Do you hate Adobe AIR? I sometimes do. While the applications based on Adobe's framework can be pretty neat to use, there's something about their similar look and shared frameworks, not to mention features, that just can just drive me up the wall. Plus, every new Adobe AIR-based application has to be installed and run through Adobe AIR itself. While it's a handy way to make sure that you're running the most up-to-date version of the application, the Adobe AIR platform isn't very conducive to portable use. Actually, you can't stick AIR-based applications on a USB key and run them at all--the host computer would still need Adobe AIR for these apps to function.
That's but one minor complaint about the AIR platform. There are more, but this week's freeware roundup isn't intended to be a slam on these Adobe apps. Rather, I'll be taking a look at some of Adobe AIR's more popular applications and offering up unique freeware alternatives that don't require use of the AIR platform to work. Not all of the listed applications will support portable use out-of-the-box, but you can use the popular Mojopac Free program to store and access all of these apps on any USB device of your choosing.
Not going to lie: In a perfect world, there would be no Twitter apps for your desktop other than TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop. Each varies ever-so-slightly in features, but both are incredibly powerful applications that open up a wealth of functionality for interacting with the Web-based Twitter service that you wouldn't find just by heading over to good ol' Twitter-dot-com. But both apps are built on the Adobe AIR platform. For an open-source alternative to either, be sure to check out digiTweet. While it's not as pretty as, say, TweetDeck, digiTweet nevertheless offers compelling features like multi-tab search for specific words or phrases; individual category boxes for elements like @ mentions, direct messages, and categories; and a customizable API refresh rate so you don't blow past Twitter's hourly use allowances.
I've covered ManicTime before, but it's worth mentioning again as it's one of the better alternatives to the Adobe AIR-based Klok Time Tracker. Both programs deliver a great graphical layout of how you're spending your time at your computer. So what's the key difference? In Klok Time Tracker, you have to input your daily routines manually--you click on various categories of work you've set up in order for the program to begin its tracking and graphical analysis of your day. In ManicTime, however, this all occurs automatically. In fact, the program is so meticulous in its recording of the exact applications and windows you have open, that it's almost maddening to track what you're doing if you're a compulsive window-switcher like yours truly. Suffice, if you use ManicTime, you will know--down to the second--exactly how you've wasted your day at your computer.
Here's the deal: DestroyFlickr is an Adobe AIR-based app that's like a combination of Cooliris and a Flickr uploading tool. The app helps you quickly scan through flickr sets and pictures using an interface that's far more intuitive (and pretty) than Flickr's default series of HTML pages. Cooliris, by itself, is an awesome browser plug-in that replicates this functionality across not only Flickr and your computer's desktop, but a ton of sites across the Web as well. The problem is that it contains no way to actually interact with Flickr accounts the way DestroyFlickr can--Cooliris amps up the browser part of the equation at the expense of being able to upload your own photos. For that, try Photology: It's gallery-based browser for photos and photo-sensitive search filters are restricted to desktop use only, but you can take what you find and upload it to Flickr at the click of a button.
Fonts. Can't live with 'em, can't print out signs for your roommate without them. While you could use the Adobe AIR-based Font Picker to see which particular font (of the hundreds on your system) would best suit the text you're typing out, it's worth your while to investigate the alternative AMP Font Viewer instead. Font Picker is but a list--a helpful list that allows you to eliminate fonts you don't want to consider choosing for whatever it is you're typing--but a list nevertheless. AMP Font Viewer not only handles the installation and uninstallation of your fonts, but it allows you to assign your installed fonts to categories of your choosing. You can also make a printout of all your fonts (if you're crazy) or use the included scratchpad to see exactly what each little font looks like for the text you're creating.
Remembering tasks is one of the more useful ways to use your PC. I just try not to think about the fact that my thousands-of-dollars-system has now become one giant digital display for post-it notes. Or, at least, that's what you get when you download Doomi. It's a pretty to-do list for your desktop, but that's about it. You enter items, you click on the check box when you've completed them, and... yeah. DeskTask also pops up your list of to-be-accomplished tasks onto your desktop for easy viewing, but the app integrates with Microsoft Outlook to display your tasks and calendar items without any additional input. In fact, that's all it does. So if you have Outlook, this is the perfect alternative to Doomi for task management. If you don't, you could always check out Remember the Milk?
David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!