March 13, 2013

Sencha Delivers Next-Generation HTML5 Tools, Looks to Prove Facebook Wrong in Dropping HTML5 for its Mobile Apps

Veteran HTML5 vendor, Sencha (or at least as veteran as is possible on the HTML5 front), has just made public the next generation of its core product suite – Sencha Architect, Sencha Ext JS and Sencha Touch. Sencha is also making available today its new Sencha Touch Bundle, a single integrated package that Sencha claims is the industry’s first true HTML5 app development suite to provide HTML5 developers with the exact mobile tools and extensions required to build touch-based apps.

More than 1.6 million developers worldwide at more than 150,000 companies currently use Sencha’s application frameworks, tools and cloud services to build highly functional and robust desktop and mobile applications using HTML5 – which allows developers to design, develop and deploy native-quality applications from a single code base.

To prove its efficacy, Sencha itself recently created a copy of the current native-code mobile Facebook (NewsAlert) app.

For those who don’t know, about six months ago Facebook dropped using HTML5 for its mobile apps because Facebook believes HTML5 isn’t yet ready to deliver on a crisp user experience. Sencha believes it was more a matter of improper development. Sencha calls its Facebook app…Fastbook. We’ll return to Fastbook later.

Sencha’s Next-Gen Tools

The new enhancements to Sencha Architect, Ext JS, and Sencha Touch are focused on delivering faster, more powerful components that improve both developer usability and additional functionality and capability. The starting point for the Sencha platform is Sencha Architect 2.2. This is the company’s mobile and desktop visual application builder. The new version delivers greatly significantly enhanced performance and integrates with the newly available versions of Sencha Ext JS and Sencha Touch.

Platform optimizations for Architect 2.2 include:

  • Fast execution: Developers now experience much faster interactions when building large and complex applications.  
  • Better team and tooling workflows: Architect 2.2 tracks developer file systems for changes to project files. When syncing changes with other projects, Architect 2.2 notices and updates projects if there are no collisions or asks users how to proceed, allowing better integration and workflow for source control.
  • Easier navigation: Multiple tabs are supported for Canvas/Code view to manage large projects easier. A new search box in the Project Inspector makes it easier to find components as projects grow.
  • Improved integration to support the latest Sencha frameworks: Architect 2.2 allows developers to update existing projects and utilize new features in the latest frameworks, such as Ext JS 4.2.

Sencha Ext JS 4.2 is Sencha’s cross-browser JavaScript framework, which is specifically designed to building rich Internet applications for all desktop browsers. It includes high-performance, customizable UI building blocks, an extensible component model and an intuitive API.

The new version includes:

  • Big data grids: Ext JS 4.2 provides enterprise developers building high data point applications, such as those typically found in financial and insurance applications, to deliver much more powerful and sophisticated user experiences.
  • New modern theme: Sencha’s new Neptune theme provides developers with a light, clean, fully modern set of UI styles and rich customization capabilities. User experience teams now have a powerful out-of-the-box foundation for quickly building contemporary Web applications.
  • Enhanced internationalization: New right-to-left (RTL) support allows Ext JS users to easily create applications that target markets where RTL capabilities are critical.

Browser support for IE 10: Ext JS 4.2 fully supports Microsoft’s (News Alert) IE 10 browser, providing developers with uninterrupted application compatibility as businesses upgrade to Windows 8. 

Sencha Touch 2.2, as its name makes apparent, is Sencha’s next-generation, high-performance HTML5 framework for rapidly building out apps that must work across today’s key enterprise mobile platforms –  iOS, Android, the new BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone (NewsAlert) 8. Support for IE 10 and Windows 8 is also part of the toolset. The new upgrade delivers a much better infinite grid, more powerful animations and significantly improved task management.

The previously mentioned Fastbook takes full advantage of Sencha Touch.

Craig Walker (NewsAlert), CTO of Sencha customer, Xero, confirms that, “Sencha’s newly released platform gives us a massive step forward in developing rich web apps by delivering one of the best HTML5 frameworks on the market. We use the modern UI components, layouts and core framework to save time and keep our developers focused on writing app code rather than the tools themselves. With Ext JS and Sencha Touch we’ve been able to easily build compelling and seamless user experiences across all of our products and we’ve been able to deploy these products to multiple platforms at the same time."

One Bundle to Rule them All

As part of the new release, Sencha has pulled together what it refers to as the Sencha Touch Bundle, which combines the complete technology, tools and support necessary to develop sophisticated HTML5 mobile and touch-based apps in a single, cost-effective bundle. The bundle includes, among other things, the new next-generation versions of Sencha Architect, Sencha Touch, Sencha Touch Charts, the Sencha Eclipse Plugin.

Sencha Touch Bundle is now available at a special introductory price of $695 per developer. The list price is $795. Individually, Sencha Architect 2.2 is available at a starting price of $399 for new customers and is free of charge for eligible existing customers. Sencha Ext JS 4.2 commercial licenses start at $329 for new customers and eligible existing customers with a support subscription can get the update for free. Sencha Touch 2.2 is currently in beta and available for evaluation, and is expected to be available for general release in Q2 2013, and will remain completely free of charge.

Back to Fastbook

Sencha has a blog post devoted to the Fastbook app, and it is well worth exploring. Here’s some context, taken directly from Sencha’s Fastbook blog entry:

We had our suspicions about why Facebook’s mobile application team had problems, because it matched a common pattern…

When a team has problems with HTML5, it usually stems from the fact that they take a “website” development approach to building an app, and often don’t use the right tools and architectures for application development. This is what we suspected about the Facebook HTML5 app. The way that app performed – slow loading, choppy user experience in the News Feed, low frame rate – exhibited the usual symptoms.

In any event, we knew HTML5 was, in fact, ready, and we wanted to prove it. So we took it upon ourselves to rebuild the challenging parts of the Facebook mobile application in HTML5 in our spare time. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Sencha Fastbook, a technology proof of concept that shows how fast HTML5 can be, and demonstrates how readily HTML5 can be used to handle the toughest app challenges.

The blog entry includes a video offering a side by side comparison of Facebook Mobile and Fastbook Mobile. It’s well worth scoping out to see how Sencha itself deployed its tools.

Edited by Braden Becker


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