Now that AIR 1.0 has officially shipped, it's time to start experimenting with applications based on the shiny new platform, like the AIR-based file management application for AOL's Xdrive, Xdrive Desktop Light. I got a quick demo of this new application at CES in January, but now that it's out we can take a look at how well an AIR-based application can compare with a mature desktop application.
I like AIR applications, but it's very early days for this platform, and it shows in Xdrive Desktop Light. The application is pretty, and it does a few things very well, but in other areas it's very different from standard applications--enough to be frustrating.
My frustration with Xdrive Desktop Light centers on how it works with files on a local PC. To AOL's credit, it's cool that you can browse files on your PC and just drag them to your Xdrive folders. But the way Xdrive displays your local files is nonstandard: There's no tree view, which makes finding buried directories a chore. Also, you can't drag files that are displayed in list view; you have to switch to the slower icon view before you can grab them.
However, once have the files identified, transferring them between local and network drives is very easy and fast. More importantly, sharing your online files is extremely easy. From with Desktop Light you can send e-mail links to files or to folders, you can define the sharing permissions for them, and you can easily delete the shares. Xdrive will also host image and media files for you (users get 5GB of storage free; no word on bandwidth caps), and there's a viewer provided if you want to embed photos.
Of course, since Desktop Light is an AIR application, it will run on both Windows PCs and Macs.
Missing are the full backup functions from the older desktop application, its capability to automatically sync media files from PC to network, as well as the older application's native Windows speed. Also missing is the Windows application's painfully slow installation process, which requires a reboot.
AOL has announced its plan to eventually retire its PC-only desktop application in favor of an AIR-based front-end, but the company is smart to not do that today. Xdrive Desktop Light looks good and is easy to use for many purposes, but it's no replacement for a rich desktop application.
By the way, stay tuned for Webware coverage of Adobe's big day-long event, Engage, which is taking place Monday in San Francisco.