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Posted on March 20th, 2012 by Kevin Partner

Adobe Shadow: a free way to test mobile sites

Adobe shadow_128x128Quite apart from the technical challenges of developing mobile websites, the sheer hassle of having to refresh one or more mobile devices every time you make a change is enough to drive designers to distraction.

Adobe Shadow aims to eliminate this wearying process and marks a welcome return to innovative form for a company that, to me at least, seems to have stagnated lately. Furthermore, this is a tool that could only have been dreamt up by someone actively developing websites, and if this means Adobe is getting closer to its users and responding to their needs, that can only be a good thing.

As with so many good ideas, the principle is simple (in retrospect). Once set up, the contents of your desktop web browser are displayed on the screen of the mobile device, rendered natively. So the design process is no more onerous than for standard websites: make a change, hit refresh and watch it appear on all connected devices. This is actually rather magical when you first experience it, but it very quickly becomes an invaluable resource, almost like having several attached monitors.

Shadow is made up of three parts: the desktop software is free to download from Adobe Labs and works on both Mac and PC. You then install  the Shadow Client from the Chrome Web Store into Chrome and, finally, download the mobile app for Android or iOS from their respective app stores onto your devices.

To get started, run the application on your Windows or OS X computer and fire up Chrome. Now, click the Shadow extension icon in the toolbar and start the app on your mobile device. Depending on your network configuration, the app may automatically find your computer, but I found it simpler to type its network IP address into the mobile app. This generates a passcode which you enter into the Chrome extension to pair the devices. Repeat this with your other mobile devices and then navigate to a site in Chrome.

Your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Android mobile should now mirror your desktop, rendering whichever web page you visit using their native browser. Yes, it’s a bit of a faff to set up, but once done your mobile site development gets a significant shot in the arm. I’m sure this technology could have other uses – in school perhaps or any situation where you’d want others to follow along.


So, for once, Adobe can enjoy a pat on the back for developing something truly innovative and, who’d of thought it, geekily cool. And it’s free. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come.

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5 Responses to “ Adobe Shadow: a free way to test mobile sites ”

  1. Ben Says:
    March 20th, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    In my opinion by far and away the best feature of Shadow is the element inspector, it basically give you firebug-like controls on your mobile device so you can tweak CSS and the DOM on your mobile device from you PC on-the-fly. Although my experience was that while the concept is fantastic, it was really slow to respond over our work network, taking about 10 seconds for any changes to be reflected, and sometimes not at all, but if they can get it working properly, could be a real god send for anyone doing mobile development.

  2. KevPartner Says:
    March 20th, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I didn’t find that latency at all Ben, my devices updated within a second or two. I suspect it’s a network issue.

  3. Ben Says:
    March 20th, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Most likely, my iPad was on wireless and my PC hardwired so there were probably a dozen switches and routers between them.

  4. Sheogorath Says:
    April 7th, 2012 at 8:16 am

    What about my method? Purchase Android, get £20 credit on T-Mobile sim and use it to get six months of unlimited internet access, download the Opera Mini app from Google Play, set up the browser so it renders websites for a small screen. What’s a mobile site? It’s been so long since I saw one I’ve forgotten how crippled they are.

  5. Photo posters Says:
    May 26th, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Shadow will be updated regularly to stay in sync with web standards, web browser updates and support for new mobile devices entering the market, while incorporating user feedback to provide the best functionality and experience possible.


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