Atlas: An XCode-like IDE for building web apps

280 North just released Atlas, their IDE for building web applications. This post will give a mile-high view of what it is and why you might be interested.

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.

If you want to see a stunning example of what it can do, check out 280 North’s flagship app, 280 Slides, which essentially brings Apple’s Keynote application to the browser.

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?

Atlas creates apps that run on 280 North’s Cappuccino framework. Cappuccino is basically a port of Apple’s Cocoa framework. To write apps using Atlas, you really should have some experience with Cocoa programming. Atlas apps are written in Objective-J, which is a Javascript variant of the used to build iphone and osx apps.

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.