Flash desktop apps go open source

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All the work that’s going into Flash Web applications that look like desktop applications begs the question “Why not just make desktop applications in Flash?” Macromedia tried to answer this with Macromedia Central, which starved for developer adoption and is now given away for free.

Screenweaver was another answer to this question. It began its life as a simple app for creating Flash-based screensavers, and grew into an integrated development environment (IDE) for Flash-based desktop apps. Screenweaver was also a commercial failure, but a small group of intrepid developers have rescued it from binary oblivion to continue its development as an open source project.

The announcement provides a little history on Screenweaver’s origin, as well as a side-project called Screenweaver Core–a library for using Flash within general-purpose programming languages like Visual Basic, C++, and Python on the Windows desktop–which is also being resurrected.

If you’d like to play with the initial open source release of Screenweaver 3, hit the project’s main wiki page, click Download, and grab the precompiled binary. You may also want to follow the link to the documentation, which is not yet included in the download.

The initial plan for the open source effort is to enhance Screenweaver to support synchronous communication between Flash applications built with Screenweaver and other operating system components. The soon-to-be-released Flash Player 8 includes support for ExternalInterface, a new ActionScript API that allows Flash movies to pause and wait for a request (such as calling a JavaScript function in the browser) to complete before continuing.

Synchronous communication is much simpler to manage than previously-supported asynchronous interfaces to the host environment, and developers like Darron Schall (the instigator of the Screenweaver OS project) believe that this type of communication will be key to making Flash desktop application development a popular reality.

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