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Macromedia tests Flash fixes

The company is letting a group of users test an update of its Flash MX 2004 application, part of the company's drive to make Flash a broad Web development tool.

Macromedia is testing an update to its main set of tools for creating Web content and applications in its Flash format.

Macromedia developers registered as beta testers were recently invited to sign up for the beta version of a product code-named Ellipsis.

A Macromedia representative said the package would be released late this summer as a free update for Flash MX 2004 and would consist largely of performance and stability enhancements, part of Macromedia's push to extend Flash as an environment for creating Web applications.

Flash was originally used to present simple animations over the Web, including the blinking banner ads that became synonymous with the format.

With the MX update of Flash developer tools in 2002, however, Macromedia began positioning the format as a broad foundation for designing entire Web pages, constructing user interfaces and creating basic Web applications.

Macromedia has since expanded that vision with a variety of Flash offshoots, including Breeze, a Flash-based product for conducting online meetings, and Central, an upcoming framework for creating and using free-standing Flash applications outside a Web browser.

The company is also trying to bring mainstream developers into the Flash fold with Flex, a server product that converts applications written in Sun Microsystems' Java and Microsoft's .Net into a Flash-friendly dialect of XML (Extensible Markup Language).

Macromedia made its first attempt to reach out beyond its typical developer community with the current Flash MX 2004, which for the first time allowed Flash developers to use a form-based interface similar to Microsoft's widely used Visual Basic programming tools.