7 apps making the most of HTML5

Full-fledged Web apps are proving the power of HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript and providing great examples of how best to use the latest scripts and tags

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.

At least that's the vision. And folks have been eating it up. IT managers love the promise of HTML5 and the cloud because it means installing one app on the desktop -- the browser -- and forgetting about those boxes in the cubicles. Programmers love it because HTML5 is often as easy as putting a few tags in the right places, even though CSS can occassioinally drive us mad. The bean counters love it because Web designers are cheaper and more plentiful than C++ programmers. Strategic managers love it because they don't need to ask the smartphone manufacturers for permission to get in their Web store.

[ Experts explain all key HTML5 specs, from canvas to local storage, plus the latest browser benchmarks and report cards on HTML5 support in InfoWorld's megaguide to HTML5. Download the PDF today! | Beware the 11 hard truths about HTML5. | Keep up with the latest developer news with InfoWorld's Developer World newsletter. ]

Of course, we all know this vision arose long before the HTML5 buzz. It's just taken us a long time to realize the dream the original creators of JavaScript laid out, in which all Web pages would be interactive apps. And the techniques in use are a blend of the new and those that existed long before the HTML5 standard became big. The result are apps, and suites of apps, that offer most of the functionality a business could want.

Here's a look at how seven powerful apps are implementing the HTML5 vision and how one high-profile detractor lost its love for the Web's next big thing. All provide insights on how to make the most of HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS, while avoiding the hard truths of relying on Web technologies to deliver your treasured app to your users.

Exemplary HTML5 app No. 1: Zoho
There are at least 33 apps in the Zoho collection. Some are basic productivity apps, like a word processor, and others, like the Zoho CRM app, are more akin to structured databases for storing information about customers, users, and clients. Zoho has wisely found a way to work with Google Apps, so you can use the best of both collections.

Zoho's tools rely on many parts of the HTML5 specification, but less than you might expect. The editing tools do much of the layout work with carefully designed CSS rules. The editing logic is all handled by Zoho's code, and I couldn't find the new HTML5 contentEditable tag in any of the documents I tried. If the feature set is complex, it can be easier not to trust the browser to handle the editing.

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.

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