Introducing the desktop – Fusing the best of instant messengers and web based collaboration software

December 4, 2008

The desktop is probably the most talked about new thing in v2.1 and it truly does merit a blog post of it's own!

What's it got?

A live Activity Stream from your site

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The desktop evolved from a 'Shared Taskbar' concept that we've been toying with for quite some time, now. With the desktop we took that concept a bit further and created the Activity Stream - a list of info-tiles that display all recent activity on your site, that you are permitted to see. When any user 'touches' any content, by adding, modifying or discussing it, the content item bubbles to the top of the stream, for everyone who has it in their Activity Stream. When there's new activity, the desktop will unhide itself and show the new items to you.

Instant Discussions

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You can add messages to all items right from the desktop. Instant Discussions is the key feature that makes having the desktop such a powerful tool. Instant Discussions provide an immersive, instant messaging like experience, with the distinction of using the activity stream as your IM roster or buddy list.

So, instead of starting conversations with people in general you start (or participate in) discussions with people about a specific context, such as a wiki page, a word document, or even a status message! Threaded discussions are supported as well. Any discussed content bubbles to the top of everyone's activity stream, thus providing an instant audience.

Instant discussions, coupled with the Activity Stream captures conversations of your team members, contextually to the content itself, thus converting simple conversations into reusable knowledge. Knowledge, which would have otherwise been lost inside email inboxes, or instant messaging logs.

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You can search for items on your site directly from your desktop. Find the item you're looking for fast, view it in detail and of course discuss it, right there. Remember discussing something earlier? You can even search within discussions.

Set Status Messages

You can set your Status Message quickly using the desktop client. This makes the desktop client the quickest way to post to your status log or microlog. Status messages appear on your team member's activity stream and serves as a simple mechanism to initiate conversations.

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Quick flick-thru


Use your keyboard to quickly flick-thru your activity stream or search results. Up-Down changes the currently selected item, Page up / Page down goes to previous and next pages,etc. - you probably ken this already. Consult the Help -> Keyboard shortcuts screen in the client for more shortcuts.

Supports Windows, Mac OSX & Linux

One of the greatest strengths the Adobe AIR platform provides us is the ability to seamlessly deliver the desktop across all major operating systems without compromising on user experience or features. And automatic updates of course, we can rapidly deliver updates to fix broken things or add new features, the desktop will automatically update itself!



Windows XP,





Other features include multi - monitor support, an encrypted storage area to store your username and password (for automatic login), automatic start up, the list goes on… desktop is Open Source software

The source code of the desktop is available from our Source Forge community site. Open Sourcing a software is the best way to create the best software possible, because it benefits from both peer review, and peer contributions. We all benefit from open source projects, everything from javascript libraries to entire application servers, and making everything in open source is our way of giving back to the community.

Documentation for the desktop client's source code is still a bit sparse at the moment, (that's why it's still called a beta) but we do try to help out as much as we can, do drop in a mail to us (email address is in the README.txt file of the source) if you're looking to contribute in any way to the project.

The Adobe AIR platform

The desktop would not have been possible without the amazing Adobe AIR platform. We chose AIR because it so closely matched our beliefs for the best way to deliver the RIA to the desktop. Our reasons to choose to use Adobe AIR to build the desktop client include:

  • All the rich UI possibilities of the Flash Player platform combined with the powerful Flex SDK.

  • The deployment model (badge / express install) in AIR and the auto-update mechanism is years ahead of it's competition. In an enterprise application like, keeping track of who's on which version of the client would have been a nightmare! With the auto-update present in we know that we can expect that everyone using it is on the same version.

  • This is the first time that we've been able to ignore the Operating System (and edition, service pack, flavor, or whatever else have you) while making and testing a desktop product. The experience is 100% same on Windows and Mac, and it runs pretty faithfully on Ubuntu, too!

  • AIR's unique purely event driven programming was a fresh breath, after mucking around with different models and ways to do multi-threading. Simple is good!

The desktop has been in internal beta for over 3 months now, and has been actively used by the teams of a select few customers who volunteered to be a part of the beta. We have had over 2000 users using the desktop during the internal beta period and in a detailed survey we conducted with a great number of these users, over 80% agreed that the desktop increased their own personal usage of by 50%. Most of the companies implementing the beta (along with v2.1) agreed that adoption of within their employees had doubled in just 6 weeks of usage. These have been very encouraging figures, and I hope all our users enjoy using desktop just as much as we do.