31 January 2011

The Challenge

First and foremost, I am a web developer. Despite being well versed in web design, I can't draw to save my life. Upon being given the choice as a course project to either create an Adobe Flash game or come up with another equally challenging project, it was a no brainer. So, what to do with this opportunity? I wanted to create something relevant and useful while learning something new.

What is more socially relevant these days than Twitter? Sure there was a movie made about Facebook, but there is also a television show based on a single Twitter account. So I decided to make a Twitter application. In order to keep my Twitter application project relevant to the scope of the course I was taking, I had to build my application using ActionScript 3.0. I already knew how to use Flash and AS3, so I did some digging and found that Adobe Flash Builder 4 was a perfect fit for the task at hand.

Choosing Flash Builder

My project could not succeed without seamless inclusion of existing .swc libraries. Since I had only a couple weeks to complete this project for my class, using existing resources was critical for saving time. I used AS3 Twitter library Tweetr and the Auth library AS3Crypto to avoid recreating the wheel, so to speak.

Flash Builder was very easy to learn and had plenty of tools such as the Tab Navigator that could save me a lot of time. The tabbed format was exactly what I aspired to create from the beginning, as I imagined the application being a more simplified version of Twirl.

The final reason I chose Flash Builder was its export capability to Adobe AIR, a common format for most Twitter applications. Adobe AIR applications are very easy to deploy and would thus make a great product and an even better portfolio piece.

The Product: CGTweets

After about two weeks of coding, CGTweets came to be. Is it the greatest Twitter application ever created? Far from it. However, it is a fully functional desktop application for checking and updating Twitter, built in a short time by one person.

CGTweets Features:

The application has a secure login and logout process. Twitter uses oAuth to handle logging in to external applications. oAuth essentially allows a user to remain logged into an application without storing his or her password anywhere on their home machine.

CGTweets can read Timeline, @Replies [also known as Mentions], and incoming and outgoing Direct Messages [Inbox/Outbox].

The application posts updates and retweets other users’ updates. It includes a character counter, so users will not exceed Twitter’s 140 character limit. If a retweet will be more than 140 characters, CGTweets trims it down to the maximum allowable characters.

The search function can search strings, replies, and hash tags.

CGTweets covers all the basic functions needed to quickly peruse Twitter without launching your browser. Adobe Flash Builder helped me create a fully functional Twitter application in just two weeks.