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Creative web development

Free, an interview with Adobe's Donald Booth of the Spry development team

DMXzone.com held a special interview with Donald Booth, core member of the Adobe Spry team - developing a new fantastic AJAX technology that will propably be integrated in future Dreamweaver editions and other Adobe products. 

Spry is an AJAX based framework that has been developed specifically for web designers. Read on for an extract of the interview, you can read the complete interview in the July 2006 e-Magazine.

Overview

About Donald Booth

DMXzone: Who is Donald Booth? What do you like to eat, drink and do?

D.Booth: "I am a regular guy. When I am not plugged into my laptop, I like to make analog things with my hands. I have done woodworking, building guitars and cameras among other things. I have done photography all my life, especially when travelling. Some of the photos on my site may look familiar to some of the early Spry users."

DMXzone: Can you tell us how you became the Adobe guru that you are these days? Can you tell us more about your job history?

D.Booth: "I joined Adobe through the company’s acquisition of Macromedia, Inc. in December 2005. At Macromedia for 6 ½ years, I started in Technical Support supporting Authorware, Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Contribute over the years. I had the opportunity to travel to many of our world-wide offices, training the staff on the latest releases. I wrote many Technotes for the website and co-authored a book on Dreamweaver and have contributed to others, either as a writer or Tech Editor. I joined the Dreamweaver development team in 2004. I currently work on the Quality Engineering team. My research into AJAX frameworks led me to the spot as a core member of the Spry development team."

About Adobe and Web 2.0

DMXzone: Where is Adobe heading in the web 2.0 rush?

D.Booth: "Adobe is embracing Web 2.0 through a combination of technologies - Spry, Flash, Flex, the Flex-Ajax Bridge. All of these technologies exist to help deliver better experiences than a simple HTML-based browser experience.

Specifically, Spry is an example of one of the few available AJAX technologies created specifically for web designers. Flash and Flex can be used with or without AJAX to deliver a wide range of applications that include even more engaging capabilities than just pure AJAX. Flex and Flash Player 9 can also deliver much higher performance, data rich applications, rich communication and collaborative applications, and larger scale applications than with AJAX alone. Flex and Flash also bring rich audio and video, local storage, cross domain access capabilities and much more.

The Flex-Ajax Bridge is a free, open source technology that helps developers blend Flex and AJAX together. With Flex Data Services, applications can now take advantage of data synchronization, real time push, and offline capabilities."

About Spry

DMXzone: For the people who don’t know yet, what is Spry?

D.Booth: "The Spry framework for AJAX is a JavaScript library for web designers. It provides functionality that allows designers to build pages that provide a richer experience for their users. It is designed to bring AJAX to the web design community who can benefit from AJAX, but are not well served other frameworks."

"The first release of the Spry framework is a preview of the data capabilities that enable designers to incorporate XML data into their HTML documents using HTML, CSS, and a minimal amount of JavaScript, without the need for refreshing the entire page. The Spry framework is HTML-centric, and easy to implement for users with basic knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The framework was designed such that the mark-up is simple and the JavaScript is minimal."

"In the second iteration, recently released on Adobe Labs http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/spry/, we have expanded the data capabilities with new attributes for JavaScript degradability and enhancements to basic operations like non-destructive filtering and advanced sorting."

DMXzone.com: What is so special about Spry in comparison to other Frameworks (such as the Google and Yahoo AJAX toolkits)?

D.Booth: "What really differentiates Spry is its focus and appeal to the web design community. In talking with web designers, we realized that while many were interested in creating rich interfaces, they weren’t sure how to get started with AJAX. As I looked at the other AJAX frameworks, I realized that many of them were more oriented to the skills of a programmer and were focused on application development. Based on the needs of the design community, we wanted to put forth an approach that is very “HTMLcentric” to help them add basic interactivity to their page designs."

"We have some basic principles that we follow in the Spry gestalt.

  • Use HTML, CSS and JavaScript appropriately;
  • Don’t inject mark-up unnecessarily. Some frameworks inject classes and mark-up programmatically. This makes it very difficult to figure out where these runtime rules were coming from. We keep the CSS in the style sheet, where it belongs;
  • Let the framework do the lifting. We think we came up with a clear, succinct way to pass the instructions to the framework, keeping custom mark-up to a minimum without skimping on functionality."

DMXzone: What is the role of Spry in future versions of Dreamweaver and what will be the focus of future Dreamweaver versions in general?

D.Booth: "AJAX is an obvious target for new features in Dreamweaver. We intend to integrate Spry authoring support in future versions of our tools to further improve the experience for web designers and developers. As for specifics, those are still being defined."

DMXzone: The first offering of Spry on Adobe Labs is focused around data and interactivity, what’s next?

D.Booth: "The second release extends the data functionality. I have mentioned a couple features above (available in the complete interview).

  • Spry: content for JavaScript degradation
  • Non-destructive filtering
  • Multiple column sorts.
  • Data caching options and automatic data refresh
  • POST support for sending requests
  • State notification. We can now kick off functions when the data is loading or when the data is finished loading.

We are also providing sample files and will have a place on the Labs site where we can post more samples as we develop them."

DMXzone: Will the focus of Spry lie in cooperation with other frameworks or a unique stand alone product?

D.Booth: "We haven’t ruled out extending an existing framework somewhere down the road. We just think the best way to quickly evolve our unique approach is to iterate on it separately first. As things progress, we will have to evaluate if it makes sense to donate Spry to an existing framework or continue releasing it as a separate project.

We have to sometimes remind ourselves that Spry is new to the world and it’s a work in progress. We welcome feedback on integration ideas. As I said early, unique or not, we have to play well with others."

We'd like to thank Donald Booth and Kim van Bokhoven from Adobe who made this interview possible.

Read the complete interview in the July 2006 e-Magazine read more

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