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Review: Mobile Web development frameworks face off

Peter Wayner | Oct. 31, 2013
jQuery Mobile, Sencha Touch, Kendo UI, and Intel App Framework bring a native look and feel to Web apps for mobile devices

jQuery Mobile
jQuery Mobile development can be done in your browser with your browser's debugger.

Sencha Touch
Sencha began by building frameworks for full-featured apps that live in your browser, then extended its expertise to produce Sencha Touch for tablets and smartphones. Sencha's Ext JS is the foundation of a line of products that includes compilers and IDEs. Sencha Touch is part of this product line.

Sencha Touch, the core used to create mobile apps, is free for both open source and proprietary development as long as your code won't run as an embedded part of a product that ships more than 5,000 units. This is Sencha's free carrot to get people interested in its tool. The company also sells support and courses to anyone who needs a bit of help.

I've been experimenting with Sencha Touch for some time, and it has always offered a smooth collection of routines that handle the touch events without glitching. The applications are laid out in JavaScript -- or to be more precise, in a big JavaScript data structure that can include custom bits of code. You don't build an app so much as create a tree structure out of JSON filled with snippets of HTML stored as strings. Then you pass this structure to a Sencha Touch routine and step back. Sencha Touch will swap these structures in and out of view and handle all the buttons to get them where they need to go.

Sencha Touch is an increasingly small part of a bigger landscape. Sencha sells a Sencha Touch Bundle that includes a number of extras such as Architect, a visual editor for creating apps, and Charts, a collection of charting routines that makes everything looker nicer. The Bundle is $695 for one developer, and there are volume price breaks for five and 20 developers. A more expensive Sencha Complete bundle tosses in the licenses to tackle desktop jobs.

Sencha Touch
The Sencha Touch documentation includes embedded live examples that you can execute while reading.

Kendo UI

Another way to turn HTML and JavaScript into nice sites is to build it upon the Kendo UI libraries. This proprietary framework comes from Telerik, a company that uses Kendo UI as one of the main frameworks for its app development tool, Icenium. Kendo UI is the part of the Telerik stack responsible for determining how the data appears on the screen, but you don't need to use it with Telerik's other code. You can create an app and ship it separately.

Creating pages with Kendo UI is a mixture of JavaScript and HTML. Some of the widgets are built by handing Kendo UI a JSON data structure and letting it create the HTML elements, and some of the widgets are crafted out of pure HTML. If you have a static item, you can start off with HTML. If you'll be doing a bunch of interactive scrambling of the screen, you'll probably want to start off with JavaScript. A list, for instance, might be marked up with <li> tags if it's not going to change, but it might start with data if it's going to be updated with AJAX calls.


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