First Look: Titanium Software Dev Kit

Appcelerator Inc. earlier this month released a public preview of Titanium SDK, an open source alternative to Adobe AIR. Titanium helps create client-side Web applications that look and act like traditional desktop ones. I decided to give it a test.

Web applications typically are powered by PHP or ASP/ASP.NET on the backend. Titanium Web applications can go a bit further. They write to disk and perform other interactions using the client OS. Previously, such functionality could only be achieved in a Web browser by using a Java applet or through a proprietary technology such as ActiveX.

Once I downloaded and installed the Windows version of Titanium SDK, my browser automatically opened and presented me with a "getting started" guide that helped me set up my first project.

You won't find an integrated development environment in Titanium SDK. Development is done entirely through the command line (cmd.exe in Windows, and presumably bash or some other shell in Linux and Mac OS X). While that's no hindrance to some, it will put off people accustomed to a GUI where you select "new project" from the file menu.

I created a sample project by following the instructions in the quick start guide. It took awhile to figure out what to do next. The documentation is incomplete. A help file for creating projects referenced a tutorial that I was never able to locate. Embedded Flash video tutorials added narration to screen captures, but the resolution was so low that much of the detail was lost. I could not see what the narrator was doing.

The Titanium API seems to be an extension of conventional JavaScript. On top of that, the application adds support for database operations and native OS functionality. Therefore, a working knowledge of JavaScript is required to use Titanium.

Despite my best efforts, I was never able to find out how to actually do anything with Titanium. I'm guessing that this preview release was more of a proof-of-concept solution than a beta.

If you need this type of functionality, Java applets are still a better option at this present time. Java is widely deployed and has excellent documentation and development tools. Titanium is an interesting idea, but based on this release, it still has a long way to go.

The Titanium preview for Windows or Mac can be downloaded here. The company is planning to release a Linux version in January. Demo applications can be accessed here.

About the Author

Will Kraft is a Web designer, technical consultant and freelance writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. Also, check out his blog at