What is Atlas?
Atlas is an IDE that is very similar to Apple’s Xcode (used to build OSX and iphone apps). Atlas itself is a web application that runs out-of-browser on your own computer; to do this, it starts a local webserver when you start the program. Atlas builds desktop-like applications that run in browsers.
What’s cool about it?
Atlas is by far and away the coolest drag-and-drop interface builder I have seen for building web apps. If you have any experience with building iPhone or Cocoa apps, then you know what to expect. If you want to see a video showing the IDE in action, check this video made by Thomas Balthazar:
What do you need to know to use Atlas?
What about the backend?
Atlas is all about the client side. Theoretically, you can use any back-end you want (Java, Rails, etc).
So, should you use Altas or not?
At this point it is hard to say. The ability to build Apple-like apps in the browser is very enticing to say the least. Atlas is well geared toward building enterprise-like applications that are very data-and-interaction centric. That being said, this is very proprietary stuff and you have to completely buy into their framework (similar to deciding to use HTML vs Flash). Overall I am very impressed with what 280 North has done so far, and look forward to seeing how Atlas evolves.