by Julie Campagna
When the public alpha of Adobe® Integrated Runtime (AIR, formerly code-named Apollo) was released in March 2007, the product team eagerly anticipated what developers would create with it.
"We thought it was important to release the alpha as soon as we could, so developers could understand what Adobe® AIR™ is, start playing around with it, and give us feedback," explains Mike Chambers, principal product manager for Adobe AIR.
Developers immediately jumped on board, showing strong support for Adobe AIR. With the release of the Adobe AIR public beta, the momentum continues. In fact, a varied collection of creative Adobe AIR applications is already available for download.
Web developers are excited about Adobe AIR because it enables them, for the first time, to build and deploy cross-platform desktop applications without having to learn complex OS-centric development technologies.
According to Mike Creighton, an interactive creative director at Momentum Worldwide, "Adobe AIR lets me take something I am fluent in, which is Flash, and suddenly be expressive with it in a desktop environment. I instantly get all the benefits of developing a desktop application without the learning curve or the overhead." Creighton is currently using Flash and Adobe AIR to develop a live visual performance application for his weekend gigs as a performance artist.
Flash developer and science geek Kristin Henry, president of GalaxyGoo — a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing science literacy — is excited about Adobe AIR because it means she can create and deliver desktop applications that perform well and look and feel consistent across browsers and operating systems.
"Adobe AIR gives me the tools I need to take my Flash and HTML applications and put them on my students' desktops, so they can interact with those apps in a more comfortable manner," she says. "Students anywhere, using any operating system or any browser, can run these applications and participate in online learning."
With the Adobe Labs AIR Showcase and samples page — and sites such as ApolloHunter, Mashable, and AIRapps.net — we quickly found some cool and creative Adobe AIR applications, most of which are in the public alpha stage.
MyMovieMatch: Need a movie recommendation? Check out MyMovieMatch. Search over 50,000 films by genre, release status, and keyword. Over time, this Adobe AIR app will learn to suggest movies based on your ratings and preferences.
SearchCoders Dashboard: Developed by Tom Bray and Robert Cadena of SearchCoders, this dashboard provides a centralized resource where Flex developers can find information and share knowledge with others in real time.
kuler desktop: Developed by Adobe, kuler desktop is an application for exploring, creating, and sharing color harmonies. kuler features thousands of color themes that have been created and provided by designers. Users can view RSS feeds of the highest rated, most popular, and newest themes from the kuler site and search through the thousands of titled and tagged themes.
Fresh: If you're behind on your favorite blogs and want to be able to read them on the go, download Fresh. This application enables you to view, manage, and share your RSS feeds. Developed by an internal team at Adobe, Fresh is based on the yui-ext/Ext JS library and RSS Feed Viewer sample by Jack Slocum.
Finetune Desktop: An online music recommendation service, Finetune streams songs from your favorite artists and creates playlists tailored to you. With Finetune Desktop, you can play your favorite tunes right off your local machine, including those in your Apple iTunes library.
Yourminis.com: Developed by Goowy Media, this site provides a huge widget gallery from which you can choose and install widgets (called minis) to your desktop.
Tweetr: Tweetr is a PC and Mac client for twitter.com, a global community of friends and strangers who answer that all-important question: What are you doing?
DiggTop: DiggTop lets you view a list of your favorite Digg topics or keyword feeds. You can also view video submissions from your favorite Digg video categories and preview them within the application.
eBay Desktop Beta: The desktop model of the eBay website supports local storage and desktop notifications for auctions (such as alerting users when they have been outbid), and enables users to create and manage auctions offline. (To learn more, read EffectiveUI and the eBay Desktop prototype in the March/April 2007 issue of the Edge.)
Mii Editor Beta: Download this app and create and edit Mii characters (avatars) for the Nintendo Wii entertainment system.
Pownce: Stay in touch with your friends. Send messages, music, photos, event notifications and more via Pownce.
A handful of other niche applications are also available. Now that you can build a desktop application in a day or two, why not get expressive and build a custom application for yourself or a small group?
This is just the first crop of Adobe AIR apps based on the alpha and beta releases of the new Adobe runtime. To keep up with the latest and greatest Adobe AIR applications, visit the Adobe Labs AIR Showcase, ApolloHunter, Mashable, and AIRapps.net.
In the meantime, if you have feedback about Adobe AIR or feature requests, or if you just want to see what people are discussing, participate in the Adobe Labs AIR forum. The Adobe AIR team is listening.
"The people working on Adobe AIR actually listen to the community and ask, 'What do you want to see?' I love the feeling that I can contribute to how Adobe AIR is being developed," says developer Stacey Mulcahy, who is best known for her Flash-centric blog, BitchWhoCodes. "That's one of my favorite things about working with the team — that they listen to us and add the features we ask for."
"Talk to us, write blogs, send e-mail. We're listening," Kevin Lynch, senior vice president and chief software architect at Adobe, told attendees at the recent Apollo Camp. "Our aim is to learn what you need to have Adobe AIR do and then keep updating it to enable that."
Julie Campagna manages the Adobe Edge newsletter as part of her work on the Adobe Developer Relations team. In addition, she contributes feature articles and produces video interviews for the Developer Center. In her free time, Julie likes to dabble in Flash video and produce web-based movies that feature her two English bulldogs, Daisy and Laverne.