Adobe's Flash-to-HTML5 translator: Smart but not pretty

Adobe's experimental Wallaby tool makes the case for a multiformat Web, but in a hands-on test, it leaves much to be desired

It's an exciting time for Web developers. More than ever before, the tide is shifting away from proprietary, plug-in-based technologies toward open standards such as HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. A recent research study even suggested that streaming video, which has long required plug-ins of some kind, is moving toward open Web standards at an alarming rate.

No company has a bigger stake in the plug-in game than Adobe. Its Flash and PDF formats rank among the most popular non-HTML content formats on the Web. So when Adobe this week announced a new experimental engine that can translate Flash content into HTML5, code-named "Wallaby," developers were justifiably puzzled. Was Adobe throwing in the towel? Why on Earth would it spend its own money to build a tool that allows developers to migrate away from Adobe's core file formats? I decided to find out and, in the process, to see whether Wallaby is all it's cracked up to be.

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For now, just a prototype
The Wallaby preview is available as a free download for Mac OS X or Windows, but Adobe takes great pains to note it should not be considered a finished tool for content deployment -- or even one that will ever be finished. A note on Adobe's website reads, "[Wallaby] is an experimental standalone technology that we have been working on. At this time, we cannot comment on whether Wallaby will be part of any of our Creative Suite products [such as Flash Pro or Dreamweaver]."

The converter is an Adobe AIR application, so you'll need the AIR runtime installed to use it. For an AIR app, however, its GUI is hardly rich. It consists of nothing more than a single window with a file selection field, Convert and Preferences buttons, and a box to log errors and warnings.

To test the converter, I borrowed a selection of Flash files created by students for a beginning infographics course at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. These were entry-level projects that made use of only the most basic Flash features: rollovers, buttons, typography, and vector graphics. I reasoned that this would be a good test of the baseline features used by Flash developers in business settings, without pushing the limits of the Wallaby converter beyond reason.

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