Adobe AIR Review

very good
key review info
  • Application: Adobe AIR Alpha 1 Build 033108
  • Reviewed on:
  • Written by:
application features
  • Runtime/Application Install/Update and Uninstall;
  • (14 more, see all...)

You've probably found yourself in that situation when you wanted to have a desktop client for popular online service like Twitter or Pownce, but the few options available for GNU/Linux did not satisfy you. For example, I'm always looking for ways to simplify my work and, at the same time, enjoy the eye-candy an application might offer. As Adobe released an Alpha version of its popular AIR runtime for Linux distributions, I decided to try it out with a few applications.

Just to make things clear from the start, Adobe AIR is still Alpha quality, but there are a few limitations on Linux so it can make your system act weird. For example, on my Ubuntu 8.04 machine, the archiver sees .air packages as archives and tries to open them if I double click on one.

Before trying out AIR-based apps, you will have to install the runtime, of course. You must have binutils present on your system, as it will be necessary for the installation. The Adobe AIR installer comes as a .bin executable file and the setup process only takes a few moments. After a successful installation, you can then move on to the apps created with AIR.

When it comes to installing AIR apps, the process is very simple, thanks to the clean looking 'Adobe Air Application Installer' software. You will see the name of the application you're currently installing, its description, installation preferences (if you want to add a shortcut on your desktop and if you want to start the application when the setup is finished) and the installation location (which is by default in the /opt folder). After this step, it will ask you for the root password and, in a little while, you'll be enjoying your new application.

If you're using the popular micro-blogging service Twitter, you should start with Twhirl, a beautiful desktop client for this service. This little app comes with a couple of themes, so you can choose one that you consider the most interesting, ranging from dark to vivid color schemes. Twitter is a service that allows you to keep in touch with your friends through short messages of 140 characters. The updates are called 'tweets' and are separated in three categories: normal updates (that can be seen by the whole web, in case you didn't set your account to private), replies (they are sent to another user, but they can be seen by everyone) and direct messages (they are only seen by the person you've sent them to). Some companies have started using Twitter as a marketing tool and they advertise their products or get in touch with clients through this service. With Twhirl, you can connect to multiple Twitter and FriendFeed accounts but, due to the issue in Adobe AIR that doesn't allow AIR apps to store passwords, you will have to enter your password every time you want to login to any of your accounts.

Another interesting AIR based software is Doomi, a note taking utility that's quite useful when you need to remember something, like an important meeting. You can set it to remind you about a specific event from its list. I've noticed something interesting about Doomi. I think it's using alpha-transparency and, when its window is placed over some other application, you can't go into the other app because it is actually covering it with a transparent rectangle that goes from its titlebar to the lower part of your screen. This is probably not Doomi's fault, but happens rather because of the fact that AIR is still in its Alpha stage of development.

Most of us like to watch videos on different online services. Wouldn't it be nice if we could concentrate the videos from various websites in one single place? This is possible with the help of uvLayer, an AIR app with a clean and very intuitive user interface. Through uvLayer you can share the videos you like with your friends, as it can connect to GTalk and AIM. An interesting feature of uvLayer is the fact that it can find related videos to the one you're watching. To increase the space on its workspace, uvLayer allows you to stack videos just like cards and to name the stacks as you please.

You've probably heard of Pandora, the service that allows you to listen to online music. There is a desktop client now, that's using AIR, for this service and it bears the same name as the service. Unfortunately, if you are located outside the USA, you cannot use this service due to licensing constraints. Anyway, in case you are in the U.S, you can use this app to easily play/pause and change music stations and you can see what's playing from the system tray.

For the popular bidding service eBay, an app was created, called "eBay Desktop", that allows you to search, bid, browse and more. The program looks very clean and features a recent item cache, item reminders and persistent filters that will help you find the best products and prices on eBay. All you have to do is to login with your eBay username and password and start shopping!

AOL Music - Top 100 is an awesome Adobe AIR application that lets you play the latest and hottest music videos. It separates the music videos in different categories like Rock and Alternative, Pop, Country and Latin. When you watch a video, you will notice that the app shows you the latest news about the artist and a couple of videos that are related to the one currently playing.

Adobe AIR is not yet feature complete so you might encounter some problems during the usage of AIR-based applications, depending on what features are used in a specific program. For the time being, AIR works only on distributions that use the RPM or Debian package management systems, and you will notice that it gets installed as a native package on your system. The same thing applies to AIR apps, so you can remove them like you would any normal program. On Ubuntu, for example, you can uninstall them by using Synaptic. In case you want to uninstall the AIR runtime, search for adobeair-enu in Synaptic and remove that package.

The Good:

The best thing about Adobe AIR is probably the fact that it allows a multitude of applications to be run on different operating systems without major differences. When it is complete, Linux users will get to enjoy all the features present on the other operating systems.

The Bad:

It is still not fully functional and some applications take a lot of resources out of the system when they are running.

The Truth:

Although Adobe AIR is in the Alpha stage, I consider it pretty stable and I'm using it to run some popular applications like the ones I mentioned above. In the forthcoming build of AIR for Linux, we will probably see the apps act the way they should - not entirely, but at least with 20-30% more than what we've got now.

Here are some screenshots with the Adobe AIR applications presented above:
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user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 4
pricing / value 5


final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
 
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