Programming Famous gets easier with visual HTML5 builder

The creators of the fast and flashy HTML5 framework want to simplify development for designers

Famous, creator of a JavaScript/HTML5 presentation engine used to power (among other items) mobile-app development, is preparing to make Flash doubly obsolete. Famous plans to not only replace Flash with HTML5, but also supplant its authoring tools.

Thus, Famous is offering the No Code Authoring Tool, the top level of a stack the company has been building layer by layer. With the tool, Famous claims, one can use a visual interface to create mobile apps and responsive websites without needing to write code.

Such promises always inspire skepticism, as visual coding tools have a bad reputation for being closed-ended and opaque. But with its new stack, Famous promises its visual authoring tools are meant to appeal as much to the coder as to the designer.

A triple-decker stack

At the bottom of the stack is the Famous rendering engine, now known as Mixed Mode. It produces complex presentations that mix 2D HTML5 text and 3D WebGL imagery, using nothing more than the existing in-brower software stack. Mixed Mode allows HTML5-powered mobile applications to look and behave as smoothly as their platform-native counterparts.

famous mixed mode engine Famous

A demo of the Famous engine. The Web page shown on the laptop screen is an actual functioning Web page (note the cursor), but the laptop itself can also be manipulated in 3D.

On top of that is the Famous Framework, also known as BEST (Behavior, Event, State, Tree). BEST can be used to drive the Mixed Mode engine in much the same way the React or Angular frameworks are used to power a single-page Web application. The No Code Authoring tool, in turn, generates BEST code, which can be used as-is or further modified by hand.

"This is to empower people who don't know how to code," said Steve Newcomb, founder and CEO of Famous, "to build those things that would normally take a group of senior engineers. We want to do that with an authoring tool that reminds you of Photoshop or Flash, but with no coding." Such HTML-generating tools, he noted, generate HTML and CSS that don't leverage the Famous stack.

Give it away now

Famous' plan for the new tool set follows in roughly the same footsteps as its previous offerings: Give the code away for free to the developers and designers who want to build with it, and license it for broad reuse (via the MIT license, rather than the previous choice of the Mozilla Public License). The for-pay part of the stack is the back-end analytics aimed mainly at enterprises.

Of the items built with Famous, said Newcomb, three in particular stand out: Ads, formerly designed in Flash but now created using Famous; widgets, in particular jQuery's widget set (to be replaced with Famous, per previous announcements); and mobile applications.

Previously, Famous has pushed its products for the last category, by way of the Apache Cordova project. The new development tools, though, aim at making Famous as generally useful as possible wherever a modern Web browser can be found -- although they're more likely to serve as a bootstrap for a splashy HTML5 interface an experienced developer can expand on later, instead of as a way to remove developers from the equation entirely.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.