Adobe Edge: Does Adobe Finally Understand Developers?

by on 26th September 2012 with 38 Comments

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Adobe and web design. They have a complicated history. I can never quite tell if Adobe is an estranged partner of web developers or an active advocate. Are they focused on empowering developers or replacing them with clunky WYSIWYGs?

Today we’re going to take a look at Adobe Edge Tools and Services, a new initiative from Adobe that might be enough to change your mind about how Adobe views coders.

Adobe and Web Designers

Adobe has always had a bit of an odd relationship with web design. Their flagship app, Adobe Photoshop, was never intended to be used as a tool to build websites, yet it has become the standard place to build graphics for the web.

“Adobe Photoshop was never intended to be used as a tool to build websites”

Then you have products like GoLive and Dreamweaver, the former of which is long dead and the latter of which receives mediocre reviews at best from developers. Most of us avoid it entirely.

It seems like Fireworks is the only decent true web design tool that Adobe has in the Creative Suite, but it has a sort of cult following, only the enlightened few drop Photoshop and pick it up instead.

A Rough History with Coders

Historically, Adobe has had a customer base full of designers. They simply haven’t ever understood or even really targeted developers. By limiting their offerings to WYSIWYGs like Dreamweaver and Muse, which are aimed at allowing users to focus on design and ignore code, Adobe made a clear statement: we don’t care about coders.

“Adobe made a clear statement: we don’t care about coders.”

In fact, it’s more than that, Adobe has completely undermined coders by focusing so heavily on building crappy products that seek to eliminate hand coding from the web design process. They seem to see front end web coding as this annoyance that should be eliminated, not as a legitimate and valuable profession.

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Meanwhile, the millions of us who actually prefer to code websites by hand rather than have a piece of software spit out an abomination of non-semantic HTML, shake our heads and rant about how Adobe just doesn’t get us.

I Love Adobe, Really

As you can see, I’m really rough on Adobe, but that’s only because I know that they have the talent, resources and customer base to completely own this market and empower web developers like no one else. However, they’ve always clung to their own technologies, such as Flash, which hold the web back, not move it forward (Update: Historically, Flash served a very important and valuable purpose, but I’m unconvinced that this holds true today).

“They’ve always clung to their own technologies, such as Flash, which hold the web back, not move it forward.”

I owe Adobe my career. My love for Photoshop and Illustrator pushed me into the design field, not the other way around. Never read my criticism as hate for Adobe but instead as genuine concern that one of my favorite companies could be doing a lot better than they are.

A Change in The Weather

It seems that Adobe might be finally coming around to the idea that they should spend less time attempting to put front end coders out of a job and more time building useful products for this huge potential user base.

Slowly but surely, they’ve been testing out and releasing new experimental tools aimed right at people who actually enjoy writing HTML and CSS. This attempt has been somewhat scattered, but to fix that, all of the disparate pieces have now been rebranded to Adobe Edge Tools and Services.

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Suddenly the company who was formerly focused so heavily on empowering the web design industry to abandon coding has a new mission, to “move the web forward and give web designers and developers the best tools and services in the world.”

“Our mission: move the web forward and give web designers and developers the best tools and services in the world.”

They go even further with the following statement, which really hits home for me: “Web designers want to see CSS, HTML and JavaScript. They understand and want to manipulate the box model and media queries. Their tools should allow them to author with these things more easily, but not by hiding what is really going on.”

Good lord, they finally get it. It may have taken over a decade, but they now seem to understand that our feeble minds are actually capable of grasping this web dev stuff (who knew?). Talk is cheap though, what are they doing to fulfill this new mission?

Meet The Adobe Edge Family

As a part of their devotion to this new mission, Adobe has put together Adobe Edge Tools and Services, a new collection of apps that is conceptually entirely separate from the all holy Creative Suite. Let’s take a look at what’s included.

Edge Animate

For all its faults, Adobe Flash brought amazing animation to the web, and that was a big step forward. Web standards and mobile compatibility have forced a new path though and it’s time for Adobe to jump on board. Edge Animate is their answer to this challenge.

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Edge Animate makes it easy to create complex animations for the web. Sound familiar? This one isn’t a proprietary technology though, instead it uses standard web technologies and is built to be cross-browser compatible (including iOS). Edge Animate implements native HTML and JavaScript, heck, the UI is even built on Webkit.

Edge Reflow

I have to say, this is the one that I’m most excited about. If they can pull it together, it’ll be awesome. Edge Reflow is an app specifically built to help you create responsive websites.

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Basically, this is a front end that helps you build the CSS for your grid. Conceptually, it seems a lot like Gridset. Unfortuantely, Edge Reflow has not yet been released, so we don’t know too much about it at this point. You can check out the teaser trailer here.

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Edge Code

Adobe Edge Code is a project that we’ve seen before on Design Shack. Also known as Brackets, Edge Code is an innovative text editor that brings a few cool new ideas to the table such as quick CSS editing right from the HTML document.

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Overall, my opinion in the previous review stands. There are some great ideas here and it could shape up to be an awesome editor, but for now it’s a little underwhelming for those of us who use the outstanding Sublime Text 2 every day. Adobe has a difficult battle ahead of them if they want to win over developers who depend on existing editors.

Edge Inspect

This one is another app that you’re probably familiar with under a different name. Formerly Adobe Shadow, Edge Inspect allows you to easily preview and inspect your web pages on your various testing devices.

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Edge Inspect links together the browsers on all of your devices and synchronizes the web page and refreshes so that you can update once and see the changes everywhere at the same time. You can even press a single button to grab screenshots from all of your devices in one go.

Edge Web Fonts

This isn’t a standalone app so much as a service that’s being integrated into products such as Edge Code, Edge Reflow and Muse. It serves up free web fonts that you can easily embed into whatever you’re working on.

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Really, Edge Web Font is just a new free branch of Typekit, the awesome premium web fonts service that is next on our list.

Typekit

This is likely the most significant product in the Edge mix, because it’s been a wildly successful app for years. Typekit was one of the first really great @font-face solutions that offered up quality professional fonts.

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If you’re not familiar with Typekit, you should be. With it, you can add gorgeous, cross-browser fonts to your website with a quick copy and paste.

Edge PhoneGap Build

PhoneGap Build helps you create applications with standard web technologies that can then be rolled out across several platforms, including iOS and Android.

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This is actually part of a large movement of developers who want to forgo platform specific SDKs in favor of using standards that can be functional across all platforms. The theory is great, but in practice we’re seeing some big players like Facebook and 6Wunderkinder move away from these ideas in favor of a smoother, faster native experience.

Creative Cloud Required

One quick note, just in case you’re wondering how you can get your hands on all of these goodies. Pretty much everything above requires a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

“Adobe is building a future where you either subscribe to their services or miss out on all the good stuff.”

At this point, resistance is futile. Adobe is building a future where you either subscribe to their services or miss out on all the good stuff, so think twice before you purchase CS6 outright instead of leasing it through Creative Cloud.

Update:
As Ryan from Adobe pointed out in the comments, these tools and services are actually available to anyone free of charge via the free tier of Adobe Creative Cloud. Cool!

A New Adobe?

All of this together paints a picture: the Adobe of the future is one that embraces not only web design, but web development as well. On top of the Edge products, Adobe is actively playing a part in the web development community through open source projects and inventing new Webkit technologies.

Obviously, this didn’t happen overnight. Adobe has been steadily building steam in this area for years, but they have never marketed their efforts so well as they are today. They’re making a loud and clear statement that they’re going to be a major player in the web, and not some broken proprietary version of it, the open one.

“This old school company founded on print design is finally beginning to find its footing in the web design industry.”

Personally, I’m thrilled about this new direction. I still have plenty of doubts about how these apps will fare as individual products and whether or not any of them will prove genuinely useful in my workflow, but when taken as a unit, it’s a refreshing indication that this old school company founded on print design is finally beginning to find its footing in the web design industry.

What do you think? Are you excited about the Edge Tools and Services? Is Adobe making up for years of coder neglect? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments & Discussion

38 Comments

  • http://jeremyhixon.com Jeremy Hixon

    I’m glad they are finally catching up. I got my start with Photoshop years ago and I think I am where I am largely because of it’s influence. While I quickly discovered I am not a designer at heart it introduced me to the web and I discovered that I am, definitely, a coder. Dreamweaver was nice to start out but eventually I moved out of design view and never looked back. Now it’s just an overweight app for my uses. I’d be better off with textedit. This new direction is refreshing. I hated Flash and it’s timelines, but I might even take a swing at Edge Animate.

  • TJ

    PhoneGap is the only really useful service that I see in this collection, and they didn’t even create it.

    • http://christianheilmann.com Chris Heilmann

      They pay the guys behind Phonegap a full wage now and give them a chance to work with a massive marketing machine to promote the cool thing they did. How exactly is that not a success for everyone around? Arrogant statements like that make large companies shy away from Open Source. Working on a free and open project should come sooner or later also with a reward like that and that Adobe bought Phonegap, then gave it to the Apache foundation and kept the people working on it rather than buying it to kill it or rebrand it (as a lot of startups are being dealt with) is actually amazing. So let’s not be “clever” and nasty about that but support the cause. Large ships turn slowly but they have a lot of fuel to go far.

      • TJ

        In what way am I being clever and nasty? They didn’t create the service, so why would I credit them with bringing something creative to the industry? Cool, the developers are getting paid now. I never stated it was a bad thing.

        Thank you for taking my comment and blowing it out of proportion.

  • http://www.stephonproductions.com/test stephonabbott

    Pretty interesting article. The one im most looking forward to is reflow, it seems to be quite interesting and “could” prove itself useful. Adobe is at again and hopefully for developers this is a great thing, well greater than before that is!

  • NZ

    Flash holding the web back??

    It’s a shame how people so openly diss flash in the holy name of mobile and accessibility without appreciating how much it has achieved over time.

    I’ll never understand how the world is fine with embracing new technology (HTML5) that’s still attempting to do things Flash could do over a decade ago.

    In all fairness, how long should I hold my breath until HTML5 can pull off something like this?

    https://vimeo.com/3270635

    Isn’t THAT called ‘RICH INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE?’

    • http://nyczdesigns.com Jack Nycz

      Dude your link opens in a Vimeo HTML5 player – little ironic don’t you say?

      • NZ

        Depends on your settings. Mine’s playing in Flash :)

      • Craig Temple

        lmao, how stupid was that… irony.

  • http://www.xpansecgi.com Ghori

    Adobe’s done more for online content creation than anyone else. Flash has delivered the most immersive and advanced online experiences to date.

    Respect Adobe.

  • Joshua Johnson

    Historically, you can make the claim that Flash was what we needed at the time, and I think you’d be right. At this point though, I find it to be a hindrance to the advancement of open tech like HTML5.

    You simply can’t make the “mobile isn’t a big deal” argument and expect me to take you seriously.

    • NZ

      Whether you like it or not, the Flash player is UNPARALLELLED when it comes to desktop experience.

      Making a “big deal” with Flash being incompatible with mobile devices is like whining over a Formula 1 car that can’t drive in the desert. Adobe’s strategy now is to focus the Flash player onto immersive desktop experiences, gaming platforms (now with GPU support) and building native apps for all iOS, Android and Blackberry devices via AIR. They couldn’t care less now to force Flash to the mobile platform (being expensive)and hence discontinued its support.

      Now with Flash, AIR and Edge, Adobe continues to help designers and developers deliver the best online and mobile experience.

      Back to my point, HTML5 is no more than an open community to primarily entertain the tablet and mobile market and ‘seriously’, you just can’t compare HTML5 to Flash.

  • Billy Nomates

    It’s a shame that Adobe don’t make these apps as a stand alone. This Creative Cloud would be nicer as an option and not as a stranglehold. A problem with any Monopoly is that it’s credibility depends on its ethic and morality, not sure that Adobe have the ‘coder’ and ‘designer’ in mind by offering no choice. Give me a stand alone any day. I would love to see more competition in this area. Is there any?

    • Colene

      PhoneGap Build is offered as a standalone as well as being part of the Creative Cloud. http://build.phonegap.com

    • http://blog.digitalbackcountry.com Ryan Stewart

      Hey Billy,

      All of the tools mentioned above are included with the free Creative Cloud membership. While I totally get that some people want to get apps as standalone, in the case of Edge Tools and Services, you get a lot of tools/functionality as part of the free tier for Creative Cloud Membership currently.

      =Ryan
      ryan@adobe.com

      • Joshua Johnson

        Thanks for insight on this Ryan!

  • karen menezes

    the major issue with Flash was/is that it is a closed system and does not adhere to the principles of open standards and free software. basically, not a good fit for the world wide web.
    however, no one can deny the rich animations and sheer complexity in design that Flash brought to the web.

    • NZ

      Let me get this straight. So apparently any system that is ‘closed’ is a ‘major issue’? What do you have to say about Windows OS? OSX? What’s wrong with companies providing proprietary software that can be purchased to develop and sell commercial applications and let billions of programmers and designers make a living? I’ve been feeding of Adobe products for over a decade now and that’s somehow a ‘major issue’ because its ‘closed’?

      What else do you want ‘free’ for life?

      • some guy

        Do you work for Adobe? You seem to jump on anything remotely considered flash bashing.

  • Alex

    They just open sourced a font, too. They named it Source-Code-Pro. ;)
    Looks like it is useful in our day-to-day work.

    Sources: https://github.com/adobe/Source-Code-Pro
    Binaries: https://github.com/adobe/Source-Code-Pro/downloads

    I’ll give it a try.

  • marian

    Still cant install on os x case sensitive partition…

  • http://fueledweb.com Rimmon

    People hate Flash but welcome Edge which is Flash’s ugly brother wearing html5 hat. Welcome to the ignorant internet

  • otomo

    “They’ve always clung to their own technologies, such as Flash, which hold the web back, not move it forward.”

    Could you deliver at least ONE true example for that statement? I remember Flash as the technology which brought a decent video experience to the web, when video mostly was embedded wmv, realtime and quicktime players.

    Lots of the creative stuff you can see today done with HTML5, was done years before in Flash.

    I am not advocating the use of Flash for such things in today’s web but a)you should get your facts straight and b) give credit where credit is due.

    • Joshua Johnson

      I did give credit where it was due:

      “For all its faults, Adobe Flash brought amazing animation to the web, and that was a big step forward.”

      Ultimately, Flash WAS awesome. I firmly believe that. But is Flash CURRENTLY awesome? I don’t think that’s the case. I welcome proof of the contrary.

    • http://www.anandvardhan.com Anand Vardhan

      “They’ve always clung to their own technologies, such as Flash, which hold the web back, not move it forward.”

      Seems either you dont know anything about technology or have been highly paid to advocate something unrealistic.
      I do agree with some of your point that HTML 5 is bringing a lot of opportunity but comparing it with Flash or any related technology. Spare all please,

      Edge is nothing but an imitation of what Flash did decade ago in mere HTML 5, and its nothing new, even in Dreamweaver we did many such silly things.

      Though people are so immersed with adopting new technology, just see the syntax of Javascript, it beings us ages back of what AS3. Dare a java developer write an application in the same time what he can do with AS.
      Mobile is a new platform and I dont see where Flash is lacking with it, though its not going in PhoneGAP stomach to pay additional to Adobe.

      Concluding, I think you need to get some more facts and educate yourself about flash based technologies. Please stop wearing glasses which read “I SEE THROUGH STEVE JOBS EYES”, he is dead.

  • Francisc

    How did “Flash hold the web back” when it gave us things like video, games, 3D etc before HTML could?

    • Job

      Because if it did not gave us vidéo, HTML’d have evolved faster.
      HTML is open. Flash is not. Therefor Flash is an abomination.

      • NZ

        Flash did not give video? What give birth to Youtube? HTML5 I presume? Go back and do your homework.

      • Francisc

        I won’t bother, you wouldn’t understand.

  • NZ

    Besides, when did Flash all of sudden become the bad guy? When some ‘free open standard’ such as HTML5 came about?

    So let’s release ‘free open standard’ platforms for everything on the planet and seal their operating systems as “the technology that’s holding the world back”.

    Don’t get confused between closed and open source. They’re both alright to co-exist. You just can’t undermine one over the other.

    The most unbiased opinion I could give is, use the right technology for the right purpose and stop comparing them.

  • Joshua Johnson

    Thanks for all of the feedback guys. Lots of it definitely seems centered around Flash. I know my comments hit home to Flash developers and that’s an important topic that needs discussing.

    Bottom line, Flash has had a really rough last few years. When you flat out pull your product out of the fastest growing area of personal computing (mobile) because it just isn’t cutting it, then it’s hard to argue otherwise.

    Flash has seen an all out assault from both a conceptual and functional standpoint and the way that I see it, it’s been up against the ropes in this fight.

    Maybe you disagree, GOOD! If you think Flash is an important part of the future of the web (not its history), then I should be seeing more posts from you about why that’s true. Simply put, I’m not seeing these posts at this point. I’m seeing angry commenters make rant at any author who dares to defile the holy name of Flash. If you really want to change my mind, write me an informed post about why Flash is still beating anything else in “rich” web interactions.

    Tell me why something that won’t work on my tablet is better than something that will. Tell me what progress Adobe has made lately to make Flash a platform that makes the web a better place in ten years.

    I’m not seeing these kinds of posts right now and if you’re this passionate about Flash, then that is your fault. If you truly believe in it, fight for it in an article with your name at the top. Link it here. I’ll read it.

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ MichaelJW

      “If you truly believe in it, fight for it in an article with your name at the top.”

      Okay :) – http://goo.gl/ukss1

      “However, they’ve always clung to their own technologies, such as Flash, which hold the web back, not move it forward.”

      This is what I disagree with, really. Over the past few years, a lot of Flash devs have been angry or bitter towards Adobe for *not* clinging to Flash. At the same time (and I think you actually agree, judging by your comments), Flash has historically helped move the web forward in some ways, such as with web video and RIAs and whatnot.

      Personally, I don’t think Flash is needed for rich websites any more -the browser vendors have got it together; HTML5, CSS3, jQuery and the like have caught up with and even overtaken what functionality Flash provided here; and mobile devices can handle all these cool features now. No-one should be making full-Flash websites any more.

      But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Flash still has its uses. Currently, video publishers are clinging to it because it has better DRM support – but I imagine the HTML5 video tag will catch up with that soon enough.

      The most overlooked feature of Flash is that it can export native mobile apps, which can even be sold on the App Store. So, no, you can’t play Flash games in your tablet browser, but – if the developer’s released it – you can download and play a tablet optimised version. That’s pretty awesome.

      I’m not sure that we actually disagree here, to be honest, but I wanted to get this point across because most people seem to be unaware of it :)

  • http://www.cartridgesave.co.uk Jareth Smith

    The Adobe Edge Tools introduction page reminds me of Breaking Bad! Maybe that’s the idea, they’re trying to be trendy by aiming at popular television shows. Either way this is an interesting development; Edge Reflow sounds quite fantastic and would certainly allow someone like myself to get a page up and running really quickly. Very artistic and creative; like working from a palette! Except a very modern version of that.

  • SD

    I have a love hate relationship with Adobe.

    I know how to use photoshop and it feels comfortable as an old pair of slippers but I really dislike the way that Adobe charges me vastly more for products with absolutely no localisation for the UK and from the same download servers as the US.

    I get that I have a commercial relationship with Adobe and that I could decide to buy from another manufacturer or not buy at all, but all the same, I feel that Adobe just does not “have my back” (to quote that slogan back again).

    Since I operate in a global market place I would like my suppliers to treat me in a similar fashion to my competitors even if its only a matter of principle.

    Adobe bought their biggest rivals, Macromedia and have held customers to ransom ever since.

    Of course this doesn’t directly effect anyone in the US so I guess perspective there will be different.

  • Randy Edmunds

    You state that Edge Code is “Formerly known as Brackets”. Edge Code is a distribution of Brackets, so it would be more accurate to say that Edge Code is “also known as Brackets”. The Brackets Open Source project is still being developed at http://brackets.io .

    Randy
    redmunds@adobe.com

  • http://thefiftyshadesofjay.com/category/portfolio the fifty shades of jay, free web guy, free web design, free wordpress builder

    I’ll right away seize your rss feed as I can’t to find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly permit me realize in order that I may subscribe. Thanks.

  • http://kitphelps.com Kit

    Does adobe finally understand developers? Coming from a flash dev of many years:

    Short answer: No.
    Long answer. Noooooooooooooooooooo.

  • HTML5

    HTML5 is great for many reasons, #1 its free! one can create awesome applications without buying an expensive piece of software.

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