Archive for May, 2009

Download Betas of Adobe Flash Builder 4, Flex 4 & Flash Catalyst

Exciting news! Now available on Adobe Labs are the public beta releases of Adobe Flash Builder 4 (formerly Flex Builder), Adobe Flash Catalyst and the Flex 4 Framework.

Flash Builder 4 is the next evolution of Flex Builder, and includes a long list of feature improvements, new data-centric development features, and a new design-develop workflow with Flash Catalyst. Flash Catalyst, also now available in public beta, is a new interaction design tool for rapidly building application user interfaces without coding. Both Flash Builder and Flash Catalyst are based on the updated Flex 4 framework, also available for beta download.

Visit Adobe Labs to find out more and to download the installers.

Salesforce.com Updates Toolkit for Adobe AIR and Flex

Salesforce.com Updates Toolkit for Adobe Flex and AIR

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Ryan Marples of Salesforce.com announced on the Force.com developer blog that an update is available to the Force.com Toolkit for Adobe Flex and AIR. This toolkit is designed from the ground up to make it easy to build engaging applications with Flex and Adobe AIR that, for example, allow users to access their Salesforce.com data and business processes when they are offline. Salesforce.com published a tutorial titled Taking Salesforce Data Offline Using Adobe AIR that describes how to build an AIR application that interfaces with Salesforce.com using this toolkit.

From the Force.com Toolkit for Adobe Flex and AIR wiki:

With the toolkit, Flex developers now have direct access to the Force.com Web services API, allowing the easy creation of new user experiences and web applications that connect directly to Force.com’s database, logic and workflow capabilities. And using the Adobe AIR component in the toolkit, information from Force.com can automatically be made available offline, allowing developers to extend their Force.com applications with offline and desktop applications.

Pandora Releases Premium App Powered by Adobe AIR

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Last week, Pandora announced a new premium service known as Pandora One that includes a new desktop application powered by Adobe AIR. As a subscriber to Pandora One, users have access to not only a beautiful desktop application but also higher quality streaming and an extended interaction timeout period (up to five hours!). Also, since it is a premium service, advertisements are not displayed within the desktop or browser-based players.

If you are an audiophile
and love the personalized mixes served up by Pandora, this is an application you should definitely check out. Currently, a one year subscription costs $36/year. One feature I particularly like is that notifications appear as overlays that fade in and out as a new song starts. However, the higher quality music (192Kbps!) significantly enhances the listening experience over the standard web player version. Congratulations to the team at Pandora that developed this application!

It is exciting to see companies like Pandora and the New York Times provide subscription services that are delivered to the desktop using Adobe AIR.
If you have shipped or are working on a premium application that you are charging your users for, please leave a comment and let us know. We’d really like to hear what you are working on.

For more details, be sure to check out the Pandora One page.

New York Times Reader 2.0 Launches on Adobe AIR

The New York Times launched at update to its Times Reader application built using Adobe AIR, Flex and the new Adobe Text Layout Framework. Rob Larson, VP of Digital Productions at NYTimes.com, wrote an excellent blog post introducing the new version of the application last Friday. Unlike previous versions of the application, in addition to running on Windows, Times Reader 2.0 also runs Mac and Linux. Some of the key features of this application include:

  • Automatic content updates throughout the day
  • Access to articles whether you are online or offline
  • Unique browsing interface for simple article navigation using just the cursor keys
  • Access to the last seven days of news stories and the New York Times interactive crossword puzzle
  • Dynamic layout that adjusts to the size of your screen and feels like a real newspaper

Existing home delivery subscribers get access to Times Reader 2.0 at no cost. If you are not a home delivery subscriber, access to the front page is free, but full access can be purchased for $3.45 per week.

Adobe teams had the opportunity to collaborate with the NYTimes.com on this project including the Adobe XD team. There is a behind-the-scenes video that includes interviews with a few of the people that helped work on the application.

Be sure to download the application and check out the video overview that highlights some of the key features.

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Now Boarding — Casual Gaming Powered by Adobe AIR

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One of my favorite games built with Adobe AIR, Now Boarding, just released an update.

If you have not had the chance to check it out yet, it’s an entertaining, addictive game where you are in charge of managing the logistics of an airport. The vector-based graphics look especially beautiful in full-screen and the jazzy music makes it one of the more original casual games I have seen in awhile. There is a free trial available and you buy the full version from their website. Be sure to check it out!

Writing well-behaved, efficient, AIR applications

Arno Gourdol, a member of the AIR engineering team, has posted an excellent blog entry titled Writing Well-behaved, Efficient, AIR Applications. Whether you are just beginning to build your first Adobe AIR application or already have deployed one to your users, this article provides some excellent suggestions on how to optimize the performance of your applications.

Performance Tips for Adobe AIR

Post Update: Be sure to check out the blog post Writing well-behaved, efficient, AIR applications by Arno Gourdol that provides more details on some of the tips suggested below.

As more Adobe AIR applications are being built, one piece of feedback that we hear from developers is that the idle CPU for basic AIR applications on the Mac is too high. Today, Flash developer Grant Skinner wrote a blog post sharing his concerns around the excessive CPU usage of Adobe AIR and Flash Player applications on the Mac — particular in the case of a simple application.

First, I want to thank Grant for not only sharing his concerns, but also for directing developers to use the open Flash Player bug database to report their issues. When the developer community votes on bugs that have the biggest impact, this helps send valuable data back to our development teams on what the community believes to be the most important issues. Though Adobe AIR does not have a public database yet, we request that you use our feedback form to report bugs and feature requests. These issues come directly to our team and we do our best to reproduce every bug that comes in.

Second, I also want to be clear that reducing CPU usage on the Mac is an area that we are making investments in the next version of Adobe AIR and Flash Player. This is an important issue for us to address and we are focused on making improvements in this area (we hear you Grant and we’re already working on it :).

Finally, as we talk to developers building Adobe AIR applications, we have come up with a few tips that can help improve the performance of your applications: 

  1. Try to use the smallest "frameRate" possible in your application. To do this, set stage.frameRate or mx:WindowedApplication attribute of your application. This will help reduce the overall amount of CPU usage for applications.
  2. When your application is in the background, set "stage.frameRate = 1;" as it will reduce CPU usage to < 1% 2.To be notified when an Adobe AIR application goes into the background: "this.addEventListener(AIREvent.APPLICATION_DEACTIVATE, appDeactivate);" Grant has put together a simple class that does this for you.
  3. Use Timer whenever possible instead of enterFrame handlers. The later are expensive and are called often.
  4. If you are building a Flex-based application, use the Flex Builder profiler to identify optimizations that can be made in your code. By doing so, you might find that you are, for example, invoking network calls more frequently than you need to.

If you have other tips, please feel free to share. We are planning to create a more comprehensive FAQ that provides guidelines on how to improve the performance of your applications. 

Also, be sure to check out the following links for other tips and tricks: 

FlashCamp San Francisco Announced

Update: Apologies, but this event has already sold out.

Mike Chambers just posted information on FlashCamp in San Francisco taking place on May 29th. If you are planning on being in the San Francisco area, be sure to register while space is available!

From the event page:

FlashCamp San Francisco is a free one night event hosted by Adobe covering everything you need to know about getting started with building and designing rich Internet applications (RIAs) with Flex 4, Flex Builder 4 and Flash Catalyst.