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In-Depth ajaxWrite Review 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the web-words dept.
mikemuch writes "ajaxWrite is the first offspring of ajax13, Michael Robertson's (of Lindows and SIPphone fame) latest startup that aims to deliver a brave new line of web-delivered, AJAX-based apps. ExtremeTech today has an in-depth review of just how apt a replacement ajaxWrite is for the big installed word processors. It's a neat idea, but let's just say the web-based word processor has some catching up to do."
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In-Depth ajaxWrite Review

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  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Iron (III) Chloride (922186) on Friday April 07, 2006 @10:43PM (#15089315)
    I find these new AJAX applications to be very interesting. While I don't think they can overcome the market share of MS Office in the near future, they're very portable on that library computer without a word processor installed.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

      by mikemuch (870535) * on Friday April 07, 2006 @10:48PM (#15089336) Homepage
      In truth, though, there are better lightweight solutions, like Zoho writer: http://www.zohowriter.com/ [zohowriter.com] and ThinkFree Office: http://www.thinkfree.com/ [thinkfree.com]
    • I find these new AJAX applications to be very interesting. While I don't think they can overcome the market share of MS Office in the near future, they're very portable on that library computer without a word processor installed.

      About ten years ago: "I find these new Java applications, or `applets', to be very interesting."

      Didn't we already go down this road and decide that it sucked?

    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

      by LO0G (606364) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:37AM (#15089578)
      Except, of course this isn't an AJAX application. It's an XUL application, which has nothing to do with ajax.

      Sort-of like the relationship between "javascript" and "java", only more tenuous (at least both of those were programming languages).
       
    • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smallfries (601545)
      You've hit the nail on the head when you say application*s*. Given that this article is a dupe, and we all bashed ajaxWrite last time it was up, I'm suprised that nobodies mentioned the other apps. This guys plan was to realise a new app every week. So far he's got a sketch program, and a something for videoediting. The sketch program (like the ajaxWrite) is exactly the kind of simple programing assignment that you would get somebody to do to learn a new language. Its not drowning in features, although of c
  • by WedgeTalon (823522) on Friday April 07, 2006 @10:48PM (#15089335)
    I said this back when /. ran the first story about ajaxWrite, and I'll say it now - ajaxWrite isn't near OO.o's or Abiword's league; its competition is Wordpad... and Wordpad is winning. This article is just reaffirming what was so plain to see when looking at the app for 5 minutes.
    • True, but Abiword is a 5MB download that some internet cafe you go to in a pinch might not let you install.
    • The thing is, Wordpad might be good enough for a lot of people. It isn't just about being able to do away with a piece of software on your desktop: what makes this interesting is the potential for several people to collaborate on a single document. As an interface for a word processor it isn't much, but as an interface for a comments forum (like this one) or a wiki, it's pretty slick. I don't know ajaxWrite has much potential as a business model, but as a proof-of-concept for future web interfaces, it's
    • its competition is Wordpad... and Wordpad is winning. This article is just reaffirming what was so plain to see when looking at the app for 5 minutes.

      I went to the site and played with it for 5 minutes. Nothing special. But what realy is a word procesor anyways. We confuse page layout with word processing. You want tables, graphs, pictures, mail merge, fine, but is theally a WP? For the features presented, I found them rather impressive. Okay, I use vim for most my coding. I have been using Pages
      • OMG, I need a spell checker. Holy crap.
      • A word processor provides simplified text processing and page layout capabilities. This makes it bad for both tasks for real use, and popular amongst people who need to do such things occasionally, or as part of other work but don't have the time to learn to do things right.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          A word processor provides simplified text processing and page layout capabilities. This makes it bad for both tasks for real use, and popular amongst people who need to do such things occasionally, or as part of other work but don't have the time to learn to do things right.

          Precisely. Just as cars are extremely useful, even though they aren't as tough as tanks and can't carry as many people as a bus.

          Word processors are designed primarily for correspondence and business use. They don't do complex page layo
    • Did you expect it to have the same functionality right away?

      I think that is invalid argumentation. You dislike AJAX apps, for some reason (why not state it), and then you use this argument. It seems kinda silly.

      Even richest-off-all Microsoft, with their follow-don't-lead attitude, do it in versions. We all know how they do it since Word 1.0, Windows 3.0, Internet Explorer 3.0 (breaking-point versions) and need I go on? Would you like to judge the inherent potential of their next phased product line base

      • Considering the claim to be a MS Word killer, yes, I do expect this functionality right away. How about I claim to have built a Linux that is a sure-fire Windows killer because it natively runs any application from any os... except all it can do right now is boot to a console. The other features are coming later.
  • Please Just Stop (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aldheorte (162967) on Friday April 07, 2006 @10:57PM (#15089356)
    Let's just say that writing client-side applications in JavaScript is a really bad idea. Why would anyone choose to write their application this way? It's an attempt to take something that was originally intended for linking together scientific documents, force fitting a layout language on top of it, which is still really beholden to the underlying document structure, then overlaying that with a scripting language, which is to say, various scripting language interpreters (one for every browser) to try and change the layout and the document on the fly.

    That's what AJAX is - scientific papers posing as layouts posing as interactive applications. It's bad software practice, a misuse of technology, and an excuse for people to attempt to use limited skills to try to hack a simulated client side application, but one that is fundamentally asynchronous, difficult to debug, never provably functional (what browser are you using?) and just plain, well, bad.

    Alright, enough ranting. Mod me down if you want, but when AJAX and "Web 2.0" crashes and burns, you heard it here, well, not first because I'm not the only one to say it, but, well, you heard it, okay? You are, of course, free to do whatever you wish with your time, but please just stop architecting applications like this. I want real applications, not browser-junior app... let... things.
    • when AJAX and "Web 2.0" crashes and burns, you heard it here, well, not first because I'm not the only one to say it, but, well, you heard it, okay?

      Its funny because this was the idea with java all along and it crashed and burned 10 years ago. Of course Java was killed by Microsoft introducing a non-standard implementation on IE. Maybe the will do it again with javascript. OTH maybe Firefox will undercut microsoft and introduce a standard client. Perhaps it is time for people to consider (mostly) firefox s

      • Of course Java was killed by Microsoft introducing a non-standard implementation on IE.

        Oh, please. You could write a standard Java app for IE if you wanted to. The problem was that Java-in-the-browser SUCKED. It was slow, it was an UNBELIEVABLE memory hog, and the widgets looked absolutely amateurish and awful. In fact, computers are faster, but the widgets STILL look awful (and it's still arguably a memory pig, though the proportion is smaller since we have more memory to throw around).

        The other proble

    • I think this is just how evolution works -- for example, humans weren't really designed for upright walking, but here we are, and there isn't much point in complaining about it.

      I do agree, though, that it's a bit silly to have all these fancy multi-gigahertz dual-core processors, with gigs of RAM and even more gigs of HD space, and all they do is fire up web browsers. (Also silly is hearing these Web 2.0 people go bonkers when they finally manage to -- almost! as long as you're using Browser X or Y! and you
    • Javascript is a terrible language to develop this type of stuff with. Would anyone conside using the Yahoo Widget Engine to create a text editing application (oh no, now someone's going to beat me to the VC's for WidgetWord funding)?
      AJAX is a hack of a hack... but in this world without standards, innovation must find a way. If anything, the current infatuation with client side scripting should be a great signals to our standards bodies to get off their duffs and work to approve new protocols in a timely fas
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Mozilla and Firefox are both written with massive amounts of javascript/xul
        if its good enough for them.....

      • While I will not say that javascript is perfect, it is much better than your snide comment makes it seem.

        It has functions that are nothing more than a mutable datatype. The dot syntax is just a shorthand into an array of objects on the current object, which can seem peculiar, but works fantastically when you come across the odd need for it. And there are few languages that offer anything near the ease and flexibility of its lambda functions. They're sheer brilliant.

        function getSubtractFromBaseValueFun

    • by PhunkySchtuff (208108) <.kai. .at. .automatica.com.au.> on Friday April 07, 2006 @11:34PM (#15089438) Homepage
      But, it's a hack.
      This is a good thing. Where would we be today if people didn't get technology that was originally developed for one purpose and make it do things that the original creators never envisaged...

      That burrito you just whacked in the microwave to heat up? We wouldn't have microwave ovens if it wasn't for someone hacking military radar technology to heat food.

      This intraweb thing you're reading at the moment - tell me you're not really glad that it's not another boring scientific document you're reading. That's why you're here at /.

      There's nothing wrong with taking one technology, or in the case of AJAX, a combination of technologies and taking them places that we never dreamed possible.
      • Re:Please Just Stop (Score:1, Interesting)

        by kennygraham (894697)
        But, it's a hack.
        This is a good thing.
        [snip]
        or in the case of AJAX, a combination of technologies and taking them places that we never dreamed possible.

        The problem is that it's not just taking existing technologies. It's taking a non-standard proprietary extention to javascript, and adding it to the existing technologies. If it used real javascript, it'd be great. Yes, I'm a standards nazi.

      • If what you get at the end is stable, efficient technology that solves a problem and solves it well, then yes, it's a good thing. Otherwise, it's just a curiosity, which is all very well from an R&D viewpoint, but it doesn't help me get my everyday work done.

        The grandparent's point seems to be that the industry is doing what it's done many times before: adopting a particular novel technology as a universal solution. To use your analogy, it would be as if somebody came along and said, "Well, you've got

      • Hey man, whack your burrito on your own time.
    • Why do I use AJAX at work? Because it works in the browsers I know employees will be running (Firefox and Internet Explorer), isn't really all that hard to write or debug, and makes the user experience considerably better. Best of all, the way I implemented it (and the way it should be implemented) is so you can do the same things in a browser that doesn't support AJAX or even JavaScript. It's just less convenient that way. The use case is something like this: I'm writing an asset tracking solution for a m
      • Re:Please Just Stop (Score:3, Informative)

        by danielk1982 (868580)
        The AJAX version is so much more intuitive and friendly, they check stuff off and then can just navigate to another page without having to worry about saving their data. The web is what you make it, not some definition set in stone for time imemorial.

        You used AJAX in the way it was 'meant' to be used - as a compliment to existing web functionality.

        Now go write a spreadsheet program that competes with Excel, but do it in Javascript and we'll see what you'll make of Ajax then.

        (BTW, ajaxWrite is really a XUL a
    • oddly enough -- someone today told me something like "computer science is the art of solving problems by adding layers of indirection" or something like that
    • The Internet for consumers is a hack. Will you get off?
    • Everytime I see a post about how Web 2.0 is going to flop primarily because of the bad architecture of AJAX, I think we might be missing the underlying issue.

      What all these AJAX apps are showing us, is that people aren't willing to be tied to a particular computer, when they can access information from anywhere. What people want, and AJAX apps are providing, until a better, distributable, and multiplatform alternative arrives, is access anywhere anytime. AJAX is helping bridge the gap between the current a

  • by dteichman2 (841599) on Friday April 07, 2006 @10:57PM (#15089358) Homepage
    JavaScript (ECMA) is slow and resource intensive. Even more so when communicating with a server. A portable document editor may be fine and dandy, but I'd really rather carry around a copy of Portable OpenOffice on one of my USB drives. While a real app may be large, at least it's full-featured and (mostly) responsive/stable. I don't know about you, but it would suck to have your net connection give out and lose everything since the last update.
    • Totally agree!! I think AJAX is becoming a fever and now people is trying to do anything with it. What the hell's next? Stand-alone-navigator-machines and the operating system running with AJAX? Come on!! Ajax aplications can be very useful, google mail is a good example (i love running gtalk while cheking gmail) But i think we are kinda... crossing the line.
    • Ajax apps will never replace the real thing? Tell that to everybody using webmail as their mail client. Hell, you don't even need Ajax to displace "the real thing", people have been using Hotmail and others as their mail client for years before Ajax became all the rage.

      it would suck to have your net connection give out and lose everything since the last update.

      There's no reason to assume a dropped connection means anything. HTTP is a stateless protocol, simply reconnect and carry on using it.

    • Huh - they already did at my company. We wrote a web script based word processor about 4 years ago. Since then it has processed around 2 million documents, and generally has high user satisfaction.

      Our users were initially concerned - as you are - about losing docs, so we wrote a component that allows periodic backup saves to your hard disk. But it's seldom used - a good percentage of people don't even have it installed. People's net connections just don't die that often.

      The one feature people missed was
  • I have a feeling the "next generation" office suite will permit online collaboration. Imagine and online office suite that allows real-time collaboration between editors. With more and more laptops coming ready made with webcam/mic setups, I don't think it would be hard to imagine an online MS Word with a "teleconference" going on in a side-panel. Since many meeting s nowadays turn into little more than a romp in MS Word, this would save considerable travel time and permit simultaneous edits from contributo
  • Quoting from Alex Russell's blog post, "ajaxWrong" at http://alex.dojotoolkit.org/?p=551 [dojotoolkit.org]:

    Apparently a new XUL app called "ajaxWrite" was just launched. I think this thing is going to be my poster child for what's wrong with single-renderer markup languages from now on. It might be a fine app, I haven't used it long enough to have a strong opinion, but its marketing is truly reprehensible. I'm sure someone assured Michael Robertson that they couldn't launch a web-ish app without tacking the word "ajax" in

  • by the_flyswatter (720503) on Friday April 07, 2006 @11:11PM (#15089389)
    Not only do have to worry about your browser/os crashing, you have to worry about your internet connection flaking out too!

    Brilliant!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Online word processing per se doesn't seem like a brilliant idea. On the other hand, there are programs that I no longer use; but I have lots of files generated by those programs. An online version of CorelDraw that I could use to translate old drawings into dxf or odg or something; that I would use. I have a zillion old autocad drawings that I need to access every now and then but I no longer have autocad. I would pay a bit to use an online version of autocad occasionally.
  • by dteichman2 (841599) on Friday April 07, 2006 @11:16PM (#15089405) Homepage
    The same people who rolled this out, also have an AJAX video editor. The problem with editing video on a web interface is that all rendering must be done on the server-side. The problem with server-side rendering of video at or near realtime is the necessity of a renderfarm. The problem wth a renderfarm is that it costs money. The problem with costing money is that there's no way they can make any, except by charging ads, which won't be near enough. They could embed ads into the videos, but I still don't think that'd cut it. I'd only pay to have my vids rendered online like this if it was dirt cheap ($1 or $2/month), which a renderfarm isn't.
  • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Friday April 07, 2006 @11:39PM (#15089446) Homepage
    I could understand if these guys were building a component for rich text editing for form fields, ala TinyMCE or such. But this seems to be...just completely bizarre?

    Who is the target market user for this -- people who think Windows Write is just too convenient? Someone whose 486 didn't come with a Turbo button, so all their old text editing programs just run too fast?

    It has all the features of Windows Write or Apple Textedit, with the stability and performance of a web browser! It's annoying enough to type out a response in a text field and have it get eaten by a network error or page refresh problem or browser crash -- do we really need to start losing entire documents?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ajaxWrite has nothing to do with AJAX. It is a XUL application, and runs only in Mozilla ! It also has almost nothing to do with Javascript...so all you bozos out there saying that javascript based word apps are a bad idea....jeez..i don't even know what to say to you.

    For christ's sake...what's next...ajaxIceCream ?
  • Writing a full featured client side application in ajax is stupid. Stupid because javascript is messy, slow, and it is far from standard across browsers.

    Would this applicaton not have been better as a java applet?
    • Ha! If only Java were anywhere near standard across browsers. Unless you want to force users to download the latest Java Plugin before running your applet (a long and annoying procedure), you can never rely on users having any version beyond Java 1.1, which predates the "Java 2" branding and lacks huge portions of the modern API (even basic things like the object-oriented event model). That's if you can assume they have a Java implementation at all - I understand Windows XP no longer ships even with M$'s cr

      • Ha! If only Java were anywhere near standard across browsers. Unless you want to force users to download the latest Java Plugin before running your applet (a long and annoying procedure)


        I sure would - a one time download of 20megs isn't too bad.

        For one reason or another, Java never really had a fair shot to develop and take-off..too bad.

        Now, JavaScript, in itself, isn't messy. You've probably seen a lot of messy JavaScript, but that's because there are a lot of messy JS coders out there.

        Don't get me wrong j
      • lacks huge portions of the modern API (even basic things like the object-oriented event model)

        1.1 may be bad, but its not quite that bad. The new event model was introduced in 1.1, and 1.0 was never mainstream so isn't worth worrying about. While it might be easier to implement things like accessibility and internationalisation in Java 2, the basic functionality should never require more than 1.1 unless you insist on using Swing.

        Most OEMs will bundle Sun's latest JRE with Windows XP these days, so the f

  • Seems to me that the latest incarnation which requires firefox 1.5 and takes over the entire window (menu and everything) is just a normal web-hosted XUL application. If this is the case then it is not technically ajax. Can someone shed some light on this? I mean will it work on IE 6? What about Safari?

    I think that useful XUL applications are a good thing, if that's what it is.
  • by ahoehn (301327) <andrew@h[ ]hn ['oe.' in gap]> on Saturday April 08, 2006 @12:33AM (#15089571) Homepage
    This can't be AJAX, there are hardly any rounded corners at all.

  • I was all excited. I upgraded to Firefox 1.5. I go the website. I get AJAXwrite going. I see I can choose some fonts. Not as many as I have loaded, but some, andthat will do for now, I suppose. And then I notice it won't let me choose anything but a certain set of font sizes. That kind of blows.

    So I type something, select it and try to change the font.

    What happens? Nada. It still looks like TimesRoman.

    Brilliant!

    I can change the size of the font, but I can't change the appearance. Arf.

    Import pictur

  • by barnaclebarnes (85340) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @02:07AM (#15089780) Homepage

    But if you're stuck somewhere with an internet connection and Microsoft Word files to edit but no word processor, ajaxWrite might save your tail.


    My friend emailed himself a document at his work which he saved in OpenDocument format only to find he could not open it in Word. ajaxWrite saved him from making a 1 hour round trip home to get it converted. It may not be Word but it does have its uses.

  • but let's just say the web-based word processor has some catching up to do.

    like working on any browser, of my choice?
    • Or saving Word/RTF files in such a way that they can be read by either Word 97 or Office XP? (tried both, neither could read the files written by AjaxRite)
  • OK, I could be wrong, but ...

    As far as I know, they aren't actually doing word processing in AJAX, ie. when you type a letter, it isn't modifying the DOM. It's just a Firefox/Mozilla HTML edit control, with a small user interface around it to choose fonts, etc.

    This is exactly the same as developers who create a "Browser" by taking MSHTML control and putting a new menu and toolbar. They do perhaps 1% of the work, and the existing library object does the remaining 99% of understanding how to parse and layout
  • Whether its XUL based or webbased,it rocks.I opened a MS Word file in it and it didnt screw it up.I think google guys would be regretting after seeing this application on sky.
    • "It rocks"? So, it runs like a brick?
    • Better than Writely? In what way?

      Writely has
      • Spell Check
      • Multiple browser support
      • Live collaboration
      • Revision history
      • Search and Replace
      • Online storage (So you don't have to up/download every freaking document when you want to change one word)
      • Keyboard shortcuts that work

      And it's still in beta.

      The only thing ajaxWrite currently has over Writely is that Writely is so popular they had to stop the open beta, so the general public can't use it.

      Oh and it has "Ajax" in the name fo

  • ajaxWrite only works in FireFox, which partly defeats the purpose of having it in a browser.

    The main page showed me a link where i could download firefox.

    If i can download something of that size, and if i have sufficient privileges to install such software, i'll just install a proper text editor.

  • The definition of a word processor needs updating.

    One big document is not always how writers work. That's not how I work, that's not how I think. I like to write lots of different fragments, rearrange them, and then piece them all together later.

    I use AJAX sticky notes at http://www.protopage.com/ [protopage.com] as my word processor.

    It doesn't look like a word processor - but then the decades old definition of a word processor I think needs to be updated.
  • RTFA-ing:

    It's also a little weird to completely lose your browser functions, like the back button, when you go to the ajaxWrite url.

    If this AJAX app can do all that to the browser, imagine what could be done in the hands of a spammer. I totally worry about Firefox security, now.

    I decided to give it a shot in a totally separate instance of Firefox. But just as a test, I opened a 2nd window in that Firefox process, and a 2nd tab as well. Would they go away? When I click on the button to run ajaxWrite,

  • .. if you upload a file, not everyone has high speed uploads. While you may have 1.5Mbz download ( unless your like me using earthlink and only 900k ) then chances are that you only get 128k uploads. This means that if you have large document stored locally and you need to edit it, it could take a few minutes for it to upload. Also if you have a slower connection, then you are in for a wait... I say this as I try to use it to edit a 4 page word doc.
  • If you do not know Chiapaint, go immediately to www.bricklin.com/chiapaint.htm [bricklin.com] and download this hysterically funny 1996 demo which "is most funny to people who understand the technical problems (and who haven't made major financial commitments to downloadable component software)"

    If you've tried AjaxWrite--I have--you'll see that most of Bricklin's remarks are still dead on the money. I, for one, waste twenty minutes trying to find a Mac browser that would work with this supposedly cross-platform applicatio
    • The ChiaPaint thing is amusing, but what's amazingly ironic is that Dan Bricklin seems to be working on an Ajax spreadsheet [danbricklin.com] called wikiCalc [softwaregarden.com]. Or maybe you already knew that...

      For the record, I have the feeling that if AjaxWrite were a great word processor then people would be using it instead of reviewing it. And it's XUL, not ajax.
  • It's nice that Google has the engineering resources to deal with all of the idiosyncracies and severe limitations that DHTML imposes, but for my needs I'd rather use something like Flex 2.0 (when that comes out) or WPF/E (when that comes out). I'm talking about apps here (like a word processor), and not a document-centric web site.

    Of course the needs of an app are varied, and even the definition of an "app" can be blurred on the web, but I just can never get over the severe limitations that DHTML imposes o
  • ...why are "Document protection" and "Document revisions" such an important things, as the review says, in Word?

    I've used the revision feature of OpenOffice.org and the end result is not pretty. What I end up with is a gigantic work file, with a rather limited functionality in revision comments and a rather silly end result with revision differences view. One look at that and I already got the distinct deep-rooted belief in my head that it will never work, and while I've not used Word's version of this, i

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