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Macromedia preps Eclipse-based Flash builder

Flex Builder 2, which goes into alpha testing later this month, will let Eclipse developers create Flash Web applications.

Macromedia later this month will release an early version of a tool that ties Flash authoring to the Eclipse open-source development tool.

Formerly code-named Zorn, Macromedia's Flex Builder 2 will let a programmer use Eclipse, a popular open-source product, to build Flash applications. Until now, the software maker provided only its own development tool.

The change is significant because developers will not have to become familiar with Macromedia-specific tool features, said Kevin Lynch, the chief software architect at Macromedia.

"This is a big change here. Any coder here can write rich Internet applications and target the Flash player. This will hopefully open up Flash to a whole lot more developers," Lynch said. He said there are currently 2 million people doing Flash authoring; the company hopes to enlist a million more.

Lynch plans to demonstrate an alpha version of Flex Builder 2 on Thursday at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

The alpha will be available for download on Oct. 17. A final version of Flex Builder 2 is expected in the second half of next year.

Macromedia on Oct. 17 also intends to release an alpha version of the next Flash Player, version 8.5.

The update of the Flash Player supports the latest ECMA standards in ActionScript, which is Macromedia's equivalent to JavaScript, a language used in a Web-based programming called AJAX.