Macromedia releases Flash add-on for offline development

Macromedia's latest add-on for flash allows rich media content to be viewed without a browser

Macromedia has released an add-on to its Flash Web development and design software that allows rich Internet applications to be viewed offline and free of a browser.

Announced Wednesday at the company's Max 2003 user forum in Salt Lake City, Utah, Central is part of Macromedia's drive to broaden the remit of Flash. The new software is designed to help propagate the idea of rich Flash applications that automatically update but are not dependent on a browser.

Central, which runs on Windows and Mac, has been in beta for around six months and available to Macromedia's developer community, but is now available for download. Initial applications for the technology include a film-finder, and a shopping program developed in conjunction with The Flash application lets online shoppers save and organise information on products they're interested in for viewing later.

"A great abundance of information is now coming at people on a regular basis and is challenging to manage," said Kevin Lynch, chief software architect, Macromedia. The ability to store and cache data in Central enables applications to transition smoothly from online to offline mode, he added.

"This is about taking content completely away from the browser. This is a new way of viewing Flash content, there is some new stuff in here but essentially its still Flash content," said Wayne Smith, Macromedia senior technical products manager.

Smith explained that the first applications built around Central will only work on desktops and laptops but long-term the technology is aimed at PDAs and smartphones.

To help push the technology, Macromedia is partnering with AOL to create another software development kit that allows developers to create Central-enabled applications that also integrate with the service provider’s ICQ and Instant Messaging tools.

"This partnership opens the door for developers to build applications that add context through online forums such as discussion groups, virtual classrooms, and multi-party chat." said Macromedia’s Lynch.

According to Macromedia, the Central environment is built on the Macromedia Flash Player 6 code base and installation of the environment is enabled in the current player which is already distributed to millions of users.