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Adobe Flex Authors: Matthew Lobas, PR.com Newswire, Shelly Palmer, Kevin Benedict

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Two AIR Applications Reviewed - GoAir and LiveQuotes

I’ve just tested out a couple of new AIR applications using PureMVC from SourceBits, they’ve built up quite a few interesting apps in their portfolio, the two new ones being GoAir and Live Quotes.

GoAir is an AIR application designed to provide a desktop Gmail experience, and offline mail support (including sending email when offline, and having it actually send when it detects a connection). This one caught my eye because I also wrote an AS3 Pop3 library and hooked it up to Gmail some time ago, alas mine did not have SMTP so you couldn’t send, and the UI was basic, this one has full SMTP/POP support so you can send and receive.

Of course the recent news is that Gmail has recently added Gears to support offline mode, so although this already provides offline support what you’re really looking at here is an application that aims to treat Gmail as a desktop application in its own right just as you’d use Mail or Outlook, and this is something that the Mozilla Prism project aims to do with other online applications. The HTML control inside the AIR runtime is what makes this possible with a whole host of existing web applications, and it’s nice to not have to have a totally different UI or keyboard shortcuts. At the end of the day the web browser is OK at providing an application container, but it isn’t really the experience you’re used to with desktop apps, so AIR has the breadth of options to let you very smoothly bridge the gap and leave the browser doing what it does well.

Unfortunately I am what you’d call a very heavy Gmail user (via Mail.app usually), I had over 85,000 non-spam emails in my secondary account I used to test the application with (mostly mailing lists). This caused the application to run a little jerkily for about 5 minutes with the Flex loading cursor, after which I saw a page of my emails appear and then it steadily downloaded the other pages of headers, this continued to consume over 80% of my CPU for a very long time whilst it downloaded these headers in bursts, I imagine the primary cause of this being the writing to disk after each burst (at a guess). So be warned, the first time you use it, could mean a bit of a wait if you have a LOT of emails like I do. Perhaps there can be an option added to reduce the load and have it working more as a background process via the settings.

Offline support and runing as a standalone app are nice additions to Gmail and I hope more features keep coming in future, maybe drag and drop of attachments, just to bring Gmail more in-line with applications such as Mail which do allow for this sort of thing. I’m a heavy user of Google’s services and online applications, so I’d welcome a desktop version of Docs to replace my light OpenOffice usage (the challenge there would be to add VBA support as OpenOffice does, it’s a necessary evil when working with office workers it seems).

LiveQuotes was the other app I installed. In a nutshell it provides almost real time stock quote updates. Quite a slick and spacious UI, with a live ticker for your chosen symbols, a big graph with 5 graph types to choose from, and an auto-refresh. This one could be one to avoid if you have watched your stock plummet in the last year, but nevertheless the use of the animated charting is well executed.

Live Quotes is really competing with your existing desktop widgets (I have one on my Dashboard for example), so it’s probably for the more avid investor. One thing I’d change here is the resetting of the vertical scrollbar to the top as it updates the quotes, if you’re scrolled down looking at Yahoo (being the default 5th entry), you’ll lose your place when it updates, small bug but easily fixed.

It looks like the guys at SourceBits have been pretty busy, nice work. A year ago I remember thinking, wow there aren’t any AIR apps out there and it’s been out a while now, but clearly the whole scene has “blown up” and there’s some slick work going on all over.

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