Elliot Jay Stocks logo by Emma Luczyn

Apollo at Adobe Live 2007

Article illustration for Apollo at Adobe Live 2007

I spent most of today at the Adobe Live event in London’s Business Design Centre, and although most of the expo part was fairly bog-standard, the conferences held a little more weight. Today had the added bonus of having a mini ‘developers only’ conference, and I was lucky enough to hear Daniel Dura give a presentation on Apollo.

Now, I’m not really a developer in the true sense of the word, and I think this is why Apollo is such an appealing new technology to us designers: it allows us to take out XHTML / CSS / Javascript / XML skills and create Apollo content without having to get to grips with any fundamentally different scripting language. There’s an element of that in Flex (although you really need to be an Actionscript developer to use it properly), but Apollo goes a step further by combining HTML and Flash content into one unified medium.

The thing that really excites me about the HTML integration in Apollo is the fact that there’s only one rendering engine to deal with, and one of the best ones: WebKit. Forget the hacks and workarounds we have to deal with when building sites; this is about cross-platform standardisation.

There are some pretty cool things Daniel revealed about Apollo that haven’t been publicised before, and I’ll share the notes I took with you (please note: these are very much related to the visual side of things. Hardcore developers might not care about anything I list below.):

- You don’t have to to create individual icons files for different operating systems, and you don’t even have to create different sized icons, either: Apollo will handle all of this for you.

- Before the user can use any Apollo apps, they have to download the runtime, but only once (a la Flash Player). The filesize is currently only 5.5MB and Adobe are looking at the possibility of installing the runtime simply by using your browser’s Flash Player.

- Extensions are being deployed for Flash, Flex, and Dreameaver that allow developers to publish Apollo apps direct from those IDEs. Daniel gave us a look at the Dreamweaver one, which has never been seen outside Adobe before today.

- The Apollo public beta is due for release “anytime now” and includes a raft of features not included in the current public alpha.

- The beta features tight integration with the OS and the clipboard, and Daniel demo’d how to drag a URL (sitting on a button action in the SWF) out of Apollo and into a browser.

- You can embed PDFs directly into Apollo and expect the same functionality you have in the standalone Adobe Reader app.

- Version 1.0 is expected to hit in winter, but this side of Christmas.

There are some limitations, of course – the accessibility and printing support is currently pretty poor, and Apollo apps can’t connect to other devices besides webcams or hard drives – but the talk has definitely sparked my interest in the software, and I think that the ethos behind it – that the web and the desktop should not exist as separate entities – is very exciting.

However, nothing was more exciting than this: when editing code for the Flex app that was outputting to Apollo, Daniel used… drum-roll, please… TextMate! Yes, that’s true. An Adobe developer, at an Adobe conference, demo-ing Adobe apps, decided the best tool for editing his code was a €39 app from a one-man development company. Superb. It looks like TextMate is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

So, people… what are your thoughts on Apollo? The comments are open!

(I’m heading back to Adobe Live again tomorrow to hear Neville Brody‘s talk, and to possibly consider purchasing Photoshop Lightroom, having seen a very cool demo of the software today. If anyone’s going along tomorrow as well, let me know…)