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Open Source Design?

A Macromedia executive let slip that they are now considering/beginning to develop applications for the open source linux platform. Though Flash MX is the only app specifically mentioned, does this mean that design has a future on a third platform? I know there are some existing graphic apps for linux such as gimp, but is this the beginning of something bigger? Would there be any benefit to switch to linux? Does it make sense for Macromedia or Adobe or Corel or anyone to market to linux users? Is this just intended more for programmers than creatives? It would seem at least possible to design on linux if macromedia ported its entire suite of products (minus a page layout program.)

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ARCHIVE ID 1857 FILED UNDER Hardware/Software
PUBLISHED ON Mar.04.2004 BY brook
mitch’s comment is:

Linux = the stability of OSX with the cheap price of Windows hardware

theoretically anyway. i think it would be a viable option if using Linux was not quite so "homebuilt-y." That and the support infrastructure needed for the non-geek business user to buy into it as a workstation level platform would need to happen. 800-LINUX-CARE or the like.

On Mar.04.2004 at 04:32 PM
James Craig’s comment is:

Macromedia is being smart by supporting open standards: Fireworks uses the PNG standard for its native format, Flash/Freehand both support SVG, and Dreamweaver and Flash now have much better web accessibility support. It would be nice to see the Flash player integrate with SVG so the Adobe SVG Viewer would no longer be necessary. SVG and PNG offer great capability; lack of support by Microsoft seems to be the only downfall.

Linux already has backing on the commercial application side (IBM), but I'd love to see Linux supported by a major player in the consumer software market. Since OSX is based on BSD, it seems like porting Macromedia products to Linux would be the next logical step.

On Mar.04.2004 at 06:22 PM
RS’s comment is:

My understanding is OSX is built off of Unix. Windows hardwear? Thought they only did softwear.

On Mar.04.2004 at 07:22 PM
RS’s comment is:



sorry. (i feel stupid)

On Mar.04.2004 at 07:58 PM
Mr. Kahn’s comment is:

"does this mean that design has a future on a third platform?"

Graphic design has a past, present and future on "third" platforms. The past of SGI, Paintbox, Atari and Amiga. Today some designers are already using Linux. Sun machines were and still are used by many printers.

"Is this just intended more for programmers than creatives? "

Programmers are creatives. Don't you mean "Is this just intended more for programmers than draftsmen?" That is Linux is a wonderful environment to code in, but I wouldn't want to draw with a mouse or stylus much in it. There are many ways to produce a PDF. Early Postscript designs were all created with code, there was no gui.

"Would there be any benefit to switch to linux?"


Hardware choice: use the processor and hardware you want to run with. Linux is not just for Intel, it runs on PowerPC's and many other processors.

Ownership and Control: don't like part of the operating system? Change it yourself or work with a group to change it. A design community could create and release their own brand of Linux.

Freedom: No longer would you be tied to a particular corporation (Apple or Microsoft) for the fundamental pinnings of your lively hood. Instead your are tied to a community of which you are a member.

Performance: Linux is fast and stable and runs well on old and new hardware.

Linux is a great operating system and is improving all the time. It will be a while before it will make sense as the viable platform for the common graphic designer.

I doubt Adobe will develop for Linux for quite a while. In the past Adobe has made Photoshop for Irix and Illustrator for Solaris and Irix. And in both those cases I believe Sun and SGI paid Adobe to port the applications.

However for the adventurous designer Linux is a platform which has a lot to offer today. New tools offer new solutions and will separate the designer from the pack.

On Mar.04.2004 at 08:39 PM
Custom Kahuna’s comment is:

Scuse the sidetrack, but I'd like to see the gang at Macromuddya get the Mac OS X kinks worked out before they go behind Curtain #3.

On Mar.04.2004 at 09:27 PM
Brent’s comment is:

I really can't see many print designers making this sort of switch, but when it comes to web design it might be more realistic. What kind of printer support would you get? The idea of a PDF (or any postscript derived file) workflow creates problems for some designers that just don't understand (or don't care to understand) anything about how their files are produced, and even bigger headaches for the printers they use.

To me, it seems that pre-press pros would benefit from something like this as an alternative platform for ORIS, Scitex and the like. Realistically, I don't see it happening due to the investment the companies would have to make versus their return. It's just too small of a market.

Also, I'm not one for making my life more complicated by switching to something else when I'm getting everything done just fine right now. Is it better? Maybe, but so what?

On Mar.04.2004 at 09:28 PM
brook’s comment is:

Programmers are creatives

absolutely. i guess i kind of apply the term creative to artists, designers and writers. a programmer could be any and all of those things.

On Mar.04.2004 at 09:38 PM
brook’s comment is:

Today some designers are already using Linux.

really? i have never seen this. there is a lot of animation and cgi work happening on alternative systems, though. i also wonder if scientific graphic work would fall under graphic design. i don't think most print designers would be willing to make the switch unless all of the standard applications were ported. look how long it took/is taking people to move to osx simply becase a native quark wasn't available. but at the same time, adobe beat them to the table with indesign and perhaps stole some market share. could the first linux supporters establish a strong lead?

thanks for the in-depth post mr. kahn. there's a lot there i hadn't known about. i don't really have any special knowledge of this, i just found it interesting when i read about it today.

On Mar.04.2004 at 09:49 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Frankly, who cares that Macromedia's developing for Linux. Linux is just another tool, another platform that's different from OSX or XP.

What would be a real ticker is if Flash itself was open sourced. Imagine if the user became the developer. It's like saying, "Tell us how to make the software better. We trust you and need your help." Open source software would be dynamite, and would accelerate advancements that normally take years. At the moment, it's academia that's doing most of the cutting edge work at research labs like Intel and Microsoft ( p t w e y ).

It makes the most sense to have open sourcing with Flash. Already, it's just a GUI calling Action Script and Lingo commands. Illustrator and Freehand operate in the same manner using Encapsulated Post-Script, but I feel there's only so far you can go with these 2D apps. Falsh is 4D with movement and sound adding to the picture. If Macromedia recognized that the users are the most powerful factor in software, they would involve them with product development. Platform, GUI, capabilities, features, updates, reliability, and speed are all important, but in the end it's the user who pushes and pulls things across the screen.

On Mar.04.2004 at 10:56 PM
Su’s comment is:

Minor clarification: They are not at this time considering development for Linux. They're making tweaks to the program that will let it run on WINE, which emulates Windows on Linux. Response to this experiment will then spur(or not) Linux development.

Why minus a page layout program? Did I miss something?

It would be interesting to see the result of more trials like this. The Gimp doesn't currently support CMYK, even, though it should in the next major version(2.0), so I see little reason most designers would even think about switching.

On Mar.05.2004 at 12:14 AM
Brook’s comment is:

They are not at this time considering development for Linux

the article seemed ambiguous to me...so that's what the considering/beginning stuff was all about

Why minus a page layout program? Did I miss something?

because macromedia doesn't have one?

On Mar.05.2004 at 07:24 AM
Brook’s comment is:

Frankly, who cares that Macromedia's developing for Linux.

yeah i guess i'm more in your boat there. the cheaper cost for systems is really the only thing i can see. but would that be lost in support? probably.

and about macromedia making flash open source....i guess it's all about the bling bling. if you happen to be the only company providing a development tool for what has essentially become a web standard...well...

On Mar.05.2004 at 07:26 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Unless a Linux actually designed logos for us at the push of a button, finally making our dreams a reality*, I don't see any "traditional" designers using Linux. No way.

* Sarcasm intended.

On Mar.05.2004 at 08:23 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Linux = the stability of OSX with the cheap price of Windows hardware

And all of the pain in the ass maintenance and installation headaches. ;o)

Scuse the sidetrack, but I'd like to see the gang at Macromuddya get the Mac OS X kinks worked out before they go behind Curtain #3.

That's my concern. MX 04 is full of crappy bugs on both Windows and OSX. Their bug fixes are becoming fewer and farther between and often they become 'paid upgrades' if you want them.

And the support costs for Linux are going to be immense. That's going to raise the costs (or decrease the quality) across the board.

I'm much more excited about Open Source projects. It looks like KOffice may soon be ported natively to OSX. I'd really love to see graphic, interface, and experience designers become more involved with open source projects. The biggest problem with OO applications is a lack of cohesive user experiences. The GIMP would be great if it had a good interface.

For those interested in alternative OSes, take a look at the Open BeOS project. They're looking for graphic designers. That'd be true 'open source [graphic] design' ;o)

On Mar.05.2004 at 10:11 AM
Brook’s comment is:

looks like KOffice may soon be ported natively to OSX

openoffice.org has an osx version coming, though it keeps getting pushed back. you can use x11 to use it on osx now, though. on my home pc i try to use as much open source as possible. the new browser and mail clients (firefox and thunderbird i think) from mozilla are really nice.

On Mar.05.2004 at 10:25 AM
Jason’s comment is:

OpenOffice r o c k s. That's a great example of open-source software that's close to mainstream. I'd forgotten about it. (That happens to most of the things sitting inside my dusty WinBox.)

On Mar.05.2004 at 10:32 AM
Su’s comment is:

If you're bored and want to play with something, Sodipodi is an open-sourced vector illustration program in development. It's only at ~.3(a full version number generally being less meaningful in OS software anyway), but looks promising.

On Mar.05.2004 at 10:36 AM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

I'm of two minds on this. The Maeda part of me wants full control of my tools and looks forward to the development of robust open-source graphics applications (be they Linux, or OS X). It would be great to look under the hood, tweak the system, and exploit the full capabilities of the software (Lettererror comes to mind here).

There is a side of me, though, that prefers to let go a bit. The reason I use a Mac is that it's GUI is less obstrusive than the alternatives. Linux (and Gnome in particular) has made progress in this regard, but, as far as I've seen, it still expects a higher degree of involvement from the user. I might be missing some design opportunities, but, hey, I only have so many hours in the day, and the work needs to get done.

On Mar.05.2004 at 12:03 PM
Joe Franks’s comment is:

Frankly, who cares that Macromedia's developing for Linux.

As a windows user, I care a lot about this.

The long-term outlook for windows is pretty much hinged on MS slowly implementing network based, subscription applications. Something I am not interested in participating in at all.

This a very very small, but positive step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned.

On Mar.05.2004 at 12:07 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

openoffice.org has an osx version coming

Sadly, there's only two, part time coders working on the project. It's going to be a while.

I'm running Open Office on X11, which works, but, again, the big problem is that it's just a clumsy interface.

Still, a lot better than forking out for office to open the occasional word Doc and spreadsheet. ;o)

KOffice has the benefit of being KDE, with a much more unified interface/experience design.


Ooh! Downloading now...I'm so sick of Freehand...

implementing network based, subscription applications

Well, with their new activation 'scheme' and 'paid' bug fixes, that's the route Macromedia is taking as well.

On Mar.05.2004 at 12:14 PM
Brook’s comment is:

sodipodi sounds like a fun toy....

Ooh! Downloading now...I'm so sick of Freehand...

i'm addicted to every little tiny function in illustrator. i dont think i could tolerate a change.

On Mar.05.2004 at 12:24 PM
Justin’s comment is:

How the heck would they release this? Would it only be certified for certain linux releases? (say, redhat 8 and mandrake 9 or something). Would they list the library dependencies on the back of the box? I can just see that now. 400 listings in 4 point courier: --lib-jpeg-2.06a+ --lib-png-2.91f+ --lib-gzip-3.18, etc...

Why the hell would you even bother... Linux is so far away from the desktop, what'd be the point?

On Mar.05.2004 at 04:38 PM
mGee’s comment is:

I for one hope that Adobe, Quark and Macromedia do eventually move to the linux platform....no reason they shouldn't. The only thing that has kept me from linux myself is that fact the above mentioned aren't there yet.

On Mar.07.2004 at 08:55 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

"no reason they shouldn't."

Well, actually, there is one gigantic reason. Support.

All of the apps we're talking about are highly dependant on a very particular user interface and experience. Windows and MacOS unify (or at least attempt to) unify the environment for the end-user.

Linux is still very much a wild frontier of distros and desktops. KDE vs. Gnome vs. umpteen other options.

Granted, Windows is a bear to support as well with, at times, seemingly having as many varieties as Linux. However, the reality is that no two people will likely have the exact same linux distro and version number and kernel version and xwindows desktop and hardware. Macromedia, for instance, it having a tough time keeping up with OSX and Windows XP. I can't imagine them supporting a rainbow of Linuxes (linuxi? lini?)

On Mar.08.2004 at 01:20 PM
Teal’s comment is:


It is true there are many 'versions' in the linux world. Though that really is true in Windows and MacOs. For instance, I will name DLL conflicts and Extension conflicts (just speaking as a tech).

Linux software can be staticly linked with the necessary libraries, and though this makes it larger, it will have the necessary framework to run.

As far as OsX. Part of the problem, I think, is that it mixes a Unix architecture with a Mac Graphic shell. A lot of the problems happen because of running Aqua. (Not that I'm saying Aqua is not a nice GUI, just that it seems to come from a different programming paradigm.)

We also should mention that Windows XP (so named because of a fear of OsX/10?) is built on NT. With a different security model than Win95 et. al., programming for XP was at least a partial architecture change. One that most desktop apps only made recently.

The point is, I guess, that all the os's have versions and conflicts and variations of architectures and libraries (dll's, extensions, so's, etc.) So the big difference with Linux is often just that they don't pretend there is no complexity.

While sometimes I find Linux intimidating, at least I can track down what is wrong. With the other os's its try your set of tricks, and then if it doesn't work, live with it. Because I can't peer inside the blackbox.

On another note, look at Scribus for desktop publishing on Linux. I haven't tried it, but it looks pretty good.

On Mar.08.2004 at 09:33 PM
jpea’s comment is:

in response the Jason's comment

"What would be a real ticker is if Flash itself was open sourced"

flash (as in the swf format) is already open-sourced. From that we had Adobe LiveMotion, Swift 3D, various swf plug-in's for 3d apps, etc... if someone wanted to beat macromedia to the punch on linux with an app that could generate swf files, they're free to do so. But we know what happened to Adobe with LiveMotion... has anyone actually used it? so yeah, it's gone now and for good reason.

I, for one, would love to see MM port their products to the linux platform. I use it for running my streaming server and hosting servers and am more than comfortable with using Flash on linux (as long as it's better than Flash on OS X).

On Mar.11.2004 at 09:22 AM