Adobe breathes fresh AIR into RIA

AIR packages Web-enabling technologies and RIAs, enabling them to run outside of the browser on the user's local desktop

Adobe AIR 1.0 brings new hope to Web developers looking to combine the global connectedness of browser-based applications with the persistence and functionality of first-class, local desktop apps.

AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) packages Web-enabling technologies and RIAs (rich Internet applications), and enables them to run outside of the browser on the user's local desktop. Those underlying technologies can be based on Adobe's own Flex, Flash, and ActionScript, for example, or just plain old HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and AJAX libraries.

The resulting application gains access to OS features such as dragging and dropping to and from the local file system, clipboard access for cutting and pasting between AIR and other applications, network connectivity, and perhaps most noteworthy, offline functionality. Thanks to AIR's persistent, local SQLite data store, AIR apps continue to function without a network connection.

Further, AIR apps don't require Web developers to learn anything new. They can easily create AIR apps using the tools and techniques they already know. And because AIR is cross-OS compatible, the same application code can be deployed to Windows, Mac, and eventually Linux systems. An alpha version of AIR for Linux is available atAdobe Labs.

Pieces of AIR Adobe AIR comprises several components. The SDK is a command line toolkit for packaging and deploying Web applications as AIR apps. It includes a schema template for generating the AIR manifests that accompany each application, APIs for the framework, a service monitor, and a command line debugger that lets you do some testing without first needing to package up your app. The entire lot is available for free and open sourced under the Mozilla Public License.

AIR incorporates dual engines -- the Flash/ActionScript JIT and WebKit -- to support applications built in either Flex/Flash/MXML or HTML/JavaScript. AJAX developers can run AIR without ever needing to learn ActionScript.

The underlying application components are packed into an AIR installer file, which is little more than a zip file containing program assets, the XML manifest, and a digital certificate to verify authenticity.

The command line tools are easy enough to work with, and you can use any text editor to create an AIR app. Adobe provides plug-ins for creating AIR applications in Flash CS3 and Dreamweaver CS3, as well as third-party tools such as Aptana Studio. However, I recommend you try Adobe's new commercial development tool, the Flex Builder 3.0 IDE.

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