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18 Aug 2005

by Noel

A little OpenLaszlo lovin’

No doubt I’ll be playing with this technology more in the future, so I thought I’d introduce it now.

OpenLaszlo, released unto the world by Laszlo Systems, is an interesting combination of languages and ideas. It is an XML-based language for specifying the layout and behavior of rich internet applications. For example, I wrote a tabbed slideshow for photographs that you can find on my personal weblog, here….

 

No doubt I’ll be playing with this technology more in the future, so I thought I’d introduce it now.

OpenLaszlo, released unto the world by Laszlo Systems, is an interesting combination of languages and ideas. It is an XML-based language for specifying the layout and behavior of rich internet applications. For example, I wrote a tabbed slideshow for photographs that you can find on my personal weblog, here. I think it would be difficult to write in JavaScript and CSS. Consider:

  1. When you open a slide, audio begins playing.
  2. When you switch slides, the current audio stops, and new audio is started.
  3. I can layer objects (and remove them) over the photo content quickly and easily, when and where I want them.

I imagine this is all possible in JavaScript/DHTML, but… I don’t know how. And, I don’t feel I need to; the OpenLaszlo crew has provided a powerful platform for me to work from—a compiler, GUI toolkit, RPC mechanisms, and more. It seems to me that the whole JavaScript/CSS/AJAX thing is nothing more but a poor reinvention of the technology that OpenLaszlo provides. Granted, for full RPC-functionality, OpenLaszlo currently requires a servlet container, whereas AJAX-apps just need a browser with a JavaScript engine. However, you don’t get much support from the compiler or run-time for debugging AJAX applications, whereas OpenLaszlo apps have a compiler and run-time debugger. That’s worth installing a server to me. (It was a double-click operation on my Mac.)

If I forgo the OpenLaszlo server, I can statically compile my applications; although RPC is no longer available, I can still do HTTP POSTs, and that’s enough to do something RESTful. But, instead of a webpage, I can create a very rich, interactive GUI-based environment that can be delivered to any browser that is Flash-capable. I hear Macromedia has pretty good penetration, and generally things Just Work within that environment, regardless of whether you are on Windows or Mac, IE or Firefox, etc.

So, I think it’s a cool technology. I’ve been poking at the edges of it on-and-off for a few weeks now, and will follow up with some more about what I’ve been doing with it. My tutorial builder/photo slideshow demo just met a need I had; I think OpenLaszlo is capable of much, much more.

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