Learning Ajax from the bottom up

AjaxI remember a co-worker playing around with DHTML four years ago while I was working at SmartForce (now SkillSoft). It was pretty cool, but since there were severe cross-browser problems and few functional uses for it, I felt there were more important things to learn.

But all that has now changed with the relatively recent emergence of Ajax. For those of you who’ve been living on a raft for the past year, Ajax is the collection of technologies embraced by Google Maps enabling the user to zoom and drag their map without reloading the page. Ajax empowers developers to create web applications that are far more interactive and responsive for the user than conventional web applications. It relies heavily on Javascript to communicate user actions with the server and manipulate the web page (DHTML) to show the results. Unfortunately I hadn’t much experience writting DHTML, so I had to first learn it to be able to take full advantage of the Ajax web development method.

Recently, I started working toward building Ajax into the TreeView product that I developed four years ago. But first I had to build the DHTML features, then I could implement the Ajax features. To my surprise, the Javascript code required to manipulate the XHTML and CSS was not nearly as hacky as I thought it would be and required only a couple of small cross-browser workarounds to work on both Firefox and IE. That is not to say that the code will definitely work on Safari, Konqueror, and all other browsers, but I’m sure it will only require minor tweaking if any at all. It should be a very interesting product in the end and hopefully one that sells like crazy.