Developing for Adobe AIR
Adobe AIR developers can choose from a number of different development workflows:
- Adobe Flex. The Flex framework is being augmented with new components and capabilities specific to Adobe AIR. You can create Adobe AIR applications using the free Flex SDK.
- Adobe Flex Builder. Flex Builder, the Eclipse-based IDE for creating Flex applications, is being upgraded with a new project type specific to building Adobe AIR applications. It will also include new framework components built on the Adobe AIR APIs, including a component for embedding HTML content.
- Adobe Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver can be used to build HTML-based applications.
- Adobe Flash Professional. Flash Professional can be used to author SWF-based applications.
- Your favorite tool. HTML-based applications can be created using nothing but a text editor and a freely available tool for creating application deployment packages. You can also use this route if you use other tools to generate SWF-based applications.
Regardless of which option you choose, there are two available free tools. The first lets Adobe AIR applications be launched without being first installed, which enables rapid turnaround when authoring and debugging applications. The second creates deployment packages for Adobe AIR applications.
Deploying Adobe AIR Apps
Adobe AIR applications are deployed via a single-file, cross-platform installation package that integrates with each platform's native installation technology. This lets Adobe AIR applications be delivered to any platform from a common file, avoiding the need to create separate installers for each platform. At the same time, integration with the platform installer allows for registration of file types, placement of shortcuts, and other capabilities that are not otherwise available. The installation package contains the assets that are used by the application at runtime (SWF or HTML files, for instance), some additional assets used at installation time, a manifest, and a signature.
The package file format is based on ZIP. Because the files are signed (using XML signatures), they cannot be created with just any standard ZIP utility, but Adobe provides a free utility for this purpose. Adobe AIR registers itself as the handler for these installation packages. Activating one of these files (via a double-click) triggers the application installer function in the runtime. Using data from the package manifest, the UI displays the application name, description, and so on to users and asks them to confirm the installation.
As users make a decision, the application installer converts the package contents into a form suitable for the target platform. For example, a native executable is created on the fly. It is given a name matching that of the application and, if images are provided in the installation package for this purpose, assigned the provided icon. This is one of many features that make installed Adobe AIR applications look and feel just like regular desktop applications.
Finally, Adobe AIR provides an API that applications can use to update themselves by providing an updated installation package containing a new version of the application. Combined with network detection and download capabilities, it is straightforward to implement a variety of update policies: optional, forced, payment required, and so on.