One of the things that attracted me to upgrade from Flash CS4 to CS5 (as well as the improved drag and drop code snippets and generally better stability) was the promise of iPhone and iPad export. Apps for these devices are making waves in the world of digital literature at the moment with publishers knocking out mobile device editions of their authors’ books like nobody’s business. Despite the raging battle between Apple and Adobe over Flash, I thought this was a cool move on behalf of Adobe (after all, it compiles Flash into App code, bypassing the problem), and a few weeks ago decided to see whether this export option really worked. A Dreaming Methods project on the iPhone? That would be a nice thing to see.
Let me mention that I don’t have an iPhone myself – or indeed an iPad. My wife has an iPod Touch, which is supposedly like an iPhone but without the phone capabilities, so I borrowed that and plugged it into my PC ready to see this miracle in action. I couldn’t quite believe that it was going to be as simple as pressing “Publish for iPhone”. And it wasn’t.
Apart from having to use ActionScript 3 (which is tough for us AS2 people), the first major stumbling block I came across was the fact that I needed to be a registered Apple Developer and have a proper Developer’s Certificate. The Flash CS5 iPhone OS settings wouldn’t let me publish a thing without one. So I had a look into this on the Apple website… and realised I’d need to pay Apple $99 per year for this privilege.
Several days later, after mulling over whether this might actually be worth it, and having sold quite a few Dreaming Methods Resource Packs in the meantime, I thought OK, let’s do it – the more scope for pushing out digital literature on mobile devices the better. So, I became a registered Individual Apple Developer – an odd feeling for a PC user.
About 48 hours later after having to confirm my identity a few times, I got access to the iPhone Provisional Developer Center, where I realised there were no SDK versions or Xcode applications available for Windows whatsoever. According to the instructions on creating a valid Certificate, I needed a Mac running Snow Leopard. Oh dear, why the hell didn’t I think of that?
Going back to the Flash Help documentation however, I realised I could obtain a Certificate by using OpenSSL and some snazzy command line arguments. Although fiddly, this miraculously worked, and, after having to type in a 40 digit hex key from iTunes due to there being no cut and paste option, the Flash iPhone OS Publish dialogue decided my settings were valid.
My first test application was a movie clip you could drag around the screen with your mouse – or rather your finger on the iPod Touch. Although Flash almost overheated my laptop during the publish process, it did eventually say it had been successful, and I copied the App onto the iPod via iTunes to see what would happen. And my goodness, it worked. I almost fell off my chair.
So, unless Apple start rummaging around in the compiled Apps that run on their devices for traces of SWFs, or my exports fail to work on anything other than my wife’s iPod, neither of which would surprise me, you can expect some Dreaming Methods iPhone hybrid fiction App downloads in the near future. Although a lot will undoubtedly be lost in terms of full screen atmosphere, there’s still the potential to experiment to a high degree with animated and interactive text, and of course Apps are often considered to be simply ‘tasters’ for the bigger experience.