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Four RIAs that can be used on the desktop

Which one should you choose

Rich internet applications not only make web pages more responsive to surfers, but they can also be used as more responsive desktop apps too. We've looked at the four biggest cross-platform RIAs that were launched last year to find out just how good they are.

Curl Nitro

Nitro is the cross-platform desktop extension to Curl. Currently in its second beta-test release, Nitro adds an applet installer, desktop controls and a client-side SQLite database to Curl's excellent RIA capabilities. Nitro applications take advantage of Curl's high-performance, skin-able user interface and built-in security sandbox. Even without Nitro, detached Curl applets can be used for desktop applications: The Curl IDE and help system are good examples of that.

Curl may not be as familiar to you as the competing products from Adobe, Google and Microsoft, but you shouldn't let that deter you from trying it. It has CPU-bound runtime performance roughly 10 times that of Adobe Air, according to a test of JPEG encoding conducted by Curl in May.

In addition to high-computing speed, Curl has (according to my own speed tests) very high-performance graphics, at least on the Windows platform when using DirectX. It also has demonstrably strong security. (Curl has criticised the Adobe Air security model as having a huge hole in its signing certificate scheme.)

The Curl language may be new to you, but it isn't hard to learn. In addition to providing copious documentation, Curl supplies many excellent samples with source code, a number of interactive tutorials on application-specific topics called Curl Cues, a Curl IDE Made Easy interactive training program and online courses on the Curl language, the Visual Layout Editor and the Curl application development process.

I was initially baffled when I looked for the Nitro extensions in the current Curl IDE documentation. Then I looked at the source code for the three Nitro samples supplied on the Curl website, and that made it clear where to find the Nitro functions in the Curl libraries. One of the Nitro samples did not work for me, however, because of a problem with the Facebook API. The other two samples worked very well.

The Curl RTE (runtime environment) runs on Windows, Mac OS X and four versions of Linux. The Curl IDE runs on Windows and Linux. The Curl development plug-ins for Eclipse work with Eclipse 3.3 and 3.4 on Windows and Linux platforms.

The base Curl IDE and runtime that include Nitro are free, as are deployment licences for publicly available, free websites that use the base capabilities. A Curl Pro/Deployment license starts at $12,000 (£8,255), Curl has pricing models designed for enterprise, internet, software-as-a-service and reseller business models.

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NEXT PAGE: Google Gears

  1. Which one should you choose
  2. Adobe Air
  3. Curl Nitro
  4. Google Gears
  5. Microsoft Silverlight
  6. Our conclusion


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