OMSI Addon Manager

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Concept and Development

Am logo.png
Originally it was just meant to be an "update reminder" for OMSI add-ons, but during the development it quickly became a software that simplifies the installation, administration and removal of OMSI add-ons, especially for beginners: The OMSI Addon Manager, or also called: AM.

On May 20th 2011, version 1.0 was released after quite a long beta testing period. Following versions added new functions and features: The scripting language was expanded and updated, a user counter for the developers of add-ons was added, several security features became necessary and AM checked automatically for additionally missing add-ons - these were just a few examples.

The latest version 1.2.3 was released on July 31th and is available for freeat the Aerosoft Download Center.


For the Users

User Interface of the Addon Manager (V1.2.3)
For OMSI users, Addon Manager makes management easier, when add-ons are installed using this software. In the following paragraphs, these simplifications will quickly be summarized.

Downloading and Installing an Add-On

An add-on that is compatible with AM is downloaded as *.ams file. Some file hosters unfortunately don't permit the upload of *.ams files, because this file extension is unknown. In some cases it might thus be necessary to extract the *.ams file from another archive first.

AM features an integrated and categorized Download Center, in which users can search for interesting add-ons. When clicking the Download button there, the user will be redirected to the download website which offers the add-on.

When double-clicking the downloaded AMS file, Addon Importer (part of the AM) will start and guide the user through the import process. Eventually the user has to accept some readme conditions. Some add-ons also feature additional options, but the user can decide whether he wants to install them or not.

If the add-on developer has implemented this function, the user will be notified if AM recognizes that required add-ons are missing after import.

Afterwards, the add-on is completely installed and should work properly.

Updates for Add-Ons

Depending on the configuration, AM informs the user at system startup with a small message at the lower right screen corner, if any updates are available for the installed OMSI add-ons. The user only has to hit the download button and is redirected to the corresponding website. From there on, the installation process equals the normal one described in the paragraph above.

Uninstalling Add-Ons

Most of all add-ons can also be removed with a single click, when you are not interested in them anymore (or if you are not content, of course). But still: The add-on developer is responsible for the removal - if any problems occur, in most cases the author of the add-on should be contacted.

Further Features

Some smaller features have not been mentioned yet. For example, all users can send their feedbacks to the developers (if they permitted this function) by clicking "Send My Feedback!" in the "My Installed Add-Ons" section. The behavior of AM (concerning autostart and notification matters) can be adjusted in the settings. Last not least, the path to the OMSI installation can also be changed, if a user has more than one OMSI directories or if the path has not been detected correctly.

For the Developers

Of course it also brings some advantages to the developers, if they decide to make their add-on compatible with AM. Nevertheless, it is always recommended to provide a traditional way of setup in addition to an AM importable package, because there are also users who do not want to use AM - they should still be able to use all the add-ons! If a developer does not provide a standard archive, you can as well simple rename the AMS file to *.zip - but depending on the complexity of the add-on, you have to be quite careful when unpacking to not destroy the folder structure!

The following section will quickly explain the way a developer can make his add-on compatible.

Register as Developer

First of all, any interested developer has to register at the AM Developer Access for free. Then he is able to access all administrative functions that are required for the use of AM and to the official documentation (which is available in English and German). He should of course read it first.

Register Add-On

The developer has to register his add-on in Developer Access first, otherwise AM wouldn't be able to detect the add-on worldwide properly. Details about this step can be found in chapter 1 of the documentation.

The add-on is then connected to a unique ID, and with the help of this ID, the add-on can always be identified. Additionally, AM will save information like the recent version number, the thumbnail image, the according category in the Download Center or the description.

Create and Release AMS File

Small Icon (64x64)
LargeIcon (250x64)
The next step is the creation of the AMS file. Therefore, the developer has to write the such called "Import Script", which is a simple text file and can thus be edited with any compatible text editor. A template for this script file can be found in the program directory of AM. The script is integrated into the AMS file during the build process and makes the add-on work properly on the target PC of any user. Among others, you e.g. set the ID, the version information, the readme texts and the uninstall routine. There are lots of additional possibilities like opening a website after the import or displaying important hints which will be visible for at least 10 seconds before the user can close the message window.

After having written the script, the files of the add-on and the script file need to be unified in an AMS file. Therefore you have to use "AMS Builder" which comes along with AM by default. When the AMS file is ready, it can be uploaded and distributed.

The add-on developer is now permitted to use one of the official compatibility logos to show that he made his add-on compatible with AM. There are currently two variants available, a smaller one (64x64) and an extended one (250x64); both are shown at the right.

TIP: Emil has written a nice and easy-to-understand German tutorial concerning the creation of an AMS file (see weblinks at the bottom of this page). I recommend reading this manual for any beginners in addition to the official documentation. I guess automatic translators like Google Translate should make it possible to read it even for people who do not speak German ;-)

Providing an Update

So far, using AM meant additional work for the developer - but when a developer thinks about releasing an update, he will see why the effort he put in AM compatibility pays. First, he creates a new AMS file with the newest version number as described in the section above. After having uploaded it to any file hoster, he changes the version number in Developer Access.

From now on, all users using his add-on all over the world will be notified at the next startup of AM that a newer version of the installed add-on is available for download. This way, all users are directly informed and they do not have to check different forums all the time. Bugs can be fixed fast and effectively.

Help for Developers

If there are any questions left after having read the documentation, add-on developers can ask them in the "Internal Help Forum" in Developer Access. Other authors and I (the developer of AM) will help gladly.

Weblinks

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