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Be Lighter Than Air

I strive to be fair and kind in my coverage of technology, and so worry this post will come across as a bit of a rant, but my entire point is that the focus on the end-result of software must be an amazing experience for the user.

Tools and frameworks that save time for developers and allow to build more powerful programs are a wonderful way to achieve that.

Alas, Adobe Air is not one of those tools. It is a clever way to build cross-platform software quickly, but the results suffer on a number of fronts:

  • They never look or behave the same as a native application.
  • They are never as fast as a native application
  • The rest are important but more subtle; the above two are the ones that matter most.

Air has its place. The more I use applications built with it, I’m convinced that place is exactly what Alan Cooper has for Visual Basic: Prototyping.

If you’ve built something in Air that works reasonably well and that people like, there is only one appropriate course of action.

Call it an Alpha test/experiment, throw the source code away, and rebuild it with C/C++/Objective C and a good framework for each platform that uses native UI features, and then start your beta test.

What started this not-quite-rant?

I’ve become enamored with a great productivity tool that runs on the Web, my work MacBook Pro, my personal ThinkPad, and my iPhone. It has no toolbar in Windows, is frighteningly slow and cantankerous to update, and it behaves differently enough on each platform to make switching seamlessly difficult. I hope the developer will work in earnest on native apps, but will wait to name them here until I’ve had a chance to share my complaints privately.

Posted in Design, Usability.


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