Moock Mentions XFL for Open Flash IDE Source Formats

Colin Moock an actionscript brain since the great Flash 4 advances that brought all sorts of fun to flash, like games, has mentioned XFL an open format for flash from a discussion with Adobe product managers.

This would be a format that would be able to import, export and allow compile to SWF. MXML for Flex does this now but bringing the two together into one common format and allowing for all sorts of open source and third party contributions to making flash will let it literally explode in support.

I recently met with Flash authoring product-manager, Richard Galvan, to talk about Diesel, the next version of Flash (i.e., Flash CS4, or version 10 for those counting). Adobe has already demonstrated a bunch of high-impact features for Diesel, including inverse kinematics, a new tweening model, 3D “postcards in space”, and advanced text components (see MAX 07 keynote, FOTB 07 keynote, and FITC Amsterdam 08 keynote). But Richard was keen to talk about a lesser known feature quietly percolating behind the scenes: XFL.

Since its inception, the Flash authoring tool has stored documents in a binary source-file called .fla. Historically, interchanging source with the Flash authoring tool has been virtually impossible for third-party software because the specification for .fla has never been public. But things are changing in the next version of Flash. Flash CS4 will be able to export *and* import a new source format called XFL. An XFL file is a .zip file that contains the source material for a Flash document. Within the .zip file resides an XML file describing the structure of the document and a folder with the document’s assets (graphics, sounds, etc). The exact details of the XFL format are not yet available, but Richard assures me that Adobe intends to document them publicly, allowing third-party tools to import and export XFL.

If this is a market test or check of interest I think that everyone I know working with flash would be very excited about opening and unifying the flash format and allowing great IDEs and tools to help produce better flash content more quickly. Also, with the competition Silverlight using XAML (uncompressed) this also allows a competitive advantage maybe making Silverlight add better compression and loading tools beyond their downloader object.

I hope this is also in the plans for Director. If they used similar formats it could be very nice and something to watch as an emerging market to prepare for.

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  • hoigaard

    An open flash format would be nice, I wrote µSprite to avoid the proprietary .fla fileformat for vector animations. There are other issues however such as no morphing in ActionScript and advanced dynamic fonts.

    The biggest obstacle I see to writing a usable alternative to the Flash IDE in ActionScript 3 however is the lack of support for calling native libraries in non-web Air applications, that makes it too hard to reuse all the good, native open source libraries that are available. Ironically it means it would be easier to implement it in for example WPF .Net or Java.

  • ryan

    hey hoigaard,

    I agree, what we are seeing is a market change from the pressure of .net and silverlight. It is a bit sad actually that microsoft’s xaml formats are more open than Adobe’s. I think we are seeing this for two reasons, it is already this way in Flex, but it needs to change to take into account all the flash specific stuff like you mentioned. Hopefully they find a way to add in good AIR support and I think that is one of their biggest bets to capture desktop apps on many platforms. They would be wise to create a baseplane of technologies that work across all their apps from flash to director to after effects.

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