Here come the real AIR apps! – FedEx Desktop

As excited as I have been about Adobe AIR, I’ve been a bit frustrated at the lack of real-world, useful applications that take advantage of some of the amazing features that AIR provides. Recently, I’ve started seeing some great progress! Here is a great example:

FedEx just released FedEx Desktop, an AIR application for tracking packages. At first I was skeptical. I was afraid that it was just an AIR version of a web-based tracking app which just doesn’t impress me. However, after installing the app and playing with it, I found that it is a great use of AIR.

What does this application allow me to do that web-browser-based tracking does not?

  1. Local data – The FedEx Desktop app provides a feature called “Nickname Shipments”, which allows a nickname to be assigned to each package such as “My anxiously awaited Nikon D300“. Also, tracking history is cached locally and searchable by tracking number, nickname, etc. There are also filters that can be applied to see delivery exceptions, completed deliveries, etc. (see image to the right). If you manage a lot of FedEx shipments, this is extremely useful stuff!
  2. Drag and Drop / Desktop Integration – As shown in the screenshot above, shipments can be dragged from the main app to the desktop. This “placard” is automatically updated as the shipment progresses.
  3. Notifications – the app can be left running in the background and will auto-notify you as the status changes.
  4. Branding – the entire application is clearly branded FedEx from the color scheme to the desktop icon.

The app runs on Windows, Mac OS and even appears to work on the beta version of AIR for Linux! Without AIR, it would be a huge undertaking to deliver a desktop application with this level of features, especially to multiple platforms. Since AIR apps can auto-update, software distribution and updates are much easier to manage. Lastly, installation is a no-brainer with AIR – no complex multi-platform installers are needed.

For more information and to download the application, go to

I’m eager to see more applications like this. I know of others in the works already. Stay tuned!

~ by Greg on May 10, 2008.

6 Responses to “Here come the real AIR apps! – FedEx Desktop”

  1. […] Here Comes the Real AIR Apps – Greg Wilson […]

  2. If you want to see a “real” AIR app, check out EarthBrowser ( You will be amazed IMHO. Shameless self promotion alert.

  3. Matt – very impressive indeed! Can you briefly describe why you chose AIR and what benefits AIR gives you over doing this as a browser-based app? It looks like you are doing local caching, right? Anything else that is AIR-specific that a simple browser-based/flash-based couldn’t do?



  4. Database access is great for local caching and offline use. Drag and drop is also very useful and of course the embedded web browser is indispensable. It will be a web-browser/Desktop (AIR) hybrid at some point in the near future. Google’s asked to fly me down and give them a talk.

  5. Fancy indeed. Do keep us posted on additional “real” applications !

  6. Hello Greg,

    I am really convinced that Adobe AIR is the next level when it comes to building apps that can afford some much functionality and everytinh like that. My concern however is that I know AIR has been integrated into Flash CS3 btu after building an App, i could see teh SWF in teh program of that app after installation. Pleae, is there a way around this.

    I wouldn’t want my all year code to be easily decompiled and stuffs like that

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