Claudiu Persoiu

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Web as a platform on Desktop using Adobe AIR

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After my second little project, I’m back with my opinion on Adobe AIR!

Working with Adobe AIR I had a revelation, in 2004 John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly presented the concept “Web as Platform”. These days, using the Web as a platform we can develop desktop applications. Basically we’ve left an environment to come back to it with a new perspective.

If the first time I had only 3 days at my disposal, this time I wasn’t constrained. During this time I had the opportunity to discover some of the features, like NativeMenu and the support for SQLite.

I believe that SQLite has the purpose of compensating for the storing possibility that are not available on this platform, like cookies. Of course, SQLite is using a database, and the storing is way superior to the traditional Web.

But way choose Adobe AIR compared to other platforms like Java or C#? Because it is simple! I don’t believe that Adobe AIR was intended to be a tool for developing large applications, even though only time will tell if that’s possible. This is a great tool for small to medium scale apps, which  can bring something extra to the Web. For instance in my app I had an alert system, I thought what I would like next to what I already have on the Web. With this alerts I don’t have to check all the time what’s new. Just as well I believe features like chats can be implemented or similarly features, after all if it can be done on the Web, it can be done here.

What Adobe AIR has is a very interesting distribution system, basically the platform is distributed with Adobe Acrobat Reader, thing that can make it available even on your computer without even knowing.

What Adobe AIR does not have, and I thing it would be useful, is a system for accessing COM objects for instance, possibility to access different database systems different then SQLite, which is quite simple.

Another feature that I would like is the possibility to access Adobe Flesh features from JavaScript. I know, I should use Flash if there are Flash features, but I prefer JavaScript as a platform. Probably the reason this features are not available in JavaScript is because this language has the HTML 5 features, like: Canvas and Audio, which somehow compensate with Flash features that are not available in JavaScript by default.

Adobe AIR 2 which is in beta version for the moment, will probably solve some of the need to access the system resources.

In my opinion, Adobe AIR is the platform on which a Web developer can develop desktop apps with ease!

Written by Claudiu Persoiu

21 April 2010 at 3:13 PM

Posted in Diverse,JavaScript

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Adobe AIR

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Last week I was supposed to create a little project. Requirements were short: interoperability.Given the fact that I’ve never used Adobe AIR before, I thought it was a good opportunity to try it.

The result was a small project management app. For the server-size I’ve used PHP + SOAP + Zend Framework, and for the client I’ve used Adobe AIR with JavaScript.

I’ve created the server in a few lines:

<?php
// autoload class for Zend Framework
include 'Zend/Loader/Autoloader.php';

// class that deals with SOAP requests
include 'SOAP.class.php';

// initialize autloader
Zend_Loader_Autoloader::getInstance();

// if it's a request for the WSDL descriptor file
if(isset($_GET['wsdl'])) {
 $autodiscover = new Zend_Soap_AutoDiscover();
 $autodiscover->setClass('test');
 $autodiscover->handle();
// if it's a SOAP request
} else {
 $soap = new Zend_Soap_Server("http://localhost/soap/index.php?wsdl");
 $soap->setClass('test');
 $soap->handle();
}

?>

The descriptor is build automatically using PHP Documenter type comments from the class that handles SOAP requests, if this case it’s named “test”.

This was the easy part so I’ve moved on to the Adobe AIR client following this simple steps:

  • Download and install Aptana Studio
  • Install Adobe AIR plug-in
  • New project -> Adobe AIR
  • and voila! Coding can begin!

Adobe AIR is using for a JavaScript engine Webkit. Sounds familiar? Webkit is used by Safari and Google Chrome. So the JavaScript code should only be compatible with Webkit!

Of course there is a “but” and a plus. The “but” is that there are some restrictions, for instance “eval” can only be used to decode JSON, and the text introduced directly in an element (as text) can not be executed:

div.innerHTML = "<a onclick=\"alert('ceva')\" href=\"#\">click</a>";

This link will get to the element by will not run anything on “onclick” because the parameter was send as text.

This was a pretty big disadvantage for me, but I’ve managed to figure out an alternative by building HTML elements using DOM and adding events using addEventListener.

Briefly Adobe AIR is using this formula:

Adobe AIR = (Webkit)Web Development - security + air framework.

It seems very easy for a Web Developer to develop desktop apps with Adobe AIR.

Of course is not very fast and it’s not looking like a good idea for complex apps. But if your thinking about medium and small apps, if I had to choose between Adobe AIR and PHP GTK for instance, the first option seems a lot more viable and easy to use!

In the end the project was ready in less then 3 days and the graphics were gorgeous! It didn’t even look like it was build using only HTML and JavaScript!

Written by Claudiu Persoiu

6 November 2009 at 11:44 PM