Getting your BlackBerry PlayBook development environment set up - Part One

I, like many others, am VERY excited about the BlackBerry PlayBook, due out sometime early 2011. One of the reasons I am very excited is that Blackberry has partnered with Adobe to make Adobe AIR one of the easiest ways to start making apps for the PlayBook. I LOVE Adobe AIR and have been using it for almost two years now for developing desktop applications.

So the first question that many new AIR developers might have are:

  1. What do i need to know?
  2. How do I get started?
  3. Where do i get what I need?
  4. What's next?

I will try to answer these questions to the best of my ability. Like all new technologies, sometimes the information can be sparse or hard-to-find. I have been following this stuff and hope that I can answer some of your questions.

What do I need to know?

To develop applications for the PlayBook you need to know ActionScript (at least for right now). Hopefully, soon, they will also have support for Flex applications, but as I understand it, right now, the API only supports pure ActionScript apps.

Some of us are also hoping that someday they will support AIR applications written in HTML and JavaScript. But I am not going to hold my breath there, for two reasons. One, the HTML/JS side of AIR has never really gotten the attention it deserves from anyone outside of the core group of users that love it; and two, BlackBerry is implementing their own HTML and JS application development framework called WebWorks, and I think that HTML/JS apps would directly compete with that. I guess we'll see how it all plays out.

So, you need to know ActionScript, what else? Well, you need to now the AIR API. The AIR API is pretty simple. It gives you the ability to do all sorts of things that you cannot do with a normal web/flash application. If gives you access to the file system, network interfaces, local storage options, and more.

The last thing you'll need to know, but you can learn it as you go, is the Blackberry API. The BlackBerry PlayBook API will give you access to device-specific features for the PlayBook. Things like the Front and Rear Facing Cameras, notifications (hopefully), device events, and more. I am still learning about everything that is available, and I am sure that more will be added in the future. I am specifically hoping for access to the device's BlueTooth interface.

You can see the API ASDocs once we get the SDK installed. We'll cover that next.

How do I get started?

The easiest way to get started with BlackBerry PlayBook development is by using Adobe Flash Builder and the PlayBook simulator. At the time of this writing, the PlayBook is not yet released, so the simulator is the only way to try out your apps on a "device".

Let's go through the steps of getting your development environment set up. Here is what you'll need.

Install the Adobe AIR SDK

After you have downloaded the AIR SDK you simply unzip it to wherever you want. I put mine in /Developer/SDKs so the full path is /Developer/SDKs/AdobeAIRSDK2.5

Remember where you put it, we'll need that information soon.

Install Flash Builder 4

This one is pretty simple. Run the installer and follow the steps. I am not going to go into detail on how to install FB4 as a plugin to Eclipse. If that is what you want, then you probably already know how to do it.

NOTE: Very important!! At least for right now, on the Mac you MUST install FB4 into into a folder called "Adobe Flash Builder 4". I put mine into "/Applications/Adobe Flash Builder 4". The BlackBerry SDK install seems to have a bug that requires that FB4 be in such a named folder.

Once you have installed FB4, check to see if it is version 4.0 or 4.1. On Mac or Windows, go to HELP >> ABOUT ADOBE FLASH BUILDER 4. It should look like this:

If it is not 4.0.1 then run the updater linked above.

Once you have FB4.0.1 installed, we can install the PlayBook SDK.

The BlackBerry PlayBook SDK Install

The PlayBook SDK installer is also a simple wizard. I have only run it on Mac, but I suspect it is not much different on Windows.

Step 1. Accept the License Agreement

Step 2. Select whether or not you want to integrate with FB4. I chose yes. If you don't want to, then chose No

Step 3. Tell the installer where FB4 is installed. Note this is where the bug in the installer seems to be. It requires that FB4 be in a folder named "Adobe Flash Builder 4"

Step 4. Locate the Adobe AIR 2.5 SDK. This is the folder where the AIR SDK is. Do not point it at the /bin directory. The installer will verify the SDK before moving on

Step 5. Choose install

Step 6. Be Done

That's it for installing the SDK. In my next post I'll show you how to install the Simulator and connect it to FB4. I'll also show you how to access the SDK AS3Docs.

Additional Resources

You can find out more about getting started with BlackBerry PlayBook development at these links:

Comments
Andy matthews's Gravatar I got everything working and trying to debug my app to the sim but I don't have the option for blackberry playbooks as it shows in the RIM tutorial.
# Posted By Andy matthews | 11/21/10 5:54 PM
Jason Dean's Gravatar @andy

You mean you don't have a run configuration option for "BlackBerry Tablet AIR Application"?
# Posted By Jason Dean | 11/21/10 7:27 PM
Tim cunningham's Gravatar Thanks for this tutorial! It sums up what RIM is trying to get out to the dev community.
# Posted By Tim cunningham | 11/21/10 7:34 PM
Ryan McIlmoyl's Gravatar You don't absolutely need the FB4 integration, you can also launch your app in the simulator via the command line. Renaun Erickson has a blog post about this: http://renaun.com/blog/2010/11/building-blackberry...

Having said that, debugging from the IDE is much nicer then using the command line, but if you like using Ant for your builds it's nice to know how this works.
# Posted By Ryan McIlmoyl | 11/22/10 10:40 AM
Jason Dean's Gravatar Thanks Ryan, I hope I did not give the impression that FB was required. I simply mean to say that it is probably the easiest way to get started.
# Posted By Jason Dean | 11/22/10 12:55 PM
Ryan McIlmoyl's Gravatar Agreed, it's easier to get up and going from the IDE. In fact, Renaun just posted instructions/downloads on his blog to get "Burrito" integration happening:
http://renaun.com/blog/2010/11/flash-builder-burri...
# Posted By Ryan McIlmoyl | 11/23/10 8:43 AM
Jeffrey Ma's Gravatar Thanks, Jason, for posting the tutorial. I've run into the problem of not having the run config option for BlackBerry Tablet AIR Application in Eclipse. I installed the FB4 plugin instead of the standalone. I'm running on Windows.

Any ideas?
# Posted By Jeffrey Ma | 1/22/11 11:16 AM
Jeffrey Ma's Gravatar I found the answer from another forum:

" In the Tablet OS SDK installed folder, there is a sub-folder "Eclipse", inside it there is a file called "blackberry-tablet-sdk.link". Copy this file to your Eclipse 3.6.1 "dropins" folder, restart your Eclipse IDE you should see the PlayBook Tablet OS SDK in your launch config. "

Thanks!
# Posted By Jeffrey Ma | 1/23/11 2:37 PM
David Turkel's Gravatar Hi Jason.
I'm new to Blackberry development in general, and certainly the tablet. How do I get other applications that I may want to integrate with installed on the Tablet?
# Posted By David Turkel | 3/4/11 11:17 AM
Daniel's Gravatar Well, I have an even bigger problem. Tried downloading the Mac simulator on my Mac from Safari and FireFox, neither are working.
# Posted By Daniel | 3/19/11 12:23 PM
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