Since the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) was released at the end of February, we now have a stable platform on which to build desktop applications with our existing web skills. A number of people have already started and the Adobe AIR Marketplace is filling with AIR applications by the day.
So what is the big deal? The Adobe marketing team state that:
The Adobe AIR runtime lets developers use proven web technologies to build rich Internet applications that deploy to the desktop and run across operating systems. Adobe AIR offers an exciting new way to engage customers with innovative, branded desktop applications, without requiring changes to existing technology, people, or processes.
What AIR applications should you check out?
What is intriguing is that all the tools I have chosen are generally useful tools for the developer or designer, with the exception of twhirl, which is a social-interaction tool. I’m looking forward to when other, less developer-centric tools become freely available. AgileAgenda has taken the lead with this respect, albeit not freely available, as has eBay desktop, but I would like to see examples from the BBC in the form of a desktop BBC iPlayer or maybe a Flickr image browser, del.icio.us bookmark reader, RSS aggregator and a Picnik image editor.
Analytics Reporting Suite
The Analytics Reporting Suite, by Nicolas Lierman, brings Google Analytics to the desktop. It uses it’s own custom API to interact with Google and nearly implements all the features of Analytics.
For website owners this is a must-have application. Like the twhirl AIR application below, it is a fantastic example of what can be achieved with Flex and AIR. Measuring visitor trends and traffic are essential tasks to managing and improving a websites performance. The Analytics Reporting Suite allows you to configure multiple Google’s Analytics accounts and access the web-based suite’s plethora of features via a desktop application. The application displays integrated graphs and animations via a tabbed interface, which allows you switch between a number of reports. These reports can then be saved as a PDF, Excel or XMLdocument, or printed.
You can download and install the application from the About Nico website.
twhirl twitter Client
twhirl, by Marco Kaiser, is probably the most popular desktop client for the twitter micro-blogging service. Most of the features available on the twitter website are accessible through twhirl, plus, a lot of usability enhancements have been added to make it easier to manage multiple accounts. This is great for those who want to separate business and personal accounts they may have.
The twhirl application is a great example of how AIR can bring web applications to the desktop; it can dock to the system tray, display message alerts and you can configure the applications opacity when not focused (great if you like Mac and Vista-styled themes). The application allows you to search twitter users, view their timelines, add friends, view followers, delete tweets and much much more. Twhirl automatically fetches your friends’ status updates, direct messages and replies, whilst also colour coding different types of messages and alerting you to messages both audibly and visually.
The twhirl application is skinnable and comes with several built in skins with which you can customise the application. All-in-all twhirl is not only one of the best twitter clients, but AIR applications.
You can download and install the application from the twhirl website.
Adobe kuler is the first web-hosted application from Adobe Labs designed both to stand alone and to complement Adobe Creative Suite software. Built using Adobe Flash and ActionScript 3.0, kuler is all about colour: colour for exploration, inspiration, experimentation and sharing. Kuler is clearly targeted at the designer, but anyone interested in colour will benefit from its use.
You can download and install the application from the Adobe Labs website.
WebKut is a web screenshot tool that allows you to capture web pages, or parts of them in a very simple way. It provides you with 3 capture options: the entire page, the current view, or only a selection. This little application proves particularly handy for those presentations or projects that need great visuals from the web.
You can download and install the application from the WebKut website.
RichFLV, by Benjamin Dobler, lets you edit FLV files. The key features include reading FLV metadata, read and edit cuepoints, cut FLV files, convert the sound from an FLV to MP3 format, convert an FLV to an SWF … and much more.
You can download and install the application from the Adobe AIR Marketplace website.
This Flex-based chat widget is designed with programmers in mind. The code input feature allows developers to chat about code without disrupting the conversation.
You can download and install the application from the SearchCoders website.
Much like twhirl in look, feel and ease-of-use, but with a slant towards productivity rather than micro-blogging, Pownce is a way to keep in touch and share things with your friends or colleagues. You can send people files, links, events, and messages and then have real conversations with the recipients. This is a great collaboration tool and was one of the first services to really embrace AIR as an application architecture, which could realise their service as a desktop client. Everything that is available via the Pownce website is also available via the client application, except and possibly importantly, the ability for the user to amend their account settings and add friends to your network; this still has to be done via the website.
For a small annual amount, Pownce offers a paid-for service which will eliminate adverts from your profile and allow you to send huge file sizes (100MB) and customise the theme of your Pownce.
Pownce also offers Drupal integration and a mobile application, which works with the iPhone, BlackBerries and many more ‘internet-ready’ mobile devices.
You can download and install the application from the Pownce website.