Announcing the winners of the
Adobe AIR Derby

by Julie Campagna

Back in June, Adobe announced the Adobe AIR Developer Derby. We challenged developers worldwide to use Flex and Flash or HTML and Ajax to build a unique Adobe® AIR™ application and vie for a chance to win fantastic prizes.

Whether it was expense tracking, project management, or manipulating raw audio samples, most of the winners were determined to create an application that would directly help them streamline a process. Others jumped at the chance to improve upon, extend, or add functionality to an existing application.

The judges Robert Hall, Grant Skinner, Andre Charland, and Chafic Kazoun have made their decisions, and now it's time to introduce the winning applications.

Grand Prize Winner

Best Business Application Built with Flex/Flash


Developed by Marc Hughes

Marc Hughes' primary responsibility at work is managing software projects. Until he built AgileAgenda, Marc used Microsoft Project to manage projects, but it was a tenuous relationship, built largely on need and pent-up frustration. "After a couple of late nights swearing at Microsoft Project, I began to realize how much I hated using it." But, according to Marc, there was no alternative. "All the scheduling software out there is either just a low-cost clone of MS Project or even more complex and bloated."

So when Adobe AIR became available, Marc decided to write his own project scheduling application. Using Adobe Flex 3 with Eclipse, Marc developed AgileAgenda. "AgileAgenda is a project scheduling application made for people like me, who want to apply their business knowledge toward creating a schedule — without worrying about the details of those schedules."

At the most basic level, to manage a project using AgileAgenda, you have to do only a few things: create a list of tasks; assign those tasks to resources; and optionally assign priorities or dependencies between tasks. After completing those steps, the project can easily be managed on a day-to-day basis by marking tasks complete, updating estimates, adding missing tasks, etc.

Best Business Application, HTML

Ora Time and Expense Tracker

Developed by John Wu

On the job, Jon Wu spent too much time tracking time and expenses, and generating time sheets, expense reports, and invoices. So he decided to use HTML and JavaScript (using the Ext JavaScript library for the UI, and Aptana for the IDE) to create an Adobe AIR application that would make tracking time and expenses much easier.

According to John, "Adobe AIR was the perfect solution for this application. I could use my existing HTML and JavaScript skills to build a cross-platform application that offered offline and file system access capabilities. Plus, the Flash Player's ability to take pictures from the webcam would make it easy to scan in expense receipts."

With Ora Time and Expense software, you can use the Task Timer for tracking time sheet activities. Just start the timer when you begin a task, and stop it when you're done — Ora calculates the total duration. You can use your webcam to scan expense receipts, which automatically attach to your expense reports.

The application also includes Mileage and Hotel wizards for quick expense entries, as well as customizable time sheet, expense report, and invoice templates. When you're finished with the week or with the job, Ora Time and Expense generates time sheets, expense reports, and invoices for you to submit.

Best Community Application, Flex/Flash

Searchcoders Dashboard

Developed by Tom Bray and Robert Cadena

Tom Bray and Robert Cadena pined for a better way to find, manage, and share Flex-related information. Said Tom, "We've relied on the FlexCoders Mailing List for answers to our questions since it was created — and The List has filled my Gmail account with hundreds of messages every day.

"No e-mail client is designed for managing and searching tens of thousands of messages on a regular basis, and I feel that none of the mail archiving websites do an adequate job either. It seemed to me that a Flex UI combined with LiveCycle Data Services would be the perfect technology to solve the problem, so I ran the idea by Robert Cadena, a genius programmer and long-time friend, and we decided to get to work."

The SearchCoders Dashboard provides a centralized resource where Flex developers can find information and share their knowledge with others. Developers can search the entire FlexCoders mail archive, subscribe to Flex-related feeds, create notes, save favorite messages and blog posts, and chat with other developers. An advanced search feature enables users to build complex queries and save them for reuse. The Dashboard makes extensive use of Apollo's file system API, chromeless windows, and the new HTMLControl for rendering complete web pages within the application. The application also takes advantage of LiveCycle Data Services for nearly instant search results.

"We built a web-based version with Flex in two weeks. It took about five minutes to get it running as a desktop application with Adobe AIR. We then spent another six weeks adding features like chat to the AIR version you see today. That includes all of the server-side work (mail indexing, chat server, etc.)," said Tom.

Best Community Application, HTML


Developed by Ed Finkler

Spaz is a desktop client for Twitter: the "global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?"

Ed Finkler developed Spaz.AIR (aka Spaz) using HTML and JavaScript along with the Spry and jQuery JavaScript frameworks. "I have 12 years' experience designing for the web, so the idea of using HTML and JavaScript to develop a desktop application was very appealing to me," said Ed.

With Spaz, you get all the functionality of in a desktop client. Feature highlights include multiple themes, user-defined CSS overrides, and event sounds using the Tokyo Train Station soundset. You can also view updates from the community, as well as direct messages, replies, and the public timeline. Plus, Spaz will auto-refresh the timeline you are viewing and offers directory listings of users you’re following, and vice versa.

Spaz is available as freeware. Anyone with a Twitter account and Adobe AIR installed can download and start using it right away.

Wild Card Winner


Developed by Alan Queen

Once a recording engineer and always a musician, Alan Queen has created many music mixers over the years for clients like Coca-Cola. These clients deploy the mixers on their site and invite users to mix recordings. However, according to Alan, "These mixers don't really mix anything: they simply arrange clips, save the structure as XML, and reconstruct audio for playback."

Alan wanted something more. "When ActionScript 3.0 was released, I got really excited about the possibility of using the ByteArray class to manipulate raw audio samples. So I got busy with Flex 3 and ActionScript 3.0 building an API to read, write, and mix audio files."

The result: DigiMix, an audio editing application that allows you to import and read and write audio files (WAV) and choose from a library of included loops to author your own content. You can also apply a variety of filters to any given track.

"Once I got the API working, I built the DigiMix app as a technology demonstration for the underlying API. The timing worked out really great with the Derby and it forced me to get a little more serious about getting a demo together. You know how it is: the band never practices until they have a gig."

DigiMix is geared toward people who don't necessarily know much about mixing music, but want to learn and do so in a fun and easy way.

Finally, the prizes...

As the Grand Prize Winner, Marc Hughes will receive the trip of a lifetime, a travel certificate valued at up to US$100,000. "I live in New England, so I'm hoping to go some place very warm when it's very cold here," said Marc.

All winners will each receive "The Ultimate Development Environment," which includes a Mac Pro 8Core, two Dell wide-screen monitors, and a Sony PlayStation 3 as well as a copy of Adobe Flex™ Builder™ and Adobe Creative Suite® 3 Master Collection for Macintosh.

Alan Queen is most excited about the Mac Pro 8Core with 4GB RAM and 1.5 TB (2x750GB) of storage. "My ProTools setup is going to smoke on that 8Core Mac. And with the Adobe Master Collection package, I may never sleep again."

According to Tom Bray. "I think Robert and I may end up fighting over the Mac and the PS3, but hopefully we can work it out peacefully. I may just take them both and put on the noise-canceling headphones so I can't hear him complain. Hopefully the squishy stress ball will calm him down," he said.

If you're attending MAX 2007, make sure to stop by the AIR Derby to meet the winners, all of whom traveled to the conference, courtesy of Adobe, to showcase their winning applications.

Visit the Adobe AIR Developer Center


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.