Interview: Paul Colton, founder of Aptana

Here’s a PlaybackTime interview (:30-ish) with Paul Colton, the founder of Aptana.


Listen to learn about:

* Paul’s pionneering pre-Apatana history
* His work with Xamalon, and how Ajax trumps Flash as a runtime philosophy
* What Aptana shares and doesn’t share with Eclipse
* An emerging JavaScript standard called ScriptDoc, and how it helps Aptana support so many Ajax/JavaScript frameworks
* The future of PHP support in Aptana
* Apatana-the-company’s business model (a.k.a. “We love the free, but we also want you to eat”)

Enjoy! A future entry will describe the tools and process used to produce the interview.

* [Aptana][Aptana]
* [Aptana TV][Aptana TV]
* [Direct link to interview (MP3 file)][Interview]
[Aptana TV]:

Posted in Web

Aptana: The first Web 2.0 development environment

Even though I hadn’t really used it in a while, I’ve faithfully upgraded Dreamweaver with each new release. A few weeks ago I dusted it off, thinking that it’d be the perfect tool to start a new project I’m toying with.

Ooof. Dreamweaver has made progress over the years, but not enough. It’s slow, has a flaky UI that feels foreign on Windows and Mac OS, and (sparing you the details since they’re beside the point of this post) provides only weak support for the standards and technologies that modern, dynamic web sites depend on.

Enter Aptana. Aptana is an exciting new multi-platform web IDE, and it’s the first tool I’ve seen that could be the Firefox of web development. Why?

* Multi-platform support. Aptana supports Windows, Macintosh and Linux, plus is available as an Eclipse plug-in for good measure. It can do this because it’s written in Java, but I should note for all the J-haters that Aptana feels at least as fast and native as Dreamweaver.

* Markup support. Aptana not only “knows” XHTML, HTML and CSS, but it knows your target browsers better than you do. This means that it not only points out errors and warnings for your markup in realtime, but also provides live feedback on which browsers support that markup.

* JavaScript support. Core Language and DOM documentation is integrated directly into Aptana — no more scouring through reference books or websites to find the parameters. Code assist allows you to choose from available methods and properties as you type.

* Ajax framework support. One of the more exciting aspects of Aptana is its built-in support for popular Ajax and JavaScript frameworks, including [Dojo Toolkit][Dojo], [Yahoo! UI Library (YUI)][YUI], [Prototype][Prototype], [Scriptaculous][Scriptaculous], [MochiKit][MochiKit], [jQuery][jQuery], [AFLAX][AFLAX], and [Rico][Rico].

  • Document outline. An always-available document outline view shows CSS, XHTML and JavaScript, all in the same outline.

    * Realtime online help. Aptana features an online help system that pulls content directly from wiki-based community documentation, so it’s always live and up-to-date.

    * Extensibility. JavaScript “actions” do for Aptana what AppleScript does for enlightened Mac OS applications. You can use a library of built-in actions, create your own, and contribute generally-useful actions to the community.

    * FLOSS (because it’s good for you). Aptana is free/libre/open source software. I predict that a lot of smart people will be attracted to this important project.

    Aptana was founded in 2005 by Paul Colton, who also started Live Software. (Adobe now owns Live’s [JRun][JRun] product through its acquisition of Macromedia through its acquisition of Allaire through its acquisition of Live Software…whew!)

    * [PlaybackTime interview: Paul Colton, founder of Aptana][Paul Colton interview]
    * [Aptana][Aptana]
    * [Aptana TV][Aptana TV]

    [Aptana TV]:
    [Paul Colton interview]:

  • Posted in Web

    Overview of popular open-source Ajax toolkits

    InfoWorld’s Peter Wayner wrote an good overview of the most popular open-source toolkits, including a helpful screencast about each. Specifically, he covers:

    * [Dojo][Dojo] _([screencast][Dojo screencast])_
    * [Google Web Toolkit (GWT)][GWT] _([screencast][GWT screencast])_
    * [Microsoft Atlas][Atlas] _([screencast][YUI screencast])_
    * [Rico][Rico] _([screencast][Rico screencast])_
    * [Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI)][YUI] _([screencast][YUI screencast])_
    * [Zimbra Kabuki Ajax Toolkit][Kabuki] _([screencast][Kabuki screencast])_

    Which to use? Well, GWT is dependent on Java, which makes it a **non-starter** for everyone I know. Atlas (not surprisingly?) **doesn’t play well with others** — there are Firefox or Safari compability issues, and although the _client_ part is technology-agnostic, the _server_ part is ASP.NET. Rico is neat, but less complete. Kabuki looks interesting, but it’s also missing interesting features.

    That leaves us with **[Dojo][Dojo]** and **[YUI][YUI]**. You can’t go wrong with either, and any time you spend learning them now will pay off for years to come. I believe these two toolkits will evolve into the dominant frameworks for standards-based client development.

    I personally use and recommend YUI because of its feature set, it’s excellent documentation (including Web 2.0 UI patterns), and the excellent support you can get directly from its developers on via the [Yahoo! JavaScript Developer Group][YUI list] mailing list.

    * [InfoWorld: Surveying open-source AJAX toolkits][InfoWorld]

    [Dojo screencast]:
    [GWT screencast]:
    [Atlas screencast]:
    [Rico screencast]:
    [YUI screencast]:
    [YUI list]:
    [Kabuki screencast]:

    Posted in Web

    Sorenson Squeeze 4.3 update now available

    Sorenson Squeeze is a very nice, multi-format encoding tool. This almost-entirely-Flash-focused update…

    * Adds alpha channel support for the On2 VP6 codec
    * Adds On2 VP6 Pro plug-in support for Macintosh
    * Allows you to create embedded cue points for Flash
    * Improves Flash Player skin templates for SWF and FLV
    * Lets you create linked or embedded FLV for SWF files
    * Lets you to enter global metadata on source files for Flash output
    * Includes a Sorenson FLV player

    Additionally — and this is useful for any output format — it provides pixel aspect ratio control for your soure.

    Sadly, two-pass VBR Flash encoding is still a $199 option…crazy! Also, the application “skin” still resembles a late-90s shareware MP3 player.

    The 4.3 update is free to users of any edition of Sorenson Squeeze, 4.0 or later.

    * [Sorenson Media][Sorenson Media]

    [Sorenson Media]: “Get the Squeeze 4.3 update”

    Essential Firefox extensions

    These are the [Firefox][Firefox] extensions I can’t do without:

    #### Everybody needs… ####

    * **[CustomizeGoogle][CustomizeGoogle]** lets you turn on Google Suggest by default, adds lots of other links to many types of search results, and more.
    * **[DownThemAll!][DownThemAll!]** is a fast replacement for Firefox’s built-in downloader, and lets you quickly download multiple links and images from a page.
    * **[Forecastfox][Forecastfox]** gives you at-a-glance weather.
    * **[Google Toolbar][Google Toolbar]** for Firefox lets you check and fix your spelling right within a web page, lets you easily fill in web forms with your personal information, and more.
    * **[SessionSaver][SessionSaver]** remembers what you’re browsing across sessions. It makes crashes tolerable, and you can finally disable that Are you sure you want to close 56 open tabs? message.
    * **[Tab X][Tab X]** fixes an egregious UI problem by putting a close box on each tab.

    #### Web developers need… ####

    * **[IE Tab][IE Tab]** lets you test your pages with IE’s rendering engine without leaving Firefox
    * **[Web Developer][Web Developer]** is a deep extension that provides a plethora of tools for manipulating

    #### But where’s…? ####

    * **[Greasemonkey][Greasemonkey]** is interesting, but the whole experience is odd and difficult. I’ll rethink this when Greasemonkey scripts can be installed and updated like Firefox extensions.
    * **[Performancing][Performancing]** is a blog editor for Firefox. Its UI resembles a Java app (not good), and it’s missing crucial features like “save as draft”. This looks like it could be promising in the future.

    [CustomizeGoogle]: “Get the CustomizeGoogle extension”
    [DownThemAll!]: “Get the Greasemonkey extension”
    [Firefox]: “Get Firefox”
    [Forecastfox]: “Get the Forecastfox extension”
    [Google Toolbar]: “Get the Google Toolbar extension”
    [Greasemonkey]: “Get Greasemonkey extension”
    [IE Tab]: “Get the IE Tab extension”
    [Performancing]: “Get Performancing extension”
    [SessionSaver]: “Get the SessionSaver extension”
    [Tab X]: “Get the Tab X extension”
    [Web Developer]: “Get the Web Developer extension”

    Posted in Web

    Google buys Blogger…and?

    Google recently announced that they’d bought the company behind Blogger, which provides tools that let people build personal weblog-type sites.

    The blogging community went collectively insane, and several near-histrionic posts followed. Most predicted that the purchase of Blogger by Google would spur a renaissance in personal expression or similar Utopian visions. I’m pointing to none of them here, since many of them are from people I respect and who should know better. (You can Google for them, of course.)

    Google’s purchase of Blogger was simply the easiest way to buy a million people who’ve demonstrated an interest in publishing personal sites, some of who might even pay for the priviledge.

    It’s happened before, only GeoCities had nearly 5 million users when Yahoo bought them. Google’s purchase means that Blogger has a future, but anyone expecting a revolution in personal expression simply because Blogger-based sites will be reliable are setting themselves up for disappointment.

    Posted in Web

    A decade of Mosaic

    Wired News had a brief chat with Marc Andreessen — for you youngsters, the Shawn Fanning of his time — about his thoughts on the tin anniversary of Mosaic.

    He seems a tad out-of-touch, though. Demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the strategic purpose of Apple’s Safari, he says:

    I think it’s so funny that Apple comes out with a new browser in 2003. Where were you guys six years ago? I wish them the best, but it’s not as if you’re about to see Safari go from 0 percent market share to 47 percent.

    For Apple, it hasn’t been funny at all that they were dependent on Microsoft for a critical application (i.e. the browser), and had n oanswer for a critical pieces of the operating system (i.e. a web rendering engine that any application can use). Besides — considering that it’s Mac-only, a marketshare of 47 percent is completely reasonable.

    Any new technology tends to go through a 25-year adoption cycle. I look at what happened from 1975 to 1985, the first 10 years of the PC adoption cycle. There was huge over-investment in the early 1980s. In the late 80s there was a huge crash, and the real build-out was from 1990 to 2000. With the Internet, we’re really 10 years into what will ultimately look like a 25-year cycle from invention to full implementation.

    Well, that’s an interesting and useful perspective. Let’s forgive him for his uninformed point of view on Safari, okay? [via Studio Log]

    Posted in Web

    XML turns 5

    XML was born (i.e. first published as a W3C Recommendation) five years and a day ago. Two participants in that process have written a nice toast to one of the most important meta-standards of the web, or anywhere for that matter.

    Opera's fat lady sings on Macintosh

    Recently I discussed the imminent end to the browser wars, and predicted that iCab, OmniWeb and Opera will no longer be relevant even for web developers by the end of the year.

    Now, Opera Software has all but announced that they can no longer compete on the Mac platform. They’ve effectively asked Apple to subsidize their business, and if Apple declines, Opera for Macintosh will likely be no more. Says Opera Software’s CEO Jon von Tetzchner:

    I’m not a quitter, and our company isn’t a quitter, but it really is up to Apple. The Mac platform may not be viable for us any longer. We have contacted Apple and asked them if they want a third-party browser, and we’ll see what the answer is. They could say we want to use Opera as the core engine. If they want KHTML as a simple little browser, and also something more advanced, we would be happy to provide it. Obviously, if we don’t get any positive signs from Apple, then we have to think about it.

    Apple’s response was predictable and (IMHO) reasonable.

    We think Safari is one of the best and most innovative browsers in the world, and it seems our customers do too. No one is making Mac users choose Safari over Opera — they’re doing it of their own free will — and Opera’s trashing of Safari sounds like sour grapes to us.

    Even if they no longer spend resources on Macintosh, Opera Software will find it more and more difficult to maintain a business on something that’s rapidly becoming a commodity. As analyst Ross Rubin put it, “Opera is between the rock of Microsoft and the hard space of open source.”

    Posted in Web

    Undesign (a.k.a. the trend toward minimalism in web site design)

    Liz Bailey writes about “undesign” in the new issue of Graphics International:

    The new, uniquely online aesthetic — termed ‘undesign’ by some after Tibor Kalman — isn’t so much about utilitarian minimalism as usability, reductionism and subtlety.

    Although this article isn’t great — just referencing the quote above, undesign obviously isn’t new (see Google) or uniquely online (see Charles and Ray Eames) — it is clear that we’re starting to see a backlash against the “more is more” philosophy that has generally pervaded web site design until just recently.

    I’d glad that PlaybackTime is one of the better examples of undesign compared to others cited in the article. Although this was intentional (my tolerance for bloated sites is lower than ever), it’s worked out wonderfully given that (1) I initially used the site as an excuse to learn XHTML and CSS (which required coming at site design with a “new mind”), and (2) time constraints which require that most of the time I put into the site goes toward function rather than form.

    Hopefully “light sites” are not just “this year’s aesthetic”, but rather a long-term trend in the evolution of this still-infant medium.

    Posted in Web