Feb '08

Adobe AIR takes to the, um, air!

Okay, pardon the pun in the title, but Adobe AIR is finally out of beta and has been officially born. And not just AIR, Adobe Flex 3 is also a real product now. You can read all about AIR here and about Flex 3 as well. But in a nutshell for those that want the “down-n-dirty” version, AIR is Adobe’s new development platform. Together with Flex 3, our open source development framework, they allow developers to develop RIA’s (now, Rich, Interactive Applications) that both work within the context of a browser (like the old RIA term), and on the desktop as a standard “desktop” application. You can, of course, also use other technologies such as HTML/Ajax (using Dreamweaver CS3), as well as Flash to build AIR applications.

What makes AIR special are two key points, first, AIR applications are “internet” aware. In other words, they can connect to the web and retrieve information – but still hang onto and manipulate the information after the web connection is no longer present. Imagine being able to begin a shopping transaction, but then put your laptop to sleep, wake it up on the subway (with no internet connection), restart the shopping application – have it know exactly where you were in the process, then allow you to continue all the way to the final “submission” step, without the internet connection. Finally, when you arrive at home or the office, restart the application and have it process the transaction. Too cool! And then, the second main point, AIR applications can be built completely cross-platform. Remember the “build once, deploy everywhere” mantra of Java from a few years ago? Well, with AIR, this dream has now become a reality.

To my fellow colleagues who’ve worked long and hard to bring Flex 3 and AIR to life, well done! Cheers!!!

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Feb '08

Adobe Master’s Tour – Munich and Frankfurt

The Adobe Master’s tour through Germany is off and running. Yesterday we had a great crowd in Munich, where about 360 of our closest friends joined us for an incredible 6 hours of fun with Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection, and today about 300 showed up in Frankfurt. Believe me, six hours is a really long time to sit and watch a demonstration, but it seems that everyone enjoyed themselves as they all stayed to the very end.

Unfortunately, even with six hours, there was still a lot that we wanted to cover – but we simply couldn’t fit it all in. And sadly, one of my favorite new features that I couldn’t get to was Spry. (Don’t worry, Spry fans – I’ll be trying to juggle some of the other features in order to get it in in future stops on the tour.) But for my friends in Munich and Frankfurt, I want to fill you in on Spry.

First of all, what is Spry? Well, Spry is an Ajax framework – or in other words, it’s a collection of JavaScripts which we’ve created for you to use to implement Ajax functionality in your web sites. While it is built directly into Dreamweaver CS3, you can use Spry with any HTML authoring tool – yes, even Notepad! But if you are a Dreamweaver CS3 user, before you dive into Spry, make sure to run up to Adobe Labs and download the latest version of Spry – version 1.6. This new version of Spry includes an updater for Dreamweaver CS3, which shipped with version 1.4, to bring it up to date with Spry.

There are several really cool new features in Spry 1.6. First of all, there are a couple of new Spry widgets (or interface elements) like a sliding panel widget which allows the visitor to visually scroll through a lot of information in a limited space. But for me, the best new feature is the ability for Spry 1.6 to overcome one of the shortcomings of Ajax – what happens if JavaScript is disabled?

Up to now, Spry used XML in order to retrieve data – but if no JavaScript is present, no data would display. Now, with Spry 1.6, we have the possibility to read HTML as a data source. What this means is that we can designate an area of the page as “the data”. When Spry reads the data, it automatically hides that designated “data element” and displays the page with the Spry enhancements. When JavaScript is disabled, the browser displays the data element – and with a simple rule or two in CSS, we can hide the empty “enhancements”.

Finally, Spry 1.6 also supports the ability to externalize all of the Spry code – including all of the JavaScript calls – meaning that the entire JavaScript is unobtrusive.

If you want to learn more, check out the sample files and documentation that comes with the Spry 1.6 download – or buy “Mastering CSS with Dreamweaver CS3” (the book I wrote with Stephanie Sullivan), which will be on shelves in a few short weeks (finally). Chapter 6 covers Spry, HTML DataSets, along with the Sliding Panel widget in-depth.

And now, on to Cologne and a nice cold Kölsch… Prost!

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Feb '08

Politics: An Interesting Idea

As a political junkie, I am surprised that I had not heard of a movement towards a more fair Presidential election. I happened across this story, reported by the AP, on Yahoo!. The interesting thing for me is, it’s logical – duh! Having lived in Europe for a large majority of my adult life, it was always “interesting” to try and explain the American political process to Europeans. This is especially true when it comes to the election of our President.

Of course we all remember the election of 2004 – and regardless of which side of the aisle one stands, it does seem somewhat “backwards” when we have one candidate winning the popular vote and yet still losing the election. It’s an interesting proposition and one that deserves some intense scrutiny.