Microsoft Releases Beta of Atlas AJAX Tool

Microsoft offers three download options for ASP.Net AJAX, which features enhanced Safari and debugging support.

Microsoft released Oct. 20 the first beta of its AJAX tool, ASP.Net AJAX, formerly known as Atlas, making it available under three download options.

The first option is the ASP.Net AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) v1.0 "Core" download, which contains the features that will be supported by Microsoft Product Support and includes support for the core AJAX type system, networking stack, component model, extender base classes and the server-side functionality to integrate within ASP.Net, said Scott Guthrie, a general manager in the Microsoft Developer Division, in a blog post on Oct. 20.

The second option is the ASP.Net AJAX "Value-Add" download, which contains additional higher-level features that were in previous CTPs (Community Technology Previews) of Atlas, but which wont be in the fully supported 1.0 Core version, he said.

The third option is the ASP.Net AJAX Control Toolkit, which contains 28 free, AJAX-enabled controls that are built on top of the ASP.Net AJAX 1.0 Core download. This effort is a collaborative shared-source project built by a combination of Microsoft and non-Microsoft developers. It is available via download on Microsofts CodePlex community source site.

The new Atlas beta also features enhanced support for the Safari browser.

"Previous ASP.Net AJAX CTPs didnt have great support for Safari," Guthrie said in his blog. "With this Beta, we have added Safari as a fully tested and supported browser. We are currently working on adding Opera support as well."

In addition, the new beta features enhanced debugging support.

"By moving our JavaScript class definitions from being closure-based to prototype-based, you can now use the existing Visual Studio 2005 script debugger," Guthrie said. Moreover, "We invested a lot of time putting together an automated JavaScript build environment that enables us to produce two versions of all of our JavaScript files: a retail version that is optimized for performance and download size, and a fully instrumented debug version that is optimized for helping you catch issues with your code during development," Guthrie said in his blog entry.

Meanwhile, Microsoft updated the Atlas UpdatePanel to incorporate customer feedback, and the company has cleaned up, simplified and enhanced a lot of the client-side JavaScript library APIs.

In addition, Microsoft has added better compatibility with other AJAX libraries and has issued a source modification license.

"One common request we have received is the ability for developers to make source modifications to the core Microsoft AJAX JavaScript library," Guthrie said. Yet, "We are going to provide a license to explicitly allow custom modification of the libraries, and the ScriptManager API that ships with this Beta now allows you to provide alternative implementations/tweaks of the built-in JavaScript libraries."

Moreover, Guthrie said Microsofts plan is "to release a beta refresh in a few weeks that incorporates customer feedback, then ship an RC release after that, and then ship it as a fully supported 1.0 release once people feel it is ready." However, he said, the APIs "are pretty close to being final."

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts road map for "Atlas."

Jeff Prosise, co-founder of Wintellect, a Microsoft partner based in Knoxville, Tenn., said what really sets ASP.Net AJAX apart from other AJAX implementations is the client-side framework, which now goes by the name "Microsoft AJAX Library."

Indeed, "Rather than just throw at us a bunch of controls with AJAX capabilities built in, Microsoft thought big and developed a comprehensive JavaScript framework," Prosise said.

"To be sure, they gave us AJAX server controls, but the server controls are really just abstractions that simplify the task of leveraging the client-side framework," Prosise said. "That framework is extensible, so developers can build cool stuff on top of it in much the same way that developers build on top of the .Net Framework today. The client-side framework also makes JavaScript an easier and more productive environment in which to work."

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