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Google offers Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool

Jul 1, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 20 views

Google announced an online tool allowing developers to convert Flash animations to HTML5. Thanks to “Swiffy,” those animations can then be run on Apple's iPad and other devices that do not support Adobe Flash.

As HTML5 appears to be moving ahead of technologies such as Adobe's Flash and Microsoft Silverlight with some developers, Google has moved in with Swiffy, a new Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool.

Google's Swiffy fills a void for developers who are finding themselves in situations where they have to leave Flash behind. Swiffy started as a one-person project by a Google engineering intern named Pieter Senster, who was trying to figure out how to display Flash animations on devices that do not support Flash.

Of course, such devices include Apple's popular iPhone and iPad. In a post from April 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs laid out several reasons why the company does not support Flash, including its proprietary nature; inadequate security, performance and support for touch; and the fact that it lies as a third-party layer of software between the platform and the developer.

Microsoft signaled its intent to more aggressively support HTML5 with Windows 8, possibly at the expense of Silverlight, the company's Flash lookalike. And though Microsoft pledges to share more about this at its upcoming Build developer conference, developers have been in a tizzy over the future of Silverlight.

Meanwhile, Google steps in with Swiffy, which uses a compact JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) representation of the animation, which is rendered using SVG and a bit of HTML5 and CSS3, said Marcel Gordon, Google's product manager for Swiffy, in a June 28 blog post. ActionScript 2.0 is also present in the JSON object and is interpreted in JavaScript in the browser, he said, adding that this representation makes the Swiffy animations almost as compact as the original SWF files.

"Swiffy is a great example of how far the Web platform has come," Gordon said. "Swiffy animations benefit from the recent advancements in JavaScript execution speed and hardware-accelerated 2D graphics in the browser. Viva la Web!"

Google, which has since hired Senster, is in the early days with Swiffy. The online tool currently may be tested on Google Labs' Swiffy page.

"You can upload an SWF file, and Swiffy will produce an HTML5 version, which will run in modern browsers with a high level of SVG support such as Chrome and Safari," Gordon said. "It's still an early version, so it won't convert all Flash content, but it already works well on ads and animations. We have some examples of converted SWF files [link] if you want to see it in action."

For its part, Adobe launched its own Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool in March 2011 called Wallaby. Wallaby is an Adobe AIR application that allows designers and developers to convert Adobe Flash Professional files into HTML5 with a simple drag and drop of the mouse, quickly and easily expanding the distribution of creative content across platforms.  

Wallaby converts the artwork and animation contained in Adobe Flash Professional (FLA) files into HTML. This allows developers and designers to reuse and extend the reach of their content to devices that do not support the Flash runtimes. Once these files are converted to HTML, developers can edit them with an HTML editing tool, such as Adobe Dreamweaver, or by hand if desired.

Adobe's Edge
(Click to enlarge)

As we reported recently, Adobe also recently launched another related tool known as Edge. Pictured above, this is a standards-based animation tool based on HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. Supporting imported bitmap and vector graphics, it produces output compatible with browsers including Firefox, Internet Explorer 9, and the Safari versions used in Apple's iPad and iPhone, according to the company.

Jeffrey Burt is a writer for eWEEK.

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