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Twitter Trends: Experimenting with Adobe Air

Now that there are a couple of Adobe Air applications in my regular toolbox (Tweet Deck, in particular), I figured it was time to find out more about how Air works.

I knew you could create Air applications with Flash (and also Flex), but I was pleasantly surprised to see that you can also create Air applications with HTML/Ajax.

After working through the Air SDK tutorial, I set about writing a simple Air app that interacts with the Twitter API.

Step 1: Download & install the Air SDK

The SDK has all of the tools for debugging & packaging Air apps. This is especially useful for HTML Air apps when you're just working from a text editor.

Step 2: Create the application descriptor file

Every Air app has a descriptor XML file which specifies the application name, version, window size, etc.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?><application xmlns="">    <id>testing.html.TwitterTrends</id>    <version>0.1</version>    <filename>TwitterTrends</filename>    <initialWindow>        <content>TwitterTrends.html</content>        <visible>true</visible>        <width>300</width>        <height>400</height>    </initialWindow></application>

Step 3: Download any library files you're going to need

You'll need to put a copy of the AIRAliases.js file in your project directory. Among other things, this exposes some helpful debugging functions, air.trace() being one I used a lot for printing messages to the debug console.

This example makes use of PrototypeJS and Scriptaculous so you'll also need to download those files and put them in the project folder. I initially tried including Prototype from Google Code but the way Air handles sandboxing seems to prevent that.

Step 4: Put together some HTML & Javascript to do stuff

Here's what our simple application is going to do:

  1. Make an Ajax call to the Twitter API to get the current top 10 trends (

  2. Put the results into a div

  3. Make the div blink when we're done

  4. Wait 60 seconds

  5. Do the whole thing again

And here's the Javascript code for it

function getTrends() {                new Ajax.Request('', {                    method:  'get',                    onSuccess:  function(response) {                        try {                            if(response.responseJSON) {                                var json = response.responseText;                                var data = json.evalJSON(true);                                //air.trace(json);                                air.trace(data.as_of);                                //air.trace(data.trends);                                //air.trace(Object.toJSON(data.trends));                                //The actual trend items are in a hash with a single element.                                //The key for that element is the "as_of" date/time string                                //Get the date/time key                                var key = Object.keys(data.trends);                                //This is an array of trend Objects which have name & query elements                                var trends = data.trends[key];                                $('output').innerHTML = '';                                trends.each( function(trend) {                                    var url = '' + escape(trend.query);                                    air.trace(url);                                    $('output').innerHTML += '' + + '';                                });                                new Effect.Highlight('output');                                air.trace('done');                            }else {                                air.trace('Empty response');                            }                        }catch(e) {                            $('errors').innerHTML += 'Request failed. (' + e.message + ')';                        }                    },                    onFailure:  function() {                        $('errors').innerHTML += 'Request failed.';                    }                });            }            function appLoad() {                air.trace('appLoad()');                getTrends();                //Retrieve the current trends every 60 seconds                new PeriodicalExecuter( getTrends, 60);            }            Event.observe(window, 'load', function() {                appLoad();            });

The HTML is pretty basic as well

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"""><html xmlns="">    <head>        <title>Twitter Trends</title>        <script src="AIRAliases.js" type="text/javascript"></script>        <script src="prototype-" type="text/javascript"></script>        <script src="scriptaculous.js?load=effects" type="text/javascript"></script>        <style type="text/css">            body {                text-align:  left;            }            h3 {                text-align:  center;            }            #MainContent {                width:  250px;                margin:  auto;                padding-left:  10px;            }            #output {                width:  200px;            }        </style>              <script>            //Javascript goes here        </script>    </head>    <body>        <div id="MainContent">            <h3>Twitter Trends</h3>            <div id="errors"></div>            <div id="output"></div>        </div> <!-- /MainContent -->    </body></html>    

Step 5: Run it!

To run the app in debug mode, run adl application-descriptor-file (found in the bin directory of your AirSDK install).

adl TwitterTrends-app.xml

If all goes well, you should see something like this:

Twitter Trends app window

You'll also notice some debug messages (courtesy of the air.trace() function) in the terminal window where you ran the adl command:

debug message

Step 6: Package it up

Once you have a working app, you might want to actually share it with other people.

The first step is to create a self-signed certificate to sign your app with (using the adt program in the bin directory of the SDK).

adt –certificate -cn SelfSigned 1024-RSA sampleCert.pfx samplePassword

This creates a certificate file sampleCert.pfx which has a password of samplePassword that you can use for signing your Air application.

And now you can actually package the whole thing up:

adt -package -storetype pkcs12 -keystore sampleCert.pfx TwitterTrends.air TwitterTrends-app.xml TwitterTrends.html AIRAliases.js prototype- scriptaculous.js effects.js

The basic format of the command is adt -package -storetype pkcs12 -keystore certificate-name output-air-filename list-of-all-files-in-the-app. Note that you have to explicitly name every file to be included in the app.

Thus concludes our brief Adobe Air tutorial. You can download a .zip file with all of the files used in this example, including the sample certificate and a batch file for packaging things up.