Thursday, December 17, 2009

Keeping up with the browsers: Firefox 3.6, Chrome 4, IE 9

Want something to play with over the holidays? If you are a web developer- and I know many of you reading Telerik Watch are- then there is a new wave of web browsers just waiting for you to kick the tires. In fact, the next wave of web browsers may be here faster than you think. Firefox's next major release, version 3.6 (codenamed Namoroka), is already in Beta 4 and it is scheduled to ship in "late 2009" (a schedule that, if it is to be met, means RTW is imminent). Google's rapidly evolving Chrome browser is currently available in its 4th major revision on Google's beta channel. And at PDC last month, we started to get some early details about Microsoft's IE 9. As a web developer, it's critical to stay at the bleeding-edge of browsers, not only to ensure your applications remain compatible, but also to start exploring the technologies of tomorrow that will enable you to do more than ever with standards-based sites. Remember, if you build a standards-based website, the browser is your application delivery platform. Changes to browsers have a BIG impact on your application. As your resident beta tester, I've been running all of the latest browser betas full-time. What follows are some early impressions and highlights so that you can confidently jump start your own exploration of the future of the web. Continue reading to learn more about the future of web browsers

Firefox 3.6 (currently Beta 4 Beta 5) Arriving roughly 6 months after FF 3.5, Firefox 3.6 is primarily aiming at continuing what its predecessor started. That means faster browser performance; increased support for HTML5 and CSS3; and more "chrome" features for users. Mozilla explicitly states that goals for FF 3.6 include improving browser start-up time and time to complete actions at significant enough level that users notice the improvement (by Mozilla standards, that means > 50ms improvement).

Firefox 3.6 is now in Beta 5 (as of today), and should be shipping RC then RTW very soon. I've been using FF 3.6 full-time since Beta 3 and I have no complaints. In general, the browser does feel a bit "snappier" and I have not had any issue with instability in the beta. And the one critical hurdle for any new version of Firefox? Does FireBug support it. Fortunately for FF 3.6, it does. Other plug-ins, like the Web Developer Toolbar and Window Resizer, do not (yet), but with Firebug, I'm okay. (On latest check, it seems even WDT is ready for 3.6, so it looks like most plug-ins are getting ready for the big release.) Verdict: FF 3.6 is a good step forward for a browser known to be slow and it further helps make HTML5 a viable standard for web development. No reason not to upgrade now. Chrome 4 (currently Beta) If it wasn't clear before, it should be clear now. Google is versioning Chrome at pace designed to mock Gmail's 5-year beta. The fourth version (!) of the just-turned one-year old browser is now available as beta, and the biggest news for this release is that the browser is now available on the Mac and Linux platforms. In addition to new platform support, Chrome 4 is adding the much needed extension support (sorry, no Firebug for Chrome yet...only Firebug lite), built-in bookmark syncing support, and improved support for CSS (proven by passing the Acid3 test). For developers, Chrome 4- like FF 3.6 and the already release Safari 4- is continuing to push support for CSS3 and HTML5. This aggressive adoption of the "next generation" standards web gives hope that 2022 will just be bad joke from the W3C. We may be able to be plugin-less RIAs after all! The extensions support is nice, too, since it opens the door to putting Chrome on par with FF for developer productivity. Verdict: Chrome 4 seems more stable than previous versions, as fast as ever, and is shaping-up to be a more "developer-friendly" browser. The OS X experience is on par with Windows, though as a OS X Safari user, Chrome seems less necessary due to Safari's already fast performance. IE 9 (currently unavailable) Ah, Internet Explorer. How I used to love thee. Really. I was a hold-out back when Firefox started sweeping the globe, insisting that tabs were for A.D.D. and that IE was all I needed for browsing the web. All it took was a few months of doing hardcore CSS development against IE6 and then viewing those results in other "standards-based" browsers for me to change my mind. IE has been playing catch-up with the other browsers for years now, trying to break from the past and better support standards rendering in a fast, secure browser. At PDC 2009, Microsoft revealed some limited details about their next attempt to catch-up. They openly acknowledged in side-by-side comparisons that IE has room for improvement next to its competitors, and they suggested that IE9 will finally put Microsoft on par for both performance and support for handling standards like CSS3. They were less clear about their plans for HTML5, but we can only assume they'll be following the lead of Firefox, Chrome, and Safari to provide as much support as possible. It's impossible to say much more about IE9 at this point since we only have a description of Microsoft's intent, but let's hope the bits rise to the challenge and do continue to right the wrongs of the past. I also hope Microsoft can find a way to develop versions of IE faster. Firefox and Chrome are showing how much faster we can adopt standards when we get used to auto-updating browsers every 6-months. If Microsoft could join that schedule, I think we'd see the evolution of web standards radically accelerate. Verdict: IE9 has a lot of promise, but so far that's all it's got. Wrap-up (There are other browsers...) On a parting note, I think it's worth at least mentioning the other two "major" browsers: Safari and Opera. Both of these browsers are a bit ahead of the curve at this point, with major releases already in production that support CSS3 and many HTML5 features. In fact, broadly speaking, WebKit (and thus Safari) is one of the leading engines for accurately processing these next-gen standards. Opera does have a Alpha preview of it's next major version (10.2), and as Opera tends to do, they are breaking new ground for a "browser." Instead of doing more refinement to their chrome (which arguably has been ahead of the game forever), they are now taking browser "applications" to the desktop with "Opera Widgets." It's cool, but it's Opera. History says- for whatever reason- that they just don't know how to find mass appeal on the desktop. Whichever browser you look at, the future is clearly headed in the same direction. All browsers are acknowledging the role they play in many daily computing activities and they are driving for maximum performance. All browsers are working hard to better support standards like CSS3 and HTML5. And all browsers are continuing to try to differentiate by building unique "chrome" features aimed at end users instead of trying to build proprietary rendering engines. The Browser War II is in full-swing. Isn't it fun?!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Q3 2009 SP1s now available, Telerik CDN live

With the Christmas holidays just around the corner, Telerik has delivered some early gifts for your immediate download and enjoyment. The first round of service packs for all of the Q3 2009 Telerik developer tools are now waiting for you download on If you've been following @Telerik on Twitter, you'd know that we've been releasing these SPs over the last week, but now all products have their updates.

I'll share some highlights from SP1 below, but first I want call extra attention to the new Telerik CDN (Content Delivery Network). Live with the Q3 2009 SP1 release of the RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX, this new Telerik provided CDN is a new way for you to further optimize your Telerik web applications. CDN's allow you to download CSS, JavaScript, and image resources from remote servers, putting bits closer to users (for faster access), overcoming browser concurrent request limits and improving the "shared cachability" of these bits. I'll talk more about the Telerik CDN in the future, but for now be sure to read Tsvetomir's post on the Telerik Blogs.
Finally, here are some things you don't want to miss in Q3 2009 SP1 (and a quick "official" version number reference with direct link to the release notes):
  • RadControls for ASP.NET AJAX [2009.3.1208.1]
    • [New] Telerik CDN + Auto support for CDN in "Manager" controls
    • [New] Windows 7 common skin
    • [VS Extensions] Improved support for VS2010 Beta + CDN support
    • [RadScheduler] New visual cue for non-visual appointments
    • [RadRating] New DbValue property (primarily to support DbNull values)
    • 14+ fixes for RadEditor
    • 20+ fixes for RadGrid + new "DefaultInsertValue" property
  • RadControls for WinForms [2009.3.1203.1]
    • [TPF] Animation loops now possible + More perf optimizations
    • [RadDock] Many new properties for easier config + VS 2008 Theme
    • 15+ fixes for RadGridView + New features, like select column cells on header click
  • RadControls for Silverlight/WPF [2009.3.1208.1]
    • Significantly improved VS 2010 support (Toolbox, Designer preview, Property browsing)
    • TONS(!) of improvements, fixes, and changes in RadGridView (new things like Delete key support, programatic pre-filtering support, ability to control "insert row" visibility, etc.)
    • [RadScheduler] Localization of time markers
    • [RadMenu] Fixed memory leaks
    • [RadRibbonBar] Now has a Windows 7 theme that matches Office 14
    • [RadMap] New support for OpenStreetMap + New extensibility options
    • (NOTE: To run the Q3 2009 SP1 demos locally, you need might need WCF RIA Services Beta for VS 2008 installed.)
  • [Beta] Telerik Extensions for ASP.NET MVC [2009.3.1210.1]
    • [New] Windows 7 common theme (matches Ajax theme)
    • JavaScript size and perf optimizations for all extensions
    • Items that are selected are now expanded by default
    • [Grid] 2+ columns can now be filtered
    • [Grid] Screen bounds detection for filter menu
    • [Menu, Panelbar] Hierarchal item support
    • [TabStrip] Support for nested tabstrips
  • OpenAccess ORM [2009.3.1119.1]
    • [LINQ] Server-side support for SingleOrDefault
    • [LINQ] Improved JOIN support with filtering and ordering
    • [Backend] Several fixes for SQL Server and MySql support
    • [General] Improved VS 2010 Beta support + Enhanced project wizards
  • Telerik Reporting [2009.3.1211.1]
    • Improved VS 2010 report designer support
    • [Silverlight Viewer] Many fixes and new features (like SSL support and support for Telerik themes) + New API reference
    • Minor fixes for both WinForms and WebForms viewers
    • [PDF Rendering] New support for bookmarks and document map
  • JustCode [2009.3.1211.1]
    • (While not technically a "SP1" release, there is a new build of JustCode you shouldn't miss, so I thought I'd include details.)
    • Many performance improvements across all operations
    • [New] Syntax colorization support (disabled by default for now)
    • [JavaScript] New support for "Extract Method" (covering basic scenarios)
    • 20+ fixes across C#, VB, ASP.NET, and HTML features
Phew! That's a lot of updates. Enjoy the bits!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Test Studio 2.0 webinar, Lucky license winner

If you missed today's info-packed What's New in WebUI Test Studio 2.0 webinar, you missed a great event with a valuable live Q & A. I was joined by ArtOfTest Co-Founder and CTO, Faris Sweis, who spent the majority of today's time showing-off the new features in the latest WebUI Test Studio release. We saw how the new Silverlight support makes it just as easy and intuitive to do "point and click" testing of Silverlight apps as ASP.NET/HTML applications. We saw how the new test recording tools make it easy to target specific elements in a test. And we got a good overview of how the free WebAii Testing Framework compares to WebUI Test Studio. All available (with the Q & A) on Telerik TV now!

As a reminder, WebUI Test Studio 2.0 is also available for immediate download on! Released today, you have instant access to all of the new features highlighted in today's webinar.
Finally, as part of the official launch of Test Studio 2.0, we're giving away 3 Test Studio licenses (each valued at $2500). Two will be given away as part of our Twitter and Facebook contests- visit for more details. One goes to a lucky winner from today's live webinar audience. And today's lucky winner is....
Cory Hudson!
Congrats to Cory and thanks to everyone for joining today's event. Enjoy the on-demand video and stay tuned for more Test Studio 2.0 content very soon.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

WebUI Test Studio 2.0 launches tomorrow (with webinar)

Hello again loyal Telerik Watch readers! It what has probably been the single longest stretch of "silence" on Telerik Watch in the last three years, I'm finally back in the saddle after the busy fall travel season. Good thing, too, because I'm just in time to let you know that tomorrow (Thursday) we're officially launching WebUI Test Studio 2.0!

We released a beta of WebUI Test Studio 2.0 with Q3 2009, but Thursday marks the official release. In case you missed the 2.0 release highlights (and these are truly tip of the iceberg highlights), here's a quick reminder:
  • New (industry first) point & click automated UI test support for Silverlight
  • Brand new VS UI test recorder "overlay surface" (basically, improved test recording tools)
  • New element menu & "per element" testing
  • New Translators for the RadControls for Silverlight
To help jumpstart your mastery of the new features, especially those now available for Silverlight, we're also hosting a webinar tomorrow to cover what's new in WebUI Test Studio 2.0. I'll be joined by ArtOfTest CTO Faris Sweis and together we'll show you the essentials of working with 2.0's new features.
The webinar kicks-off at our standard 11:00 AM Eastern, tomorrow, Thursday, December 10th. You can register now to save your seat, and then join us for the live event. With Faris participating, this is a great chance to come have all of your burning WebUI Test Studio (or WebAii Framework) questions answered.
Enjoy the official release bits and join us for the release webinar!
(Oh yeah! I almost forgot. We'll be giving away one WebUI Test Studio license to one lucky attendee of tomorrow's live event! Remember, WebUI Test Studio is not part of the Telerik Premium Collection, so this is a valuable $2500 prize even if you have the Telerik PC. There will be chances to win Test Studio on Twitter and Facebook, too, so don't fret if you absolutely can't make the live webinar. For everyone else, now you definitely need to go sign-up and attend!)