Early users of Microsoft's Atlas AJAX development tool kick the tires and deliver production-quality output with a preview version of the upcoming product.
Microsoft is highlighting its upcoming tool for AJAX-style development, code-named Atlas, at its Mix conference in Las Vegas this week with the announcement of a new Community Technology Preview and Go-Live license for the technology. Some early Atlas users, meanwhile, have already shared their experiences with the tool with eWEEK.
Arthur Wait, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based independent Web design and application development consultant, said he has started to use Atlas on a Web site he developed for The Planning Shop, a book publisher in Palo Alto, Calif.
The site was originally developed for internal use to allow authors and the publishing company to both track the performance of their own books on Amazon.com and research the historical performance of competitive books and categories of books from other publishers, Wait said.
"We do this by downloading the Amazon Sales Rank for several hundred thousand books every night and store them in our database," he said. This site is now available to the public at www.TitleZ.com
"A big part of our goal in releasing TitleZ publicly has been to make the site as usable as possible," Wait said. "There are other sales number tools out there for publishers [most notably, Nielsens BookScan], but in addition to being extremely expensive for smaller publishers, they are very difficult to use. To be useful and competitive, we felt we needed to provide an offering that would be easy and obvious, even for non-numbers-oriented people."
Click here to read more about Microsofts announcement of its March CTP release of Atlas.
So, Wait said, he started integrating Atlas into the site recently, entirely for the purpose of enhancing usability. "Just about every call made to our server from TitleZ requires a trip to both our database and a trip out to Amazons Web service," he said. "Because this can be a relatively time-consuming process, weve done everything we can to make this feel as fast as possible.
"So we gather data incrementallywhen a user runs a search, we return only high-level information about each book. Then, when they want further details on a particular title, we run a more elaborate search, build a chart, etc.
"Moreover, searches conducted on the TitleZ search page are now handled via Atlas without a page refresh," Wait said. And button clicks for "bookmarking" a title for later retrieval are also handled via Atlas, he said. "The result is a much snappier feel to the site, even though the back-end technology hasnt gotten any faster," Wait added.
Omar Al Zabir, a developer for Pageflakes.com, said he "started with the first preview of Atlas, which was quite enough for our personalized desktopwww.Pageflakes.com
Pageflakes is developed and operated by Friendix, of Ludwigsburg, Germany.
Al Zabir said Atlas greatest strength is its integration with Microsofts Visual Studio and ASP.Net 2.0. "Its really surprising how easily a really complex site can be developed using Atlas and ASP.Net 2.0 together," he said.
Wait agreed with Al Zabir about Atlas capabilities on the integration front.
"While there are lots of libraries out there that are making it easier to develop AJAX-oriented sites, Atlas is the first one Ive come across that integrates really well into existing sitesweve been able to start adding AJAX functionality to TitleZ without rewriting much of anything," Wait said. "This is extremely powerful. It also means that for new sites, I wont necessarily have to make a lot of AJAX-oriented design decisions up front. I know that Ill have flexibility with how I create my interfaces."
Atlas "spans a range of capabilities."