March 15, 2011

Adobe proposes CSS enhancements for richer layout

When the InDesign-made Wired app for iPad first shipped, I saw a bunch of snide tut-tutting from Apple-oriented sites saying that of course Adobe should’ve “simply” leveraged HTML5, because that’s the ideal solution to everything.

Unfortunately HTML has never been known for its typographical richness* or control, and that’s why Adobe built a richer type engine for tablets derived from InDesign. Apple disallowed use of that engine via the Section 3.3.1 changes, and for visual fidelity the Wired project relied on generating bitmap images for each page.

The good news is that Adobe’s working to improve HTML to meet the demands of publishers, enabling HTML’s lightness & reflow chops to support more magazine-style layouts.  CSS Regions (proposal PDF) would enable things like text reflow around irregular shapes (screenshot). And it’s not just brave talk & wishful thinking: Adobe’s contributing layout code to WebKit (see previous article for demo & details), aiming to get adoption first on tablets.

It’s easy for armchair experts to tell the world how everything should be done; it’s harder to turn promises into reality.  I’m glad to see the latter happening.

[Via CNET’s “Adobe proposes standard for magazine-like Web” See also “So, what has Adobe actually done for HTML5 lately?“]

* TypeKit & similar efforts are helping, and they’ve got Adobe’s support as well.

Posted by John Nack at 9:18 AM on March 15, 2011


  • thorsten wulff — 10:53 AM on March 15, 2011

    Good to hear, it would be nice to output text and fonts to the iPad, full searchable and with self relocating autolayouts while you rotate the pad… plus a reduced file size compared to the bitmapped columns we use today.

  • Mark HIggins - Boston SEO Geek — 4:14 PM on March 15, 2011

    John, great to hear about improvements in typography. What are your thoughts on the Google web safe fonts?

  • Julian Kussman — 2:11 PM on March 16, 2011

    The Adobe ocean is getting warmer

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