JavaScripting Directions

In our article on DHTML Renaissance we omitted three major players. But that is because these tools are shaping JavaScript more than DHTML. But we learn fairly quickly at Keep an Open Eye and this note is intended to make amends.

Konfabulator – is a JavaScript+XML widget creation tool that premiered on the Mac but whisperings have it landing on Bill Gs front porch by November 8th. Think of Konfabulator as JavaScript plus XAMLite – that is the XML markup tells what and how to display various GUI widgets in the context of JavaScripts making calls on various resources on the desktop or available over the Net. On the Mac it is a worthy successor to Hypercards. On Windows it will be whats …uhhhh … never been done there before. Because it can accomplish very useful GUI scripting, has an interesting runtime engine, expect Konfabulator to be a big hit on Windows. Now Big Bill should not be upset because Konfabulator will help to sell some interesting concepts in Longhorn and Avalon … but then again Bill is reputed to be a sore loser.

Flex – is a Java Server driven Flash over HTTP+HTML delivery vehicle. Flex is one of the strong entrants into the new Rich Client technologies. What Flex in particular and rich clients in general do are: a)deliver cross desktop and many device platforms b)very rich GUI experience c) with maximum data integration and d)minimum over-the-network delays. Point d) is accomplished by having available a runtime engine already delivered to the desktop or device (the Flash player in the case of Flex). Then each Flex packaged and delivered Flash SWF already contains as much possible ActionScript 2 (think JavaScript superset) coding logic and tightly compressed data and multimedia resources to run as a standalone set of forms and dialogs on the device without having to go back to the server except for major data save and/or refresh tasks. Flex packs enough wallop to be targetted for some loosely connected apps – i.e. as much offline operation as connected.

OpenLaszlo – is the new open version of Laszlos very promising Presentation Server. Like Flex it uses an XML markup language called LZX (its MXML in the case of Flex) to describe not just the GUI resources but also their layout, configuration, and behaviour. But unlike Flex, Laszlo uses JavaScript directly as its scripting language. Beacuse LZX is so intuitive and easy to use and Laszlo works with version 6 & 7 of the Flash Player (Flex requires 7) and because the basic LZX spec and engine are now open, Laszlo deserves a good look see.

So now we have covered two of the most promising rich client alternatives available to developers – DHTML using classic HTML Web pages or specialized, delivered JavaScript+XML+maybe Flash apps. Now we have yet to cover the other new Renaissance – Java Applets – They are Back!!!! I bet you just cant wait to hear about them. Meanwhile before Redmond starts the political hype that you absolutely, positively have to have 3D GUI elements, checkout some JavaScripting agents that can deliver some really rich and flexible and platform independent value now.