Adobe has launched a new software package that could change how we use the Internet.

Adobe Air is claimed to make it easier for computer users to use online applications offline, by allowing developers to create tools that retain some functionality even when a computer is no longer connected up to the Internet.

The free download for Macs and PCs is available now from the Adobe website while a download for Linux machines is expected later this year.

The first programs that use the technology, developed by websites such as eBay, have already been released.

The eBay program allows sellers to do much of the work they need to in order to set up auctions offline, but when they go online, the listing can be posted live.

The application also allows users to keep up to date with auctions and bids without having to have a browser open at the eBay page.

Adobe says it is developing Air versions of many of its packages, which include Photoshop.

And the BBC is also reported to be using Air for applications including a news ticker, which displays headlines on a desktop, and mini Motty, which provides desktop football commentary.

The launch of Adobe Air follows the 2006 unveiling of Microsoft Silverlight technology, and the 2007 arrival of Google Gears - both of which allow some web applications to be used offline.