I enjoyed this post by Grant Skinner that walks through his view of the evolution of technology and where/how/when tooling starts to come in. Adobe makes tools for web professionals. That’s what we’ve always done and that’s what we’ll do for a long time. You could even paint a broader brush that we make tools for creative people to share their creations. Watching our own evolution over the past year or so with regards to HTML tooling has been very interesting. We got some flack for not moving in earlier, but as Grant rightly points out, tools are a major investment and only once you have stability can you make that investment. It was never a matter of momentum around HTML or a focus on Flash, it was just the fact that things weren’t quite ready for tools.
In fact, I’d argue they still aren’t. But we’ve taken that as something that comes with the web. It’s always evolving, always moving, and while things will start to coalesce more and more, in the end, you have to get in and be ready to move. That’s kind of the approach we’ve taken with Adobe Edge. We just released Preview 4 of Edge which incorporates a lot of features that people have been asking for. Some of it I’m not even sure if it was on the original roadmap. But the Edge team made a conscious decision to be very agile, to build Edge in such a way that it could incorporate customer feedback quickly, and then getting product management on board to do lots of versions very quickly. I think it’s worked out very well and despite being on the earlier side of Grant’s curves, I think Edge will be a very helpful tool for a lot of people because of it.
Developer tools are a bit of a different story in terms of both ecosystem and readiness in my mind. There isn’t one, big, HTML IDE that people seem to like (akin to Flash Builder, Eclipse or Visual Studio). Instead people seem to be using a lot of different things and experimenting. What actually seems to be most popular right now are the basic text editors like TextMate or Sublime (my favorite). These seem to be focused on helping smart people work faster. Lots of shortcuts, lots of snippets, but not a lot in terms of helping along the learning process. And I think that’s just where we are now as far as HTML/JS/CSS tooling. But I’m excited to see that evolution as well and see what happens when frameworks get a bit more standardized and more general web developers start jumping into JS more and more. Will those people need a more robust HTML/CSS/JS editor that’s still developer centric? And I think the answer is yes, but I think it’s also tough to really see what that would look like until the JS/HTML/CSS stack is a bit more solid. But I’m excited to watch it and find out. And from what I’ve seen of Adobe’s HTML tooling side, we’re taking a good approach and I’m excited to see what people think as the PMs share more and more of it.