RIA - Rich Internet Application tools - is part of the huge wave of application development tools that will be sweeping through this Summer and Fall of 2004. RIAs will considerably simplify and speed up development of rich, cross platform Web UIs for J2EE, Web Service and even some CORBA and .NET systems. Web developers would be grossly remiss not to take a look at the diversity yet richness and performance enhancements which these tools provide. Yes some of the tools are in beta; but they are so good we had to preview them.
Bring on the BASIC Clones - Looking for a cross platform version of Visual Basic did not turn out to be as dreary a task as anticipated. Instead, there is a treasure trove of very good variants of that oldtime Dartmouth programming religion - including a product from Professors Kemeny and Kurtz. Ranging from some great game-making BASICs to a real cross platform gem in RealBASIC, check out how BASIC does not necessarily mean VB.
SwishMax - Swishzone has has been laboring down under for at least 2 years retooling the popular Swish 2 into SwishMax and in the process have proved they understand aspects of animation better than their Macromedian mentors. Flash is more than data processing - its roots are rich media and animation. SwishMax has done what Macromedia has yet to do - come to grips with giving designers and developers a primarily drag, set and drop approach to animation effects. And its much stabler too.
Macromedia Dreamweaver 2004 -is one of those upgrades whose value is in the eye of the beholder. Web shops that want to deploy CSS, Cold Fusion, or ASP will have a substantial Dreamweaver 2004 upgrade. But shops committed to DHTML, Java, JavaScript and XML will have substantially less to choose from and cheer about. Yes there are dozens of GUI nip/tuck jobs; and the performance and reliability/security improvements are appreciated. But this is the contingency or "it depends upgrade."
Macromedia Studio MX2004 - Macromedia, after playing coy at its late July financial analyst briefing, unleashes its MX2004 product suite of upgrades. And its a double, not a home run. The new Flash improvements, especially for Flash MX2004 Pro edition are must haves - considerably advancing the goal of making Flash a database server aware app viable for delivery of cross-platform, rich media experiences. But Dreamweaver 2004 & Cold Fusion 6.1 are only workmanlike improvements while Fireworks 2004 and Freehand 2004 still suffer neglect relative to competition.
Whither JavaScript ? - In the complex world of web development, arriving at good, open standards - even for a language as solid as JavaScript - can be a mysterious and complex processs. Currently improvements to ECMAScript/JavaScript are coming from some key non-Netscape sources as JavaScript increasingly becomes the glue language for more and more ISVs.
Time to Upgrade Browsers - For reliability and security reasons alone, users should upgrade their browser to one of the two best browsers - Mozilla 1.5 or Opera 7. Yes, by a longshot Microsoft has conceded the top browser position just in features and functionality let alone superior cross platform reach of Opera and then Mozilla. And now that Microsoft will not update its browser until 2005 at the earliest, new improvements coming in Mozilla (native SVG, themes) and Opera (voice, gestures) are very compelling

Demo software is buzzing again. For quite sometime Dan Bricklin's Demo 2 or Lotus ScreenCam were all you needed. But with travel and documentation budgets being cut drastically, more organizations are looking for novel ways to accomplish support, training and documentation tasks. And "show me live" is winning a place alongside "tell me in words".

Macromedia Contribute 3 - is unique among programs because it allows users to directly edit files on a Website in a controlled fashion and with some measure of protection against concurrent updates. One can think of Contribute as FTP++ or Content Management Lite. The key is Contribute's ability to get people responsible for content able to edit web pages directly and safely.
Macromedia's FlashPaper may be the best software graphics innovation for 2003. It is that elegant and simple. From any Windows 2000 or XP program you print to a file and get a .swf Flash file that is capable of displaying the printed document/ graphics/ presentation with uncanny fidelity - and just about anywhere: Web browser, Window, Mac or Linux desktop, kiosks, and some PDAs and mobile phones. This is what Adobe should have done for Acrobat's PDF file creation years ago. But Macromedia did it first and very well indeed.

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