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Microsoft Popfly turns online visual tools to good use

Microsoft is venturing into online visual development environments. An excellent and free example of this approach at work -- and more important, available to anyone who wants to use it -- is the Microsoft Popfly technology available online at Popfly.com.

In an increasingly Web-services oriented world, it should come as no big surprise that Microsoft is venturing into online visual development environments, in much the same vein as it's ventured into online implementations of "application as a service" for Microsoft Office. An excellent and free example of this approach at work -- and more important, available to anyone who wants to use it -- is the Microsoft Popfly technology available online at Popfly.com.

If you look into this interesting online environment, you'll realize pretty quickly that it's got surprising capabilities and has attracted some fascinating examples and illustrations. Under the hood, the tool leans on Microsoft Silverlight 1.0, so that's a must-install item for users who'd like to take a swing at a Popfly implementation. With that modest requirement met, users will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Popfly supports the following types of Web content and software:

  • Supports Mozilla Firefox 2.0 or IE 6.0 or newer versions


  • Supports all of the following content types: JavaScript, Ajax libraries, HTML, XHML, and CSS, plus Visual Studio Express projects and Windows .EXE files


  • Supports the following types of images and media: WMV, WMA, MP3, JPG, PNG, GIF


  • Developers who build for this free public beta can also access up to 25 MB of online storage space per user. Release notes are available through the Popfly team blog.

    All this said, the way Popfly works is as follows: users must have (or obtain) a Windows Live ID (the successor to the Microsoft Passport), and must work with the aforementioned browsers on a system with Silverlight 1.0 installed. Popfly requires users who want to create HTML, XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript content to download Popfly Explorer, and work with either Visual Studio or Visual Web Developer Express.

    With all this under your belt, you can use Popfly to create your own mashups, build Gadgets for the Windows Vista Sidebar, add custom content and controls to Facebook or Windows Live Spaces Web pages, build heavily-customized home pages, and combine and re-use photos and videos (including photos from Flickr, Windows Live Spaces, and Facebook, and videos from Soapbox or YouTube). In short, there's a lot to learn, a lot to like, and a whole lot to do with Popfly. It's part Web programming environment, part social network, part data and project sharing tool, and all-engaging, to be sure. Check it out!

    Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security. E-mail Tittel with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!


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