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Strategic insights
Is it time to upgrade your skills?

Written by on March 7, 2007

Having the right tools for a job is just as important having a great idea - especially on the web. We see something new all the time and in many cases it is made with technology we know nothing about.

Did you know about Ruby on Rails before 37Signals started using it? Do you know how Microsoft makes its stunning web application with WPF? What is Microsoft AJAX 1.0? What is Expression Blend? What is Symphony? What about the many things coming from Adobe these days - Apollo for one?

Creating or finding the right tool is at least 50% of making great products. If you do not continually update your knowledge and your skills, you will simply find yourself being out-of-date.

You couldn't go to the Moon in a Jumbo Jet

Let's take a look at what is out there. What you might want to take a closer look at. First we are going to take a look at Microsoft and Adobe - two companies that currently promotes development platforms for a much richer type of applications.

Microsoft

Microsoft is currently putting out an enormous amount of new technologies - most of which is based the rich media experience. We got:

Windows foundations

Microsoft has put out 4 new foundations for making better, stronger and much more impressive products. These are:

Microsoft AJAX 1.0

This is Microsoft approach to making AJAX - directly integrated with products like Visual Studio and Visual Web Developer. (Previously called Atlas)

XAML

XAML is a markup language for applications - just like HTML is for web pages. Instead of looking at strange code, you can simply design your application and how it should work in an XML format - making it much easier and faster to develop.

WPF/E

WPF/E is Microsoft's solution to creating rich media internet experiences - cross-browser. It uses most of the above elements.

.NET 3.0

Microsoft has released their latest version of .NET (3.0). It includes all the new components like WPF, WCF, WWF, and WCS and everything from .NET 2.0.

Expression Family

Expression is Microsoft new development tools. It makes it easy to make rich media applications using all the technologies mentioned above (and more). Expression Studio consists of 4 products:

  • Expression Web, to create standard based sites using XML, XHTML .NET and CSS and much more.
  • Expression Blend, to help you design that rich media experience - and may be a very powerful tool for creating interface elements (I have not tried it yet)
  • Expression Design, to design each graphical element, specifically targeted development environments.
  • Expression Media, to catalog and handle all your media assets - similar to Adobe Bridge.

Sidebar Gadgets

Windows Vista's new side bar seems like a small thing, but used right it can be a valuable tool in your product portfolio. For instance you can use it as a notification area, to handle quick actions etc. Just remember that it has to improve a person workflow - most gadgets distracts and waste people's time.

Adobe

Adobe is also moving into the more advanced internet application world. You can find the latest goodies from Adobe at Adobe Labs.

Flex 2

Flex is Adobe development platform for creating flash based applications (on or offline). It uses MXML (Adobe variant of XML - similar to XAML from Microsoft) and ActionScript (usually known from Flash).

We are seeing many absolutely stunning applications made with Flex.

Apollo

This is a cool system that allows you to make internet-enabled desktop applications using normal web technologies like HTML, JavaScript, AJAX, Flash and Flex. This is interesting to me as I have long been developing intranet applications this way.

XMP toolkit

A system that makes it easier to add meta data (like tags) to the original files. This is important element when discussion interoperability, backup and other environments where the files meta data is just as important as the file contents.

Spry

Spry makes it much easier to creates AJAX based interactions - works with JavaScript. This is a light-weight system compared to many other AJAX frameworks.

Ruby on Rails

Unless you have been hiding in a deep cave in a distant part of the planet you know that Ruby on Rails is increasingly being used by many great products. I must admit that I know very little about it. I have never worked with it mostly I spent far too much time figuring out what Microsoft and Adobe is working on.

But, it is an extremely powerful development framework for creating rich web applications. It is currently a very popular framework used in many so-called Web 2.0 applications.

Puppet

As an example, Puppet is a system made with Ruby on Rails that allows you to centrally manage all important aspect of your network. (Tip: JustAddWater.dk & Juri Rischel Jensen)

Other

OpenLaszlo

OpenLaszlo allows you to create rich media internet application using Flash and DHTML within single environment

Symfony

A framework made for PHP that makes it easier to do AJAX, cache management, template handling etc. Yahoo! Bookmarks is made with Symfony.

Google Web Toolkit

It is an AJAX framework for Google that enables you to make rich web applications for things like Gmail and Google Maps.

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I would really like to know if you know other technologies, specifically development platforms, frameworks etc. Please post them in the comments with a short description (no spam). It is never too late to learn or discover something new.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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