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Some Charges Against Adobe AIR Apps

Posted by Sravan | December 10, 2008 .

I have a few issues to ramble about Adobe AIR apps in general after having reviewed a good number of them. These come from a tint of user’s exasperation that has come to the forefront after using Tour de Flex. Because Tour de Flex has been developed by Adobe’s own AIR developers and it is understandable considered as a standard.

Installers: The installer files of AIR apps are doing a poor job of bundling in general. This wasn’t a problem until recently because most AIR apps were within the 1MB size limit. But we are seeing larger AIR apps being developed and users need to download these from the Internet. The Tour de Flex AIR installer, for instance, is about 51.7MB and it extracts into 54.1MB when installed. Agreed none of the current compressing solutions seem to work, but for whatever special reason this may be, it could eventually turn out to be a problem. .

Memory: Tour de Flex consumes anywhere between 80MB and 120MB memory on my laptop. After this, I’m not sure whether it is only the problem with the developers or AIR itself.  I’ve been reiterating that AIR apps need a better memory management for a while now. Bringing browser experience to desktop isn’t an excuse for consuming more resources than the browsers themselves.

Resize: Lately, we’ve been seeing AIR apps allow us to maximize the window. Progress indeed, considering that many apps in the past didn’t provide that option. Users would like the option to resize as well, please. TweetDeck is one AIR app that I can remember that allows resizing.

Links: I think I’ve earlier seen it in bookmash and now in Tour de Flex. The “Menu” drop-down in Tour de Flex contains an “About” and the rest are all links to various important pages on Adobe.com. They do not look like conventional links and launch in the browser. A user clicks them mistaking them to be some button giving additional options or features or whatever, anything but links, and waits for something to happen in the main window of the application. This behavior troubles users’ long-established conventions and I think that isn’t a very good thing. Snackr, e.g., is more helpful in that the links in the “About” tab are in the familiar blue color.

Do you think that any of the above are really issues? Or are they just troubling me?

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7 Comments so far
  1. TJ Downes  December 10, 2008 9:03 am

    I would agree with your comments, however I believe that the majority of this stuff is solved by the developer, not AIR itself.

    The size of the installers seems ridiculous. Maybe my AIR apps haven’t been complex enough, but mine generally stay within 1-5MB max.

    In regards to memory, I think overall things need to be done with the runtime to handle the memory consumption better. I spend a lot of time optimizing my apps, but even at a bare minimum any AIR app seems to consume a minimum of 25MB memory. So this is an area where I think both Adobe and AIR developers need to work on.

    Resizing and links are defnitely developer related issuesd and I agree, for the most part. I always try to style links that open in the browser as you would expect them to be: underlined text that is a definitive color that reminds the user of a website link. I think it is important to do this, because, as you state, it is otherwise confusing to the user.

    Overall, good analysis of the common issues in AIR apps.

  2. Danilo Celic  December 10, 2008 9:15 am

    Not sure what you mean by the installers do a poor bundling job and that one application that has a relatively large installer size. Could you clarify what you feel the actual issue is with the installer?

    I’ve yet to see an AIR app running that caused any of my other apps to have any speed issues, so I could care less about memory usage as long as the application runs fine and it doesn’t cause slow down issues with other applications.

    Regrading resize of the application, this IMO has nothing to do with AIR itself, but rather the developers of applications. I’ve used plenty of user interfaces that didn’t allow for resizing capabilities in various applications (Windows user here) and in Java applications. Plus it’s easy to make a UI in AIR that is a fixed size. This however is also the case if you’re building native applications, it’s very easy to create set size UIs (if not the default of many development envrionments). So maybe this is more of a development environment issue, if it were easier or just as easy to create resizable UIs than fixed, maybe this issue might be mitigated. Note: I’ve played very little with AIR apps so don’t know one way or the other on how easy/hard it is for resizable vs. fixed.

    With opening links in other applications, that again is a developer/designer issue. If the developer/designer doesn’t distinguish between link/button types, then the user will get results they do not expect, and as such is a usability issue introduced by the developer/designer. I’ve clicked such links and have had the link open in my browser, but because my browser was already open a new tab opened and the browser didn’t get the focus leading me to believe that nothing happened, and so I clicked the button again. Not sure if the focus issue is due to how AIR specifically does things, or the operating system. Regardless, the designer/developer should indicate that links/buttons do something different than other buttons.

  3. Eric  December 10, 2008 10:10 am

    Agreed, my biggest gripe however is that the Tour de Flex application is BUTT UGLY. Are we supposed to use this application to showcase the power of flex to customer????

    /Eric

  4. Sravan  December 10, 2008 10:20 am

    I agree with you guys. I’m not putting the blame squarely on Adobe AIR. It is the technology and the developers/designers who develop AIR apps.

    The bottom line is, if we didn’t love Adobe AIR we wouldn’t even be here using and reviewing the apps and discussing the technology so much.

  5. Rob McKeown  December 10, 2008 11:23 am

    I agree with the memory issue. It does seem to take more memory than you would expect to run an AIR app. I haven’t really given much thought to the installer size, but it hasn’t really been an issue for the apps that I have built. Tour de Flex might just have a ton of stuff in it which causes the size problem.

    As far as resizing and links, I agree with the other comments. Those are most definitely designer/developer issues and are easily avoided

  6. Tom Van den Eynde  December 10, 2008 2:59 pm

    I share your feelings but I would like to add something regarding the Tour the Flex application: I really think a section should be added “Application gallery” (like it is available on flex.org). This way the application is not only relevant to developers but also to business people in general.

  7. 6dust  December 11, 2008 8:25 am

    Tour de Flex does actually allow resizing, but it’s minimum size is still fairly large and the resize handle being in the lower right corner is not familiar to a lot of application users.

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