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7 apps making the most of HTML5

Peter Wayner | Oct. 23, 2012
HTML5 is more than a few years old and no longer a curiousity. Web pages that used to simply emulate a piece of paper are now expected to do something snazzy to justify their existence. Thanks to HTML5, along with innovations in JavaScript and CSS, interactive logic is a standard strategy for Web programming, and full-fledged Web apps are everywhere. All it takes is a few extra tags to rewrite the world's software as a Web page.

Several Zoho apps open up databases using either the local storage or session storage API. They can push key/value pairs for later reuse.

Other parts of the HTML5 tool set are obvious. The form builder lets you drag and drop elements into place. The data, though, seems to be using its own internal hooks instead of the newer features for form validation.

Exemplary HTML5 app No. 2: Google Docs

They started simply, but Google Docs and Google Drive are doing almost all we need to do. For me, the defining moment came when I edited a document concurrently with someone on the other end of a phone. Our changes flowed between us and the work was done. Google Docs does not offer as many features as Microsoft Office does, but its integration with Gmail makes getting started with Google's online Office alternative a snap.

The bulk of the applications seem to use basic HTML for all of their work. The tables, texts, and figures are laid out with HTML, and mouse-clicks drive the action. The local storage is allocated, but there weren't many key/value pairs I could find in my browser's local database after extensive use.

Google is said to build many of its Web-based tools with Google Web Toolkit, a Java-based mechanism that translates all of the Java into JavaScript. It is well-tuned to work with many browsers, including some from previous generations. It may be some time before Google starts relying more on HTML5. This is a bit ironic given that Google's Chrome often reports one of the best scores on HTML5Test, a compliance-checking website.

Exemplary HTML5 app No. 3: HTML5 slide apps

There are more than a half-dozen HTML5 libraries for building slide decks in HTML instead of PowerPoint, including Presentation.js, Impress.js, Fathom.js, reveal.js, and CSSS. The images and text swoop and swirl around the screen, making ordinary PowerPoint slides look boring and last century. If your audience is still asleep afterward, it will be your fault.

The core of the program uses basic HTML to lay out your slides in DIVs given absolute coordinates. As you page through the program, it will use WebKit transforms to change the viewpoint of these DIVs by panning, twisting, turning, or even rotating in 3D. All of the new HTML5 additions to the CSS layout engine and the canvas object are available for use in designing your slides.

The approach is surprisingly simple for something that looks very impressive. If you can code your message in HTML using the standard fonts and tags, the JavaScript will do the rest.

Exemplary HTML5 app No. 4: Aviary

Creating a good text editor in JavaScript and HTML is a challenge, but creating a photo editor is even more impressive. Many of the important tools for fixing photos are available as buttons for an application that just runs in your browser. Photoshop might cost hundreds of dollars, but Aviary does most of what the average person wants for next to nothing. (Test it here.)


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