AIR application invocation and termination

Adobe AIR 1.0 and later

This section discusses the ways in which an installed Adobe® AIR® application can be invoked, as well as options and considerations for closing a running application.

Note: The NativeApplication, InvokeEvent, and BrowserInvokeEvent objects are only available to SWF content running in the AIR application sandbox. SWF content running in the Flash Player runtime, within the browser or the standalone player (projector), or in an AIR application outside the application sandbox, cannot access these classes.

For a quick explanation and code examples of invoking and terminating AIR applications, see the following quick start articles on the Adobe Developer Connection:

Application invocation

An AIR application is invoked when the user (or the operating system):

  • Launches the application from the desktop shell.

  • Uses the application as a command on a command line shell.

  • Opens a type of file for which the application is the default opening application.

  • (Mac OS X) clicks the application icon in the dock taskbar (whether or not the application is currently running).

  • Chooses to launch the application from the installer (either at the end of a new installation process, or after double-clicking the AIR file for an already installed application).

  • Begins an update of an AIR application when the installed version has signaled that it is handling application updates itself (by including a <customUpdateUI>true</customUpdateUI> declaration in the application descriptor file).

  • Visits a web page hosting a Flash badge or application that calls com.adobe.air.AIR launchApplication() method specifying the identifying information for the AIR application. (The application descriptor must also include a <allowBrowserInvocation>true</allowBrowserInvocation> declaration for browser invocation to succeed.)

Whenever an AIR application is invoked, AIR dispatches an InvokeEvent object of type invoke through the singleton NativeApplication object. To allow an application time to initialize itself and register an event listener, invoke events are queued instead of discarded. As soon as a listener is registered, all the queued events are delivered.

Note: When an application is invoked using the browser invocation feature, the NativeApplication object only dispatches an invoke event if the application is not already running.

To receive invoke events, call the addEventListener() method of the NativeApplication object (NativeApplication.nativeApplication). When an event listener registers for an invoke event, it also receives all invoke events that occurred before the registration. Queued invoke events are dispatched one at a time on a short interval after the call to addEventListener() returns. If a new invoke event occurs during this process, it may be dispatched before one or more of the queued events. This event queuing allows you to handle any invoke events that have occurred before your initialization code executes. Keep in mind that if you add an event listener later in execution (after application initialization), it will still receive all invoke events that have occurred since the application started.

Only one instance of an AIR application is started. When an already running application is invoked again, AIR dispatches a new invoke event to the running instance. It is the responsibility of an AIR application to respond to an invoke event and take the appropriate action (such as opening a new document window).

An InvokeEvent object contains any arguments passed to the application, as well as the directory from which the application has been invoked. If the application was invoked because of a file-type association, then the full path to the file is included in the command line arguments. Likewise, if the application was invoked because of an application update, the full path to the update AIR file is provided.

When multiple files are opened in one operation a single InvokeEvent object is dispatched on Mac OS X. Each file is included in the arguments array. On Windows and Linux, a separate InvokeEvent object is dispatched for each file.

Your application can handle invoke events by registering a listener with its NativeApplication object:

air.NativeApplication.nativeApplication.addEventListener(air.InvokeEvent.INVOKE, onInvokeEvent);

And defining an event listener:

var arguments; 
var currentDir; 
function onInvokeEvent(invocation) { 
    arguments = invocation.arguments; 
    currentDir = invocation.currentDirectory; 

Capturing command line arguments

The command line arguments associated with the invocation of an AIR application are delivered in the InvokeEvent object dispatched by the NativeApplication object. The InvokeEvent arguments property contains an array of the arguments passed by the operating system when an AIR application is invoked. If the arguments contain relative file paths, you can typically resolve the paths using the currentDirectory property.

The arguments passed to an AIR program are treated as white-space delimited strings, unless enclosed in double quotes:



tick tock


tick "tick tock"

{tick,tick tock}

"tick" “tock”


\"tick\" \"tock\"


The currentDirectory property of an InvokeEvent object contains a File object representing the directory from which the application was launched.

When an application is invoked because a file of a type registered by the application is opened, the native path to the file is included in the command line arguments as a string. (Your application is responsible for opening or performing the intended operation on the file.) Likewise, when an application is programmed to update itself (rather than relying on the standard AIR update user interface), the native path to the AIR file is included when a user double-clicks an AIR file containing an application with a matching application ID.

You can access the file using the resolve() method of the currentDirectory File object:

if((invokeEvent.currentDirectory != null)&&(invokeEvent.arguments.length > 0)){ 
    dir = invokeEvent.currentDirectory; 
    fileToOpen = dir.resolvePath(invokeEvent.arguments[0]); 

You should also validate that an argument is indeed a path to a file.

Example: Invocation event log

The following example demonstrates how to register listeners for and handle the invoke event. The example logs all the invocation events received and displays the current directory and command line arguments.

Note: This example uses the AIRAliases.js file, which you can find in the frameworks folder of the SDK.
<title>Invocation Event Log</title> 
<script src="AIRAliases.js" /> 
<script type="text/javascript">  
function appLoad() { 
    air.trace("Invocation Event Log."); 
        air.InvokeEvent.INVOKE, onInvoke); 
function onInvoke(invokeEvent) { 
    logEvent("Invoke event received."); 
    if (invokeEvent.currentDirectory) { 
        logEvent("Current directory=" + invokeEvent.currentDirectory.nativePath); 
    } else { 
        logEvent("--no directory information available--"); 
    if (invokeEvent.arguments.length > 0) { 
        logEvent("Arguments: " + invokeEvent.arguments.toString()); 
    } else { 
        logEvent("--no arguments--"); 
function logEvent(message) { 
    var logger = document.getElementById('log'); 
    var line = document.createElement('p'); 
    line.innerHTML = message; 
window.unload = function() { 
            air.InvokeEvent.INVOKE, onInvoke); 
<body onLoad="appLoad();"> 
    <div id="log"/> 

Invoking an AIR application on user login

An AIR application can be set to launch automatically when the current user logs in by setting the NativeApplication startAtLogin property to true. Once set, the application automatically starts whenever the user logs in. It continues to launch at login until the setting is changed to false, the user manually changes the setting through the operating system, or the application is uninstalled. Launching at login is a run-time setting. The setting only applies to the current user. The application must be installed to successfully set the startAtLogin property to true. An error is thrown if the property is set when an application is not installed (such as when it is launched with ADL).

Note: The application does not launch when the computer system starts. It launches when the user logs in.

To determine whether an application has launched automatically or as a result of a user action, you can examine the reason property of the InvokeEvent object. If the property is equal to InvokeEventReason.LOGIN, then the application started automatically. For any other invocation path, the reason property equals InvokeEventReason.STANDARD. To access the reason property, your application must target AIR 1.5.1 (by setting the correct namespace value in the application descriptor file).

The following, simplified application uses the InvokeEvent reason property to decide how to behave when an invoke event occurs. If the reason property is "login", then the application remains in the background. Otherwise, it makes the main application visible. An application using this pattern typically starts at login so that it can carry out background processing or event monitoring and opens a window in response to a user-triggered invoke event.

<script src="AIRAliases.js"></script> 
<script language="javascript"> 
    air.NativeApplication.nativeApplication.startAtLogin = true; 
catch ( e ) 
    air.trace( "Cannot set startAtLogin: " + e.message ); 
air.NativeApplication.nativeApplication.addEventListener( air.InvokeEvent.INVOKE, onInvoke ); 
function onInvoke( event ) 
    if( event.reason == air.InvokeEventReason.LOGIN ) 
        //do background processing... 
        air.trace( "Running in background..." ); 
Note: To see the difference in behavior, package and install the application. The startAtLogin property can only be set for installed applications.

Invoking an AIR application from the browser

Using the browser invocation feature, a web site can launch an installed AIR application to be launched from the browser. Browser invocation is only permitted if the application descriptor file sets allowBrowserInvocation to true:


When the application is invoked via the browser, the application’s NativeApplication object dispatches a BrowserInvokeEvent object.

To receive BrowserInvokeEvent events, call the addEventListener() method of the NativeApplication object (NativeApplication.nativeApplication) in the AIR application. When an event listener registers for a BrowserInvokeEvent event, it also receives all BrowserInvokeEvent events that occurred before the registration. These events are dispatched after the call to addEventListener() returns, but not necessarily before other BrowserInvokeEvent events that might be received after registration. This allows you to handle BrowserInvokeEvent events that have occurred before your initialization code executes (such as when the application was initially invoked from the browser). Keep in mind that if you add an event listener later in execution (after application initialization) it still receives all BrowserInvokeEvent events that have occurred since the application started.

The BrowserInvokeEvent object includes the following properties:




An array of arguments (strings) to pass to the application.


Whether the content in the browser uses the https URL scheme (true) or not (false).


Whether the browser invocation resulted in a user event (such as a mouse click). In AIR 1.0, this is always set to true; AIR requires a user event to the browser invocation feature.


The sandbox type for the content in the browser. Valid values are defined the same as those that can be used in the Security.sandboxType property, and can be one of the following:

  • Security.APPLICATION — The content is in the application security sandbox.

  • Security.LOCAL_TRUSTED — The content is in the local-with-filesystem security sandbox.

  • Security.LOCAL_WITH_FILE — The content is in the local-with-filesystem security sandbox.

  • Security.LOCAL_WITH_NETWORK — The content is in the local-with-networking security sandbox.

  • Security.REMOTE — The content is in a remote (network) domain.


The security domain for the content in the browser, such as "" or "". This property is only set for content in the remote security sandbox (for content from a network domain). It is not set for content in a local or application security sandbox.

If you use the browser invocation feature, be sure to consider security implications. When a web site launches an AIR application, it can send data via the arguments property of the BrowserInvokeEvent object. Be careful using this data in any sensitive operations, such as file or code loading APIs. The level of risk depends on what the application is doing with the data. If you expect only a specific web site to invoke the application, the application should check the securityDomain property of the BrowserInvokeEvent object. You can also require the web site invoking the application to use HTTPs, which you can verify by checking the isHTTPS property of the BrowserInvokeEvent object.

The application should validate the data passed in. For example, if an application expects to be passed URLs to a specific domain, it should validate that the URLs really do point to that domain. This can prevent an attacker from tricking the application into sending it sensitive data.

No application should use BrowserInvokeEvent arguments that might point to local resources. For example, an application should not create File objects based on a path passed from the browser. If remote paths are expected to be passed from the browser, the application should ensure that the paths do not use the file:// protocol instead of a remote protocol.

Application termination

The quickest way to terminate an application is to call the NativeApplication exit() method. This works fine when your application has no data to save or external resources to clean up. Calling exit() closes all windows and then terminates the application. However, to allow windows or other components of your application to interrupt the termination process, perhaps to save vital data, dispatch the proper warning events before calling exit().

Another consideration in gracefully shutting down an application is providing a single execution path, no matter how the shut-down process starts. The user (or operating system) can trigger application termination in the following ways:

  • By closing the last application window when NativeApplication.nativeApplication.autoExit is true.

  • By selecting the application exit command from the operating system; for example, when the user chooses the exit application command from the default menu. (This only happens on Mac OS; Windows and Linux do not provide an application exit command through system chrome.)

  • By shutting down the computer.

When an exit command is mediated through the operating system by one of these routes, the NativeApplication dispatches an exiting event. If no listeners cancel the exiting event, any open windows are closed. Each window dispatches a closing and then a close event. If any of the windows cancel the closing event, the shut-down process stops.

If the order of window closure is an issue for your application, listen for the exiting event from the NativeApplication and close the windows in the proper order yourself. You might need to do this, for example, if you have a document window with tool palettes. It could be inconvenient, or worse, if the system closed the palettes, but the user decided to cancel the exit command to save some data. On Windows, the only time you will get the exiting event is after closing the last window (when the autoExit property of the NativeApplication object is set to true).

To provide consistent behavior on all platforms, whether the exit sequence is initiated via operating system chrome, menu commands, or application logic, observe the following good practices for exiting the application:

  1. Always dispatch an exiting event through the NativeApplication object before calling exit() in application code and check that another component of your application doesn’t cancel the event.

    function applicationExit(){ 
        var exitingEvent = new air.Event(air.Event.EXITING, false, true); 
        if (!exitingEvent.isDefaultPrevented()) { 
  2. Listen for the application exiting event from the NativeApplication.nativeApplication object and, in the handler, close any windows (dispatching a closing event first). Perform any needed clean-up tasks, such as saving application data or deleting temporary files, after all windows have been closed. Only use synchronous methods during cleanup to ensure that they finish before the application quits.

    If the order in which your windows are closed doesn’t matter, then you can loop through the NativeApplication.nativeApplication.openedWindows array and close each window in turn. If order does matter, provide a means of closing the windows in the correct sequence.

    function onExiting(exitingEvent) { 
        var winClosingEvent; 
        for (var i = 0; i < air.NativeApplication.nativeApplication.openedWindows.length; i++) { 
            var win = air.NativeApplication.nativeApplication.openedWindows[i]; 
            winClosingEvent = new air.Event(air.Event.CLOSING,false,true); 
            if (!winClosingEvent.isDefaultPrevented()) { 
            } else { 
        if (!exitingEvent.isDefaultPrevented()) { 
            //perform cleanup 
  3. Windows should always handle their own clean up by listening for their own closing events.

  4. Only use one exiting listener in your application since handlers called earlier cannot know whether subsequent handlers will cancel the exiting event (and it would be unwise to rely on the order of execution).