File Under: CSS, HTML5, Web Standards

Adobe Unveils ‘Wallaby’ Flash-to-HTML5 Converter

Even though its Flash technology is used as a punching bag by web standards fans, Adobe has been working hard to embrace HTML5. The company released its own HTML5 video player, and Adobe Illustrator and Dreamweaver CS5 contain a number of new HTML5 export tools. Now Adobe is turning its HTML5 attentions to Flash with the release of Wallaby, a new Flash-to-HTML5 converter.

Wallaby is a free Adobe AIR application that allows designers and developers to convert Adobe Flash files (FLAs) into standards-based HTML5, CSS 3 and Javascript files.

Wallaby isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, but you can grab the pre-release version from Adobe Labs if you’d like to experiment.

Adobe first showed off Wallaby at the company’s MAX conference last year and the target use was pretty clear: Apple’s iOS devices. Since iOS doesn’t support Adobe Flash, developers using Flash for their web content need an alternate solution for iOS mobile devices — enter Wallaby.

Because iOS is the primary use case for Wallaby, the generated code relies on some WebKit-only CSS features, which means that Wallaby’s results won’t work in every web browser. In other words, Wallaby is not yet a magic bullet for those who’d like to make the jump from Flash to HTML5. For example, any timeline animations in your Flash file will be converted into CSS 3 Animations.

It’s great to see Adobe using the CSS Animations standard, but sadly the animations spec only works reliably in WebKit-based browsers (Safari, Chrome and Mobile Safari). Once other browsers implement CSS 3 animations, Wallaby could become a more useful, general purpose tool.

Wallaby also won’t convert some Flash elements to HTML5 because there simply is no HTML5 equivalent. For example, Flash’s blend modes and some Flash filters won’t convert, but Wallaby will warn you when something in your FLA file won’t be exported to HTML5. For a complete list of supported Flash features, see the Wallaby documentation page on Adobe Labs.

Wallaby’s biggest Achilles’ heel is that it can’t convert ActionScript to JavaScript.

Adobe’s Tom Barclay, senior product manager for the Adobe Creative Suite business, tells Webmonkey that, for now, the primary use case for Wallaby is converting simple Flash banner ads into something iOS users can see. For that use case, Wallaby works well. For anything beyond it, you’ll have to break out your text editor and tweak things by hand.

But just because Wallaby won’t do it for you, doesn’t mean it can’t be a starting point for converting more complex Flash movies. Wallaby will even preserve any instance names in your Flash movie, making it easier to do the AS-to-JS conversion yourself.

Right now Wallaby is at the preview-release stage and Adobe is looking to gauge developer interest. If you’ve got suggestions for how Adobe can improve Wallaby, or want to let the company know which Flash features you’d like to see added, be sure to let them know.

Barclay did not rule out the possibility that Wallaby might one day be able to turn ActionScript into JavaScript (both languages are based on ECMAScript and have considerable overlap).

While Barclay said Adobe has no firm plans at this point, he hinted that eventually Wallaby’s conversion tools could be rolled into Flash Professional itself as an export option. For now though, if you’d like to take Wallaby for a spin, head over to Adobe Labs and download a copy.

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