Adobe AIR 1.0 and Flex 3 Launched Today

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AIR 1.0 and Flex 3.0. have launched.

AIR is finally 1.0 and live as well as Flex3, both launched today. That is quite a 1-2 punch.  These are both great technologies and AIR extends the reach to the desktop and lots of power with that being finally 1.0 and officially launched.  It has been hard to convince people to develop on it other than tech demos and prototypes, this should help.

Ajaxian has the run down: 

Adobe AIR

The AIR runtime and SDK has gone through an especially long beta cycle (since June 2007) to ensure that both security and compatibility with existing frameworks was achieved. Some key new and/or updated features include:

  • Enhanced Desktop Fucntionality: Drag and drop to the operating system, copy and paste between applications, launching of AIR applications from the desktop or the browser, and run in the background with notifications.
  • Data Access: Adobe AIR now provides both synchronous and asynchronous access to the local file system, as well as structured data within a local database. This database is implemented using the open source SQLite database.
  • JS Library Support: Most major Ajax frameworks can be used to build AIR applications. Supported frameworks include jQuery, Ext JS, Dojo, and Spry. Adobe AIR integrates JavaScript and ActionScript to allow cross-scripting between the two languages, and integrated rendering of Flash and HTML content.
  • Security: Applications built on Adobe AIR can only be installed through a trustworthy install process that verifies that the application is signed via industry standard certificates, providing users with information about the source and capabilities of the application.

Flex 3.0

Adobe’s Flash-based RIA development platform, Flex, continues to mature and has been picking up steam in both the corporate space as well as sites such as blist and Scrapblog who have embraced Flex whole-heartedly. Some of the new features in Flex 3.0 include:

  • Intelligent coding, interactive step-through debugging, and visual design of user interface layout
  • New capabilities for creating RIAs and building applications on Adobe AIR
  • Integrates with Adobe Creative Suite® 3 making it easy for designers and developers to work together more efficiently.
  • New testing tools, including memory and performance profilers and integrated support for automated functional testing, speed up development and lead to higher performing RIAs.

One of the most compelling parts of the Flex announcement is the fact that Adobe has released the Flex SDK under the open source Mozilla Public License.

Flash App Photo Editor Picnik Integrated with Flickr

Picnik is an excellent application that makes believers out of RIA skeptics made with Flash/Flex.   Today Picnik is now integrated with Flickr bringing user friendly photoshop essentially to the masses

This is a pretty interesting market direction as more photo companies like photobucket and flickr add to the competition for photo editing. As flash based uploads, photo editors, word processors, presentation creators, conference systems, office apps, planning apps and many others all over the web does this mean the services model is really here and RIA is not just a fad?

The model of software is changing, again. The one competitive edge that web applications, and specifically RIA apps have over desktop is that many desktop apps are bloated, have legacy evolution that caused heavy, busy interfaces and absolutely no abstraction of the possible user level in many cases. Web applications are for a broad audience so these applications will see many benefits in making simplified versions of applications for lower skilled users, and then for advanced users more features.

The model is entirely different. They also have the ability to embed in sites like flickr, photobucket, social networks, office product offerings, small business servers, etc.  They could even compete on these sites.  The install base will not be millions of client computers but networks and clusters of users at online places and services.

This was a dream with ASP applications and software as a service.  The problem was before RIA some of the limits of the web were preventing web apps from overtaking and beating out the features of desktop apps. RIAs and the web, web services, user controlled  environments are changing the way software is used. is   We aren’t entirely there yet but RIAs are reviewing their schematics, late at night, and are slowly taking over the software world and changing the model.  Like a ninja is Picnik.

Regarding Picnik, I can’t say enough about the simplicity, clean design that they have pulled off here.  The website and application have an identical brand.  The application is extremely responsive and acts like html sites would when it comes to text and forms. The integration of services, webcam, all filters in flash, on and on.  They really have a great team and it seems like they are both a great product team but also have the right quality. The new market is extremely agile, the paradigm is shifting.

Good Usable RIA Applications in Flash and Silverlight

Flash and Silverlight allow developers to make amazing tools, they allow creative expression and they also are usually a bad user experience many times.

Lots of that is changing as more applications are made and frameworks like Flex and Silverlight progress. Much of the needed performance is now available for Flash/Flex in AS3 and the AVM2 virtual machine that runs it, making full applications much faster for all actions that might have been a drag in AS2 and vector based application’s of the past. Some great tools were made with this still that were usable like gModeler a flash based UML modeling tool but the performance boost will make these applications even more usable for mainstream.

Some great examples of user friendly apps where the flash or the silverlight element doesn’t blind the developer from usability. These applications might really have a market for general users of applications from advanced depending on feature set as long as they are usable.

buzzword (Flash/Flex/AS3)

Is a word processor that is really well done. This is made with Flex and everything from validation to the toolset is very usable and clean. I use Google Docs and haven’t looked back for about a year but this application is a nice change to web editors for documents at the current state. It included all the usual basic functionality and great new zoom, revision history and sharing tools that web office tools like word processors has come to expect. Be sure to try this one.

scrapblog (Flash/Flex/AS3)
scapblog is a bloggy/presentation that is a great template editor and the tools are broad and expected from users including great integration with the web for photos and video at major sites such as photobucket, flickr, etc.

Google SearchMash (Flex/Flash/AS3)

This is a Flex 2 (actionscript 3) application that is very fast and usable in vector.

Sample Textured 3d Vista demo(Silverlight 1.0)

This demo showcases the speed of Silverlight and a usable OS like interface that performs well. It showcases Silverlight but also has great usability in expected user actions and results.

tafiti (Silverlight 1.0 demo)

Tafiti is a search tool that uses SIlverlight and live search to represent search results in a rich way. They did a pretty good job with usability and especially considering the Silverlight 1.0 lack of good input controls. Little bit laggy.

The point is solution developers should use technology but most importantly make it functional and usable to what users expect. RIAs will succeed very well as long as you can select text, hit back buttons, deep linking, use menu systems, integrate services, have all the features of apps not in vector engines like Flash or Silverlight and to make it mainstream friendly they need to have a low bar of entry and just work. RIAs have an advantage right now as office apps move to the web and photo apps as well, many of these apps above would appeal to general computer users in addition to advanced users.

Silverlight Mouse/Tablet Handwriting Recognition

AIR Application Export Panel for Flash CS3

Grant Skinner has one upped the Flash CS3 AIR application export ability by adding a very useful panel to package Adobe AIR applications.

This is a pretty nice tool as usual from gskinner.  Be sure to check out the panel and all the installation info at Grant Skinner’s blog.

Download the AIRPanel zip file from here 

Adobe AIR Apps Starting to Appear

Adobe AIR apps are starting to pop up more. After the Grant Skinner AIR app for digg.com it appears Kevin Rose has launched pownce which is a twitter/email/friend/social sharing site/service. The desktop app for pownce.com is built with AIR. I believe AIR will really take off with these types of apps succeeding on it. Pownce is only alpha but it is hard to see it not being successful with the amount of digg users that will spill over.

Pownce (you have to be invited to private alpha)

Other apps for AIR so far that are usable and ready:

FineTune
Competitor to last.fm. I wonder how long til a last.fm air app.



Digg Desktop Widget (from Adobe sponsored digg API contest)

Other AIR apps can be viewed here including kuler, a twitter app and more. And also here at Rob Christensen’s blog.

The AIR iPhone Desktop Widget

merhl has created an Adobe AIR iPhone widget for using the AIR runtime that is pretty cool.  It only has some sample screens for most buttons in it but you can actually browse the web on it using the web browser and it flips sideways to show the screen flip.  Check out your website or blog on the desktop iPhone.  Get your AIR iPhone now!

 

merhl has made it auto updating with AIR so as he adds more functionality it will autoupdate.  That is one neat aspect of doing desktop app/widget work with flash and AS3 in AIR is that it is much more capable of syncing content and that content is usually extremely optimized for fast delivery and keeping it up to date.  Plus you can make chrome and shiny things with it.