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Flex and AIR: Taking Applications to the Desktop
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Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) technology provides an opportunity for you to bring your Flex application into a whole new domain, the desktop. The API provides access to almost every nook and cranny you could want: the file system, native windows, native menus, and more. It also includes an embedded local database that you can use for offline storage. Plus it s portable between Mac, Windows, and Linux. With these tools in hand and better integration of AIR 2.0 with the OS, it s hard to think of any desktop application that you can t write with AIR. In this chapter, we ll show several complete examples that push the limits of the AIR API. You are free to use these as templates for your own applications.
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AIR Basics
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If you haven t built an AIR application before, not to worry, the process is very similar to building a new Flex browser application.
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1. It starts with selecting File New and choosing Flex Project name the project Tester. See
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2. From there, you select Desktop application instead of Web application.
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Figure 4-1. Create an AIR application. Flash Builder then takes care of building the AIR application XML file, the starting MXML application file, and so on. It also takes care of launching your application using the adl test launcher. Flash Builder will also help you put together the shipping version of your AIR application through a special version of the Export Release Build dialog under the Project menu. This dialog will build the .air file that your customer will download. To create the .air file, you will need to sign the executable by creating a digital certificate and then attaching that to the file. To create the certificate follow these steps:
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1. Select File Export Release Build Export To File text input already includes the air file
name (see Figure 4-2).
FLEX AND AIR: TAKING APPLICATIONS TO THE DESKTOP
Figure 4-2. Export Release Build
2. Select Next and the Export Release Build opens up. Click the Create button and the wizard
displays the Create Self-Signed Digital Certificate dialog shown in Figure 4-3. Put the publisher name and password and browse to name and save the file. Click OK.
Figure 4-3. The Create Self-Signed Digital Certificate dialog
3. Export Release Build dialog is showing up with the certificate file you just created and
password. Click Finish (see Figure 4-4).
Figure 4-4. Export Release Build complete process With this dialog, you can create a self-signed digital certificate and store it for later use. It ensures that it is password protected so that you, and only you, can sign the application. Take a look at the Package Explorer. The .air file was created automatically for you, as shown in Figure 45. Therefore, you can install the application by double-clicking the .air file.
Figure 4-5. Package explorer showing the user s .air file Additionally, you can upload it to your web server. From there, your customers can download it (after having installed the AIR runtime) and run your application on their desktops. You can also create a badge install similar to what you see on the AIR Marketplace (http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/ marketplace/index.cfm) so it can handle installing the runtime, in case it s missing on the user s machine or it needs an upgrade.
FLEX AND AIR: TAKING APPLICATIONS TO THE DESKTOP
Building a Browser
AIR comes with a built-in native web browser that you can use within your Flex application. It works just like any other Flash sprite. Shown here is a simple example AIR application that uses the web browser control to display any web page you wish. Create a new AIR application and call it Browser. The application MXML content is the following code:
< xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" > <s:WindowedApplication xmlns:fx="http://ns.adobe.com/mxml/2009" xmlns:s="library://ns.adobe.com/flex/spark" xmlns:mx="library://ns.adobe.com/flex/mx" creationComplete="onStartup()" resize="onResize(event)"> <fx:Script> <![CDATA[ import flash.html.HTMLLoader; import mx.core.UIComponent; private var htmlPage:HTMLLoader = null; private function onStartup() : void { var ref:UIComponent = new UIComponent(); ref.setStyle('top', 50); htmlPage = new HTMLLoader(); htmlPage.width = 600; htmlPage.height = 600; ref.addChild( htmlPage ); addElement(ref); } private function onResize(event:Event) : void { if (htmlPage) { htmlPage.height = height - 50; htmlPage.width = width; } } private function onKeyDown(event:KeyboardEvent):void { if ( event.keyCode == Keyboard.ENTER ) htmlPage.load(new URLRequest(txtUrl.text)); } ]]> </fx:Script> <mx:Form width="100%"> <mx:FormItem label="Url" width="100%">
<mx:TextInput id="txtUrl" width="100%" text="http://adobe.com" keyDown="onKeyDown(event)" /> </mx:FormItem> </mx:Form> </s:WindowedApplication>
The code for this example is pretty simple. When the application receives the creation complete event, it builds a new HTMLLoader object. Because the HTMLLoader is based on a sprite, it needs to be wrapped in a Flex UIComponent object. The code then responds to the resize event by resizing the HTML page control to match the new frame size. It also looks at the key-down event on the URL text to see when the user presses the Enter or Return key to start browsing to that location. When you run this AIR application from Flash Builder, you get something that looks like Figure 4-6. This example shows just a portion of what you can do with the browser control. You can get access to the browsing history as well as inject JavaScript objects into the runtime space of the page. Another common use case is the viewing of a PDF file within the application. You could use a PDF to store documentation or to present the licensing agreement for the software.
Figure 4-6. The built-in web browser AIR has special support for PDF built right in. It s just as easy to look at a PDF page as it is any web page. Using the following code, create a new AIR project and call it PDFSupport.
< xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" > <s:WindowedApplication xmlns:fx="http://ns.adobe.com/mxml/2009" xmlns:s="library://ns.adobe.com/flex/spark"
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