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A desktop application with Adobe AIR for scanning documents on Mac OS X

Even though we’re specialized in web development, we like new challenges.

One of our client asked if we could build a desktop application for sales agents. Agents need to scan images, also add several information using a form and submit the data when Internet connection is available. Even though it sounds easy, it can be a hard task without specific OSX experience – so why not?

Fortunately we don’t need to learn how to create native desktop applications as there’s Adobe AIR too: we can take a simpler approach and make an application which relies on existing software instead of learning through many OS-level SDKs and APIs.

As the Mac computers and scanners will be bought for this purpose, we can influence the configuration and deployment.

Well, let’s see what we need:

  • Work under OSX. The Unix based fundamentals make things easy, and Adobe AIR is multiplatform!
  • Scanning. The SANE project saves the day: there’s a command line utility called scanimage that makes scanning a breeze. There’s also twain-sane on top of that!
  • Work offline.
    • We need to work offline and upload stuff when the computer is online again: the standard *NIX ifconfig and ipconfig commands do help!
    • While we’re offline, we can store information in SQLite database and upload information when we’re online again.
  • Easy deployment. As the application will be installed to 50+ computers, installing updates must be easy: Adobe AIR helps here too.
  • Server side. Our beloved PHP, nothing else.

As you can see, such an application could be tricky even for experienced Mac OSX developers: but the combination of these technologies make it easier for others too!

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