3 min read

Atlas Turns building Web Apps into a Drag and Drop Experience

Recently announced at FOWA Miami - 280North has just announced the release of Atlas - an application that can potentiall change the way that web applications are designed and built in the world today.  Its rare that I see new applications that actually make my jaw go slack - but this?  this was definitely awesome.

Built as an addition to their Cappuccino SDK (an Open source Cocoa and Objective-J SDK) - the easiest way for me to describe Atlas is it is the iPhone UI kit brought to the web.  All of the same concepts are there - you drag widgets onto the screen, set their properties in an easy to understand inspector window, connect them to one another, and viola!  The app is running.  What is the most surprising actually is that no one thought of this earlier and it took the iPhone SDK to make it apparent that there is no good reason not to have something like this for the web!

he absolute power of this app is displayed in the video below - where you can watch the guys over at 280North build a web based RSS reader pretty much right in front of your eyes, without a single line of code, all in about 3 minutes.  The first thing I was reminded of when I saw the video was Ruby on Rails infamous"Creating a Web Blog in 15 minutes" video cast.  In fact the whole thing felt very Ruby on Rails for UI.  While I have nothing against Cocoa, its truly a shame that a tool like this is linked purely towards Cocoa - and it will probably be its biggest downfall as well as Cocoa has yet to receive massive adoption as a web development language (were talking the level of PHP or C#).  I would have loved to try to use this tool on top of Ruby on Rails - I feel that would have provided me one of the nimblest application development environments to date.

One of the things that 280North emphasize is that their not working on a tool to create web sites - they are focused on creating web apps i.e. bringing the power of the desktop application to the cloud.  On their website 280North state:

Web applications today are too limited. They're hard to use and don't play well together. They're also incredibly difficult to build. We want to change that.
I truly believe that it is people like this who are at the cutting edge of building the tools of tomorrow are so much more important then those at the cutting edge of technology today - simply because once these tools get into the hands of millions - that is whats going to change the face of the internet.

Is this the tool that will do it though?  It only remains to be seen - I do expect that if they can get it out there and market it right - it definitely will become something that will truly add a power to the web application environment that hasn't yet been seen in this sphere.  Whats even more exciting is this new level of UI development / design is just getting started.  I cant wait to see what comes next.

Like I mentioned earlier in this article I truly feel that only supporting mac based development languages will definitely be its downfall (though I can see massive adoption in the mac community already) - I expect a new player to come out sometime in the future with an implementation of the same concept generalized across languages (though I personally have no idea of the complexities involved in that).

If I had a pet peeve here - it would be the difficulty in finding a software titled Atlas in any of today's search engines :P

Atlas isn't released yet, but will be available this summer. For more information visit 280atlas.com

PS.  Shout-out to Tom Gara at Beep Beep for shooting this to me to check out...

UPDATE:  For a more detailed drill down into Atlas's feature set then whats been covered here - check out the article Atlas:  Under the Hood by Francisco Tolmasky on FOWA's website.