedia currently offers a Linux version of the free Flash Player for displaying Flash content and Linux flavors of several server applications, but not for any of its widely used tools for developing Web graphics and applications.

The San Francisco software maker is amid a broad effort to expand the use of Flash, however, and that includes extending the format's appeal beyond the traditional cadre of design professionals. Last year, Macromedia introduced a version of Flash MX that includes the type of forms-based interface relied on by developers who use tools such as Microsoft's Visual Basic.

Macromedia will also soon introduce Flex, a set of server software and other tools that will allow developers familiar with text-based environments--particularly Java--to create Flash applications.

Lynch said Flex will be followed by a new product, code-named Brady, for editing content based on extensible markup language (XML). "It's kind of like Dreamweaver, the way it works with HTML, but it's going to work with MXML," Macromedia's customized XML-based language, he said.

Lynch was also bullish on Central, the company's software for running Flash applications outside a Web browser. He said Macromedia's alliance with America Online to support its AIM and ICQ messaging products within Central will help inspire a new class of communication-enabled applications.