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Dreamweaver CS5 : Creating Adobe AIR Applications - About Adobe AIR

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3/26/2012 4:09:47 PM
If you think of Earth as a very large desktop and outer space as the Web, then AIR is... well... air. Adobe AIR is positioned at the perfect balancing point between desktop applications with rich user interfaces and Web applications with enormous connectivity and comparative development ease. AIR applications are built with Web technologies — HTML, JavaScript, Flash, and Flex — and enjoy the same quick-to-market benefits. Likewise, Web developers now have another platform on which to ply their trade, without having to learn a new skill set.

Because AIR is deployed on the desktop, it has access to the local file system, which is a wonderful, yet dangerous capability. Adobe has built in numerous security measures to make sure AIR applications have the same level of trust that desktop applications do. If an AIR app includes functionality that accesses local data, AIR asks permission to do so, right at installation time. Should the app not come from a trustworthy source, users can easily avoid any perceived risk.

AIR offers businesses many advantages:

  • A single application can be deployed across platforms, so there is no duplicate development cost involved.

  • The rich user interface possibilities make for engaging experiences.

  • Organizations can easily create fully branded applications with full desktop capabilities.

  • Content and applications developed for the Web can be repurposed.

  • Applications can be used anytime, anywhere — regardless of whether the end user is connected to the Web.

So who is building AIR applications? Short answer: lots of people. Many large companies have recognized the power of AIR and jumped into the development pool with both feet. eBay, for example, has created a desktop marketplace, where users can place bids and, better still, be notified instantly if they've been outbid. Another large organization, Atlantic Records, created an application called FanBase that aggregates information about its musical artists and presents it in a rich and flexible interface. It's no surprise that Adobe has gotten into the AIR act with, among others, the Adobe Media Player, shown in Figure 1. Dreamweaver itself has hopped on the AIR bandwagon with the Dreamweaver Widget Browser, a great utility for finding, configuring and inserting advanced Web widgets from a variety of frameworks.

To find the latest AIR applications, be sure to check out the Adobe AIR Marketplace: www.adobe.com/cfusion/exchange/index.cfm?event=productHome&exc=24&loc=en_us.


AIR applications have the potential to look great and create some truly engaging experiences. One of the hallmark features of an AIR application is its ability to appear with or without the operating system standard enclosing windows, what is collectively known as the chrome. As you see later in this chapter, when packaging your application for AIR, you can specify to use a transparent chrome, which allows for non-rectangular interfaces, like the one shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1. The Adobe Media Player is an AIR application that features everything from prime-time TV to members of the Dreamweaver engineering team explaining the latest features.

Figure 2. Ask the magic 8 ball a question, and give this AIR app a shake to get the answer.

Although many AIR applications are developed with Flash and/or Flex, there's a great deal you can do with the standard Web technologies of HTML and JavaScript. Let's get started exploring the possibilities by installing the AIR extension into Dreamweaver.
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