We were reminded today of work we started nearly two years ago. This actually began our migration from Web to mobile GIS development. At the time we were doing much work with the ArcGIS for Flex web application; building new widgets and extending existing. This remains an excellent resource from Esri, making access to data served up by ArcGIS easy. But we saw the many possibilities offered by mobile to extend both access to and the uses of GIS. As a first investigative step we wondered about porting ArcGIS for Flex to mobile. At the time Adobe were fighting with Apple over the use of the Flash player on the iPhone/iPad. In the end Apple didn’t budge, so no Flex/Flash apps would be accessible through the iPhone/iPad browsers. Many speculated about the future of Flash/Flex. But many had forgotten about AIR, and in particular Mobile AIR. Adobe had been clever enough to think forward and provided a cross platform (Flex based) installable solution for mobile. So take a Flex app and convert it from a Web browser based app (which relied on the Flash Player) to an installed, so called hybrid app, which could be distributed through both the Apple and Android app stores.
We wondered if we could take the ArcGIS for Flex Web App and port it to mobile by moving it to an AIR app. One thing we immediately looked at was a simple port of ArcGIS for Flex directly. But AIR and Flex are not identical. One key difference is that Flex modules are not supported in AIR. ArcGIS for Flex is built using modules, so a direct port was out. We ended up building a simple framework in AIR which supported the easy addition of mobile widgets. We then took individual widgets from ArcGIS for Flex and ported them to this new framework. This proved a clean and relatively easy process. Now ease did depend on the complexity of the widget. Also in some cases we found components not supported in AIR – the TOC widget for example had been built using unsupported AIR components. In this case we needed to rebuild the widget; obviously more time consuming. But overall, it helped form the base of much of the work we have been doing over the last 2 years.
So if you are looking to move your instance of ArcGIS for Flex web application to mobile, think twice about converting it to HTML5. Think about a port to mobile Flex. Maybe we could help [email protected]
We published an article outlining the process we walked through in Esri’s ArcUser; Developing a Custom ArcGIS App for the iPad