AppJet, or "You killed Anne L. Retentive with a typo?"

20 Nov 2008

Tori and Ellie both warned me off it, which pretty much ensured that I would end up read Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I’ve not found it nearly as heavy going as predicted, but I did notice a couple of, well, idiosyncrasies that grate after a while. And I don’t like grating. Fortunately, at the pub on Sunday, we came up with a solution.

Even more fortuitously, an interesting way to implement said solution drifted across my radar a few days later. AppJet are a start-up that produce a really rather good web application platform. They’ve recently come to wider attention with their real-time collaborative editor EtherPad, but I thought I’d start with something more modest. So, without further ado:

The Comma Appeal

Read on for my thoughts on the AppJet platform itself. In short, it seems brilliant. I’ve only had limited experience with it so far, but even after a brief exposure it’s clear they’ve got a lot right. First off, it’s an online application, but you can start using it instantly - no sign-up, no e-mail back-and-forth, just click on the “create an app” link and start coding.

The coding itself is in JavaScript, a language that after a long time in the wilderness is now back in favour. This gives the whole thing the same sort of feel as client-side JavaScript, but augmented with a bunch of libraries to allow access to server-side features. So far, so familiar - there are a number of frameworks, platforms and doohickeys that provide similar facilities. Where AppJet shines, though, is the web-based IDE. The basic setup splits the window in half; the left hand side contains your JavaScript (and HTML and CSS) code, and the right hand side is a preview of the app in development. Whenever you want to see the fruits of your labour, hit the reload button and the preview is updated to reflect your changes.

This isn’t, on the face of it, and earth-shattering idea, but it leads to an incredibly fluid development process. Combine this with the easy creation and distribution tools, and the claims that it’s “the easiest way to program, host, and share your own web app” start to look fairly close to the truth. Even better, the back end is available for download, so you can run it on your own server and avoid putting your application and data at the mercy of the cloud if you want.

So, a very positive first look overall. However, it is only a first look, so maybe the early promise won’t pan out when you try and use it to build something more substantial. That certainly seems to have happened with EtherPad - apparently, they had to make substantial upgrades to the platform in order to get it working as well as they wanted (these changes are due to be released soon). Either way, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the platform to see what happens.

Oh, and Anne L. Retentive? Well…

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