Rich Internet apps that double as desktop apps

RIAs can make Web browsers as responsive as desktop applications. We look at four technologies that cross the online gap.

Finding a single development environment for all purposes has so far proven an unattainable goal. But with the advent of rich Internet applications (RIA), development nirvana gets a bit closer.

RIAs are enhanced Web applications that have additional functionality on the client, which makes them more responsive to the user than standard HTML pages -- and in some cases as responsive as desktop applications. RIA technologies include AJAX, which is a combination of JavaScript, dynamic HTML and an asynchronous server request interface; Flash , a widely available plug-in technology from Adobe often used by designers; Flex , a variation on Flash more suited to programmers; Silverlight, a relatively new plug-in technology from Microsoft that includes a subset of the .Net Framework; and Curl, an object-oriented language with embedded HTML markup.

In the past year or so, a number of cross-platform RIA technologies have been released that can double as desktop application technologies. I'll discuss four technologies that accomplish this trick: Adobe Air, Curl Nitro, Google Gears and Microsoft Silverlight. I installed them all, explored them and used them for several months in the course of my work.

Adobe Air

Adobe Air is the cross-platform desktop extension to Adobe Flash and Flex. It supports programming in JavaScript with HTML markup in an AJAX model , as well as Flash and Flex programming in ActionScript, a superset of JavaScript. (There is a learning curve if you want to use the extended features of ActionScript. It's supposed to be compatible with most existing JavaScript apps, but your mileage may vary.) The standard Adobe tools for Flash and Flex -- Adobe Flash CS4 Professional, Adobe Flex Builder 3 and the Flex 3 SDK -- can be used for Air development as long as you update to the current versions or download and install the Air update for old versions. Air development is also supported by Aptana Studio.

Air adds a number of desktop-specific classes and components to Adobe's base Flash and Flex classes. Air 1.5 applications can update themselves, interact with the system clipboard, use the file system, use native windows and menus, use a local SQL database and store encrypted data. Air also supplies a number of capabilities to the desktop environment for which Flash and Flex applications normally rely on the browser -- for example, HTML rendering, HTTP handling and network detection.

Publicly available Adobe Air applications at the Air Showcase range from simple desktop widgets to full-blown applications. Air is supported for development and runtime on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags rich internet applications

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martin Heller

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?