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July 21 2013

13:32

Microsoft Surface Pro recensione e impressioni d’uso

surface
SURFACE PRO
Molto più di un tablet

A maggio dello scorso anno, quando è stato presentato Surface, forse non avevamo ancora ben chiaro cosa fosse. Né noi potenziali clienti, né Microsoft stessa. Non chiamatelo tablet. Perché Surface si avvicina solo un po’ alla tipica idea dei tablet Android o dell’iPad. Surface Pro è un laptop a tutti gli effetti che unisce alla potenza e all’estrema portatilità del prodotto, l’interazione con l’ambiente operativo tramite touch screen.

surface-7
WINDOWS 8
Surface Pro esegue sia le app sul Windows Store che le classiche applicazioni desktop progettate per Windows 7

Processore Intel Core i5 di terza generazione con Intel HD Graphics 4000 e 4 GB di RAM

Dopo averlo utilizzato, ogni volta che torno al mio MacBook Pro ho la continua tentazione di toccare lo schermo per interagire con le funzionalità di alcuni programmi o per sfogliare le pagine Web. Da questo punto di vista, va riconosciuto a Microsoft uno sforzo importante nel tentativo di convergere il vecchio paradigma di interazione con mouse e tastiera e quello touch. Il risultato forse non è sempre entusiasmante, soprattutto quando si passa dall’interfaccia a piastrelle Modern UI di Windows 8 Pro a quella classica desktop, ma con buona probabilità diverrà uno standard nei prossimi anni in tutti i moderni sistemi operativi che verranno. Facendo due conti, l’ho quasi sempre usato più come “laptop” con tastiera che come tablet.

surface-2
CORPO
Dimensioni
27,5 x 17,3 x 1,3 cm
Peso 907 gr
Telaio VaporMg Color titanio scuro
Materiali costruttivi di livello. Schermo widescreen HD 16:9. Doppia fotocamera.

I materiali costruttivi sono di livello. Il telaio in VaporMG di color titanio scuro è resistente e dona al corpo un design elegante. Si può tenere comodamente tra le mani anche se, a causa dei suoi 907 grammi (quasi 3 volte un iPad) dopo un po’ le braccia accusano il fastidio del peso. Lo schermo widescreen da 16:9 con tecnologia ClearType full HD è nitido e offre colori brillanti e ben bilanciati. Per quanto riguarda le porte, Surface è dotato di una porta USB, uno slot per schede microSD e un’uscita video HD. Le due fotocamere, anteriore e posteriore, hanno una risoluzione HD da 702p. Diciamo pure che le foto non sono il punto di forza di questo device ma immagino che chi lo acquisti non lo prenda principalmente per questo genere di funzione.

surface-7
WINDOWS 8
Surface Pro esegue sia le app sul Windows Store che le classiche applicazioni desktop progettate per Windows 7

Processore Intel Core i5 di terza generazione con Intel HD Graphics 4000 e 4 GB di RAM

Le prestazioni di Surface Pro sono eccellenti. La risposta del sistema operativo al touch è immediata. Potete lavorarci come su un classico portatile e spassarvela con giochi molto divertenti come Halo Spartan Assault che, soprattutto per gli amanti della serie per Xbox, vi terranno inchiodati davanti allo schermo per ore. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook e OneNote sono un punto di forza non da poco. Vi permettono di sfruttare tutto il potenziale di Surface per creare e modificare documenti anche molto complessi. L’applicazione di Outlook 2013, nella sua essenzialità, è semplicemente fantastica per gestire e tenere ordinata la casella email.

surface-8
INPUT PENNA
Un vero quaderno digitale per scrivere come su carta i vostri appunti.

Una menzione speciale la merita la penna in dotazione. Rappresenta quanto di meglio esista nel mercato per scrivere su un dispositivo elettronico. E’ quasi come scrivere su carta. La penna in dotazione del Surface Pro, unita alla versatilità di OneNote, vi permette di utilizzare Surface come un blocco appunti a tutti gli effetti. La risposta alla scrittura è immediata e realistica. Il risultato a schermo è pressoché identico a quello che si avrebbe disegnando su un pezzo di carta con una penna. Potete utilizzare un classico righello per disegnare schemi e figure geometriche con precisione senza lasciare segni sul documento.

surface-3
CORPO
Il corpo del Surface Pro con il supporto posteriore per utilizzarlo come un laptop.
surface-5
CORPO
Dettaglio del connettore d’alimentazione

L’interfaccia desktop è quella classica a cui Microsoft ci ha abituati oramai da tempo. Peccato che le descrizioni delle funzioni e il testo in generale risultano davvero troppo piccoli per passare troppe ore davanti allo schermo. Se lo utilizzate in configurazione laptop, con la tastiera e il corpo poggiato sull’apposito sostegno posteriore, a causa dell’angolazione fissa dello schermo che non può essere regolata come nei classici laptop, dovrete spostare la testa di continuo a seconda delle condizioni di luce. Alle volte, soprattuto con una fonte di luce alle vostre spalle, vi costringe a fare contorsioni che rendono questa soluzione non troppo comoda. Magari sarebbe stato meglio consentire al supporto posteriore una regolazione a tre o più livelli, in maniera da regolare l’angolazione dello schermo in casi simili. Un’ultima notazione per la batteria la cui durata in condizioni d’uso “stressanti” non supera le 4 ore.

surface-4
FOTOCAMERA
Dettaglio della LifeCam HD da 720p, anteriore con tecnologia TruColor
Comprarlo oppure no?

La domanda che in tanti mi hanno fatto è se vale la pena comprarlo oppure no. La risposta come al solito non può essere un brutale sì o no. Dipende molto da diversi fattori che bisogna ponderare a seconda delle esigenze dell’utente. Prima di tutto il prezzo. Il corpo del Surface Pro parte da 882 euro contro i 337 euro del fratello più piccolo, il Surface RT. Di sicuro se avete bisogno di qualcosa pratico come un tablet ma con cui poter lavorare ai classici strumenti di Office, allora la versione Pro può essere la scelta giusta. Di sicuro questo Surface non è uno strumento di puro intrattenimento come l’iPad. E se cercate qualcosa di meno impegnativo dal punto di vista delle funzionalità, forse più che la versione Pro, la versione RT è quella che fa al caso vostro.

La versione Pro da 128 GB costa 982 euro. A cui se sommate anche altri 119,99 euro della cover touch che funge da tastiera siete abbondantemente oltre i mille euro. Non sono pochi. Soprattutto considerando che sul mercato ci sono alternative con caratteristiche simili, incluso il touch screen, che potete trovare sui 400 euro. Sicuramente la qualità dei materiali e il cuore di questo Surface piazzano il prodotto a un livello molto superiore rispetto alla concorrenza, il che giustifica in parte il prezzo così elevato. Ma mi rendo conto che in termini assoluti non sono pochissimi.

surface-9
VOTO
7.5

In definitiva Surface Pro è un buon prodotto. Forse per certi aspetti snobbato ingiustamente dal mercato un po’ per la fredda accoglienza generale di Windows 8, un po’ a causa del prezzo, un po’ perché Microsoft ha comunicato questo prodotto confondendo i clienti che non hanno ben capito cosa fosse. Di sicuro rappresenta un buon punto di partenza per lo sviluppo di device simili nel prossimo futuro. Vale senza dubbio la pena provarlo.

March 29 2013

03:31

Building Windows Store Applications With jQuery 2.0

With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft introduced Windows Store applications, which can be authored using traditional web languages that leverage the underlying engines powering Internet Explorer 10. This means that jQuery 2.0, engineered to work best in modern browsers, is right at home in a Windows Store application!


Understanding Context

Windows Store applications, unlike the web, have two different contexts known as Local, and Web. Due to the access that code in the local context has to the Windows Runtime APIs, a new security model was needed.

For best results, you will be downloading jQuery and loading it in the local context. Attempting to load from a remote location (such as a CDN) will result in a message along the lines of an “app can’t load remote web content in the local context.”


Understanding "Unsafe" Code

DOM manipulation is one of the biggest changes that you'll encounter using jQuery in a Windows Store application as opposed to a browser.

On the web, it's not uncommon to add an element to a form just by passing a string of HTML into jQuery's .append() method:

$("#form").append("<input name='foo' value='bar' />");

Within a Windows Store application, which has easy access to the user's machine, the stakes are much higher, and a lot of what you may be used to doing will require some reconsideration. The above is considered unsafe because of the name attribute. There are many other elements, attributes, protocols and more that are considered unsafe.

For an exhaustive list of what is considered safe and unsafe, see Making HTML safer: details for toStaticHTML.

This doesn't mean that you cannot programmatically populate a container with dynamic items; you just have to take a slightly different approach. For instance, you could use jQuery to create the input element, itself, rather than passing it along in a string:

$("<input>", { name: "foo", value: "bar" }).appendTo("#form");

In the above example, you create an input element using jQuery's html, attributes signature. This demonstrates to the security model that you are in full control of the element, it's attributes, and their corresponding values. This pattern works equally well in the browser also, being present in jQuery since version 1.4.


Sanitizing Potentially Unsafe Content

When receiving content from a remote endpoint, it is wise to clean it up before dropping it into your DOM. There are a few ways in which you can do this using helper functions, such as toStaticHTML, which removes all dynamic items from a string.

Suppose you wished to request a string of markup from a remote service that included a greeting to our current user. It's entirely possible that this service could have been tampered with, and what actually comes back to our application is more than you are expecting.

In the following code, you see that a hidden form field has attached itself to the response.

<h1>Hello, Dave.</h1><input name='id' value='a528af' type='hidden' />

Injecting this into a form could be disastrous. As such, you should first pass it through toStaticHTML to cleanse it of any elements, attributes, or values that could be used to manipulate form data, or perform otherwise non-approved actions.

$("#greeting").html(toStaticHTML(response));

When the method sees our markup for the input element, it will identify and remove the dynamic name attribute, preventing any unexpected data from entering a form submission. For a more granular look into what does and does not survive the toStaticHTML method, take a look at Making HTML safer: details for toStaticHTML.


When You Know Best

There will inevitably be times when you need to do something that appears to be unsafe. For instance, you may wish to use a chunk of HTML as a template to build new elements. In these instances, Microsoft has provided a few methods you can use when necessary, and when you are positively sure what you are doing is not putting the user at risk.

On the global MSApp object in your Windows Store application, there exists the execUnsafeLocalFunction function, and it does exactly what it suggests: permits you to execute an unsafe function on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps you wish to add an input field for editing a user's name, our code may look very similar to the last example:

<h1>Hello, <input name="id" value="Dave" /><h1>

We could assign this to the innerHTML property via an anonymous function:

MSApp.execUnsafeLocalFunction(function () {
    $("#greeting").html(response);
});

Within the scope of the function, you are able to step out of the security model and perform an otherwise unsafe operation without being second-guessed by the environment. It should be fairly obvious why you should use this method sparingly.

A couple utility methods also exist in your Windows Store application under WinJS.Utilities for doing similar assignments. Those are setInnerHTMLUnsafe and setOuterHTMLUnsafe. Like execUnsafeLocalFunction, these, too, should be used sparingly, and when you're not taking a chance with data outside of your control.

These utility functions take as their arguments the DOM element you'd like to manipulate, and the string you'd like to assign.

WinJS.Utilities.setInnerHTMLUnsafe( $("#greeting").get(0), response );
WinJS.Utilities.setOuterHTMLUnsafe( $("#greeting").get(0), response );

The difference here is that setInner replaces the innerHTML of the element, whereas setOuter replaces the element itself – think of jQuery's replaceWith method. For both functions, you simply pass in a reference to the DOM element and our desired innerHTML.


A Note on Compatibility

In the last section, you introduced two objects, the MSApp object which houses the execUnsafeLocalFunction function, as well as the WinJS object that houses the two utility functions, setInnerHTMLUnsafe and setOuterHTMLUnsafe.

These objects are present only in the Windows Store application, and not in your browser (unless somebody, or something, created similarly-named objects). If you wish to write code that can work in both a Windows Store environment, as well as in your browser, you will need to check these objects before presuming their existence.

var $greeting = $("#greeting");

if (typeof WinJS !== "undefined" && WinJS.Utilities) {
    WinJS.Utilities.setInnerHTMLUnsafe($greeting.get(0), response);
} else {
    $greeting.html(response);
}

In a Windows Store application, the above code will use the WinJS.Utilities method to perform the assignment. When run in an environment where WinJS is unknown, such as in a web browser, the code will perform the assignment via jQuery's .html method.


No More Same-Origin Issues

The power to utilize remote services is part of what makes the web great. In a traditional browser, you have origin issues which gave rise to solutions like JSONP, and ultimately CORS. Because Windows Store applications run on the operating system, origin is irrelevant.

$.ajax("http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.json", {
    data: { screen_name: "appendTo" },
    success: function (data) {
        $("<img>", { src: data[0].user.profile_image_url }).appendTo("body");
        $.each(data, function (key, tweet) {
            $("<p>").text(tweet.text).appendTo("body");
        });
    }
});

The above grabs all of the latest tweets from the @appendTo account and wraps each in its own paragraph tag, placing the profile image above them. In a Windows Store application, this is possible without having to use a script tag, setting headers, or proxying through a server-side script.


In Conclusion

While this article isn't exhaustive, it does provide the initial momentum you need in order to get up and running quickly with jQuery in Windows Store applications. Have fun!

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20:51

October 10 2011

16:13

Announcing Windows AppStorm!

We’re immensely pleased to announce that, after months of waiting, a new member of the AppStorm network has landed: Windows.AppStorm! Read on to find out more about what this fantastic new site has to offer…

Complimenting Mac.AppStorm, Web.AppStorm, iPhone.AppStorm, iPad.AppStorm, and Android.AppStorm, our new Windows site will be offering reviews and roundups covering the entire Windows ecosystem, including Windows Phone 7, and games, along with tips and tricks to get the most from Windows.

We know that many Tuts+ readers use Windows devices every day and want to provide you with a fantastic resource for everything Windows related. We’re incredibly excited to bring you excellent Windows content of the high quality you’ve come to expect from AppStorm – daily reviews, how-to’s, roundups, news, and opinion.


Subscribe and Stay Up-to-Date!

We have some absolutely fantastic posts lined up over the coming weeks, and we’d hate for you to miss out… There are a few different ways to subscribe to Windows.AppStorm – hopefully one of the following options will work for you!


Get Stuck In

Windows Reviews

As a treat for all newcomers to Windows.AppStorm here are a some links to articles published in the interim, you won’t be disappointed!

Head over to Windows.AppStorm…



September 16 2011

16:17

Windows 8 Preview: A Developer Reflects

Its finally here. In June, we were given a taste of what Microsoft had in store for users and developers in Windows 8. And finally, after three long months, we have the developer release bits in our hands. Being the geek and developer I am, I wanted to get into the new OS, play with it, develop for it, and get a feel for what is to come.

Disclaimer: These are my own opinions of the OS as it is today. Keep in mind the Windows 8 Developer Preview is pre-beta software. It is buggy. It is not feature complete.


Setup

I imagine installation would take anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes from optical media.

I installed Windows 8 on two machines, both with similar system specs. First is my laptop, a Dell Vostro 1500 with a Core2 Duo CPU, 4GB DDR2 RAM, 500GB HDD, and nVidia 8400 mobile graphics. The second machine is a little Dell Optiplex. It has the same specs, except a 2TB HDD and an ATi 2400 HD. The build I downloaded contained the development tools; it was too big to fit on a 4GB DVD, so I put the files on a USB thumb drive. Setup was a breeze, and very much akin to the Windows 7 installation process. The install process was about ten minutes; naturally, being installed from a USB drive had something to do with the speedy installation. I imagine installation would take anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes from optical media.


The UI

After the installation completes, and if you’re dual-booting, you’ll find this new, Metrofied boot manager. Once you boot into Windows 8 for the first time, you’ll be prompted to enter either a Windows Live account or a regular Windows account name.

The new Windows 8 Boot Manager

You’ll then be taken to the new Metro Start screen.

Metro is Touchtastic

The Start screen is your new Start menu, so you will launch your apps from this new screen (the old Start menu is hidden away but can be resurfaced with registry tweaks).

Windows 8 is partitioned into two separate UIs: Metro and Desktop.

Metro apps cannot run in the classic Desktop UI, and Desktop apps cannot run in the Metro UI. You can, however, start Desktop apps from the new Start screen; Windows 8 transitions into the Desktop UI when you do so.

The Windows 8 Start Screen

I doubt we’ll see Office, Photoshop, Visual Studio, Quickbooks, or any other huge application on Metro anytime soon.

The obvious question is, “Why two UIs?” Metro is the touch UI. Apps written for the Metro UI are primarily going to be used in a touch environment for content consumption. The Desktop UI is there for backward compatibility, as well as for users who need the full power of Windows. I doubt we’ll see Office, Photoshop, Visual Studio, Quickbooks, or any other huge application on Metro anytime soon. Metro is more for consumption whereas Desktop is more for creation.

This is a developer preview; there is not a lot of fluff in this release. The purpose of this release is to get developers testing and learning the new platform. There are no Metro apps for mail and media in the preview, and the majority of apps installed on the OS are primarily for demonstration. Look to future betas and release candidates for more feature-complete previews of the OS.

I’ll come out and say this: I love Metro. I’ve loved it since playing with my mom’s Zune HD and using the Zune desktop app to sync my Zune. I have a Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7, and I chose that platform primarily because of Metro. I use MetroTwit for my Twitter client, and look around for other Metrofied apps to look at and play with. So needless to say, I was excited to know that Microsoft is betting big on Metro. I’ve said, and still say, that WP7′s Metro UI is the best touch-based mobile UI currently available. While I do not have a touch device that I can install Windows 8 on, I have almost a year’s experience using the UI Windows 8′s Metro UI is based on (plus watching demo videos). The UI is responsive, and the gestures are intuitive. It is a fantastic touch experience, and touch users will feel right at home in the new Metro portion of the UI.

Metro is Craptastic for Mouse

Unfortunately, the Metro experience as currently implemented by Microsoft is horrible with a mouse.

Unfortunately, the Metro experience as currently implemented by Microsoft is horrible with a mouse. It’s not just the Start screen, but just about all aspects of the Metro experience. What do I mean by horrible? First, the UI is stretched horizontally, and Microsoft thought the best way to navigate these huge horizontal UIs was with scrollbars… really. It’s 2011, and Microsoft implements a touch-based UI for a mouse using scrollbars. You would think Microsoft would implement clicking and dragging to simulate touch (which I’ve witnessed several people try first), or make the UI move with the mouse’s movement (view the live demo of this Code Canyon item in a small window). But no… scrollbars. You can navigate the Start screen using the mouse’s scroll wheel (a plus), but none of the other Metro apps seemed to respond to the mouse wheel.

Second, the Charms (a unified set of functions for settings, sharing, search, etc that are provided by Windows for Metro apps) are activated by moving your mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen. Here’s how they look:

Windows 8 Charms

That in itself isn’t bad, but choosing one of the charms opens its panel on the right-hand part of the screen (as shown in the screenshot below). So you have to move your mouse to the other side of the screen to do whatever it is you wanted to do. I have not installed the Developer Preview on my main machine yet; so, I do not know how that behaves in a dual-monitor environment. But I assume users have to move their mouse across both monitors to do whatever it is they wanted to do with the chosen charm.

Settings pane in Metro apps

Third, zoom seems to be non-existent for mouse users. Touch-based zooming was demonstrated in Tuesday’s keynote, as well as the other sessions, but replicating zoom with a mouse ends in failure. I couldn’t zoom on the Start screen, and the only app I successfully zoomed in is the //Build/ app (with ctrl+mouse wheel).

That’s not to say Metro can’t be great with a mouse. There are many Metrofied applications available today for XP, Vista, and 7 (I mentioned a few above). When done right, Metro is awesome with a mouse. But unfortunately, the mouse experience currently in Windows 8’s Metro is not intuitive. It’s not natural. It’s horrible. I know it’s a Developer Preview, but I expected a lot more for mouse/keyboard users. I hope the mouse experience changes in the beta, especially since all Windows 8 users will have to use Metro.

Desktop Stays the Same (for the most part)

Not much has changed in the Desktop UI, although it did receive a small refresh. Gone are the rounded windows and buttons of XP, Vista, and 7; Windows 8′s windows and buttons return to the squared corners of Win9x and 2000.

Good 'ol Windows UI

There is also the ribbon in the Windows Explorer UI. I personally like the ribbon when used in the proper place. Windows Explorer always had a lot of options buried in menus and dialog boxes. The ribbon brings those options to the forefront, and I’m happy about that.

Final Thoughts on the UI

I am disappointed in the lack of customization of Metro.

I am disappointed in the lack of customization of Metro. While the lock screen can be customized, it seems the background of the Start screen cannot be changed. I hope that is just a feature missing from the Developer Preview.

I’ve always thought Apple had the right idea in separating the mobile OS from the desktop OS, but now I think Microsoft has the right idea in combining the two into one. I do, however, think they took the incorrect approach. While the Start screen is nice, fluid, and beautiful, it’s awkward switching between the two UIs when on a device other than a tablet. I would like to see an option to keep the classic Start menu while still being able to invoke the Metro Start screen at any time. As currently implemented, it is too much work to launch an app from the Desktop UI, but enhancing the mouse experience in the Metro UI would go a long way to making it easier and less cumbersome.


Development

Getting a peek at what’s to come is always something geeks like myself enjoy, but it was the Windows 8 developer story that kept me glued to the keynote. I am heavily invested in the C# language and .NET—be it either a desktop or web app, I write them in C# using the .NET stack. When Windows 8 was first previewed in June, .NET developers, myself included, were in a knee-jerk panic mode regarding our place in Windows 8 development. Metro apps written in HTML and JavaScript were showcased, yet nothing was mentioned regarding .NET. Microsoft’s lack of communication with their development community did nothing to sooth our fears.

Only a fool would think .NET would be suddenly killed in Windows 8, but the implication was that C#, Microsoft’s baby and highly touted language for the last ten years, was being pushed aside in favor of JavaScript/HTML and C++. Thankfully, that is not the case.

Quite naturally, the existing development model still exists for Desktop UI applications. Nothing has really changed there—except perhaps the decline of Silverlight. Metro is a different story; it’s where the new sexiness is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a C++ developer, a .NET developer, or a Web developer, Microsoft is providing the tools and (unified) APIs to write Metro apps. Microsoft is replacing the Win32 API for a new API called WinRT, and it is just as accessible in JavaScript as it is in C++.

But one of the most important concepts in Metro app development, and the one I’m most excited about, is the contract. Contracts are agreements between Windows and Metro apps to support a unified experience for the user. For example, apps that support the search contract open themselves up Windows 8’s search, enabling users to search those apps even when they are not running (or when the user is in another app). Other contracts are:

  • Sharing: shares content across apps or services
  • Play To: plays media on connected DLNA devices
  • Settings: provide context-specific access to settings that affect an app
  • App to App Picking: allows users to pick files from one app directly from within another app

The goal is to provide an experience that looks like one app, but in reality, its many different apps, glued together by Windows 8, working together to give the user the content they want. While it definitely means more work for me as a developer, it pays off with the rich experience users get when my app is installed.


Final Thoughts

Over all, I’m happy with how Windows 8 is shaping up. It’s a step in the right direction for a world filled with many types of devices and form factors. Microsoft definitely needs to work on the mouse experience in Metro—it’s just horrible. If they fix that, then Windows 8 will be fantastic on every device it runs on. I’m also pleased with the development story. We can essentially pick our preferred poison to write our Metro apps, and our apps can coexist in ways previously never seen before on Windows. For larger and more complex applications, we can still use the development model which, for me, is .NET with either WindowsForms or Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF).

Microsoft repeatedly said that Windows 8 is a reimagining of Windows, and it is true. They’re betting big, and it’ll pay off if they do it right.


February 23 2011

16:45

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January 17 2011

07:00

July 21 2010

17:42

20+ Required Windows Apps: Web Designer’s Choice


In April, Jeffrey Way provided us with a list of the “20 Mac Apps You’ll Use Every Day.” Not one to be biased, if you prefer Windows, this article rounds up the best programs available for boosting your productivity as a web designer.

1. Skybound Stylizer

Skybound Stylizer

While I prefer to use Firebug, I’m finding this “out of the box” CSS editor to be really helpful. Skybound Stylizer has been out for a while, but the latest version, 4.0, is now out with a lot of incredible features to help you in the development process. One of the core features is that it supports Google Chrome, Firefox 2 – 3.6, and Internet Explorer 6 – 8.

Stylizer is an exotic visual CSS editor that keeps you in the drivers seat while delivering enormous productivity gains.


2. Notepad++

Notepad++

Notepad++ is by far my favorite text editor for Windows. It’s fast, flexible and offers a variety of plugins. If you want to increase your productivity with this editor, be sure to install the ZenCoding plugin. You can download the plugin here.

Notepad++ is a text editor and source code editor for Windows, one main advantage of Notepad++ over the built-in Windows text editor, Notepad, is tabbed editing, to easily work with multiple open files.

Alternative


3. IETester

IETester

IETester is the most stable and useful IE test tool available for Windows. With tabbing navigation, a source code viewer, and the debug bar, it’ll help you through the process of “happy” IE debugging.

name of tut

IETester is a free WebBrowser that allows you to have the rendering and javascript engines of IE9 preview, IE8, IE7 IE 6 and IE5.5 on Windows 7, Vista and XP, as well as the installed IE in the same process.

Alternative


4. Filezilla

Filezilla

Filezilla is the most popular and free FTP for Windows, and, of course, is my favorite FTP client for this platform. It’s lightweight and easy to use.

FileZilla Client is a fast and reliable cross-platform FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with lots of useful features and an intuitive graphical user interface.

Alternative


5. Dropbox

Dropbox

Dropbox is a multi-platform sync system, which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. You can use it as a backup folder to transfer files to your friends and family. It’s amazingly intuitive and fast.

Dropbox allows you to sync your files online and across your computers automatically.


6. Jing

Jing

Jing is a great tool to share images or videos in the Windows platform. It’s free, but you can order the Pro version with even more features.

Use Jing to capture anything you see on your computer screen and share it instantly… as an image or short movie.


7. XAMPP

Xampp

For PHP/MySQL development, Xampp automatically installs MySQL, Apache and PHP in your PC.

XAMPP is an easy to install Apache distribution containing MySQL, PHP and Perl. XAMPP is really very easy to install and to use – just download, extract and start.

Alternative


8. FoxitReader

FoxitReader

FoxitReader is the primary PDF reader in my PC; it’s very fast, and supports tabs to read my PDF files.

Foxit Reader is a multilingual PDF reader. Both the basic and full version readers can be downloaded for free. Foxit Reader is notable for its short load time and small filesize, and has been compared favorably to Adobe Reader.


9. doPDF

doPDF

Print-as-PDF isn’t installed by default on Windows. That makes this tool particular handy when you need to quickly send a document.

doPDF installs itself as a virtual PDF printer driver so after a successful installation will appear in your Printers and Faxes list. To convert to PDF, you just have to print the document to doPDF, the free pdf converter.


10. Breevy – Text Expander for Windows

Breevy

Breevy is one of the most responsive, intuitive text expander applications for Windows. Whether you’re a web developer, blogger or {your-occupation-here}, you’ll find this one very useful. It’s not free, but will save you hours upon hours of typing! It’s worth the cost.

Breevy is a text expander and AutoText program for Windows that helps you type faster and more accurately by allowing you to abbreviate long words and phrases — saving you time and money.

Free Alternative


11. Everything

Everything

Everything is a search program. As LifeHacker said, “It does what you really want when you hit Search in Windows.”

“Everything” is an administrative tool that locates files and folders by filename instantly for Windows, 20,000 files will take about 1 second to index. 1,000,000 files will take about 1 minute.


12. Miro

Miro

Miro lets you play nearly every single video format in the world; but it’s not just a video player: you can even subscribe to podcasts, video channels, etc. It’s my video player of choice. And yes! It’s free!

Miro is the only internet TV you’ll need—it’s an application that brings together thousands of shows from all over the web. There’s TONS of great content, lots of it in HD, and fresh shows are added all the time. You can watch and organize video feeds when you’re offline or traveling, find TV programs on sites like Hulu, and download from sites like YouTube. Miro downloads in HD, whenever it’s available!

Alternative


13. KeePass

KeePass

KeePass is a nice and lightweight password manager for Windows. The amazing thing about it is that you can sync the database with Dropbox – But what if I own a Mac as well? Okay, just install KeePassX. There are numerous cross-platform password managers available (even one more in this round-up), but KeePass is simple and effective enough to get the job done.

KeePass is a free open source password manager, which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file.


14. Sobees

Sobees

Sobee is one of those applications you’ll always love. It allows you to get the most out of your social sites. You can choose multiple layouts to display your social data, as it offers LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace support — even a New York Trending News widget. Be sure to check this one out!

Enjoy the convenience of tracking all your different social networks and news from a single place and share, like or tweet what’s on your mind easily.


15. Aptana

Aptana

Aptana is, in my humble opinion, one of the best Integrated Development Enviroments (IDE) for Windows. It has great HTML, CSS, and JavaScript intellisense, JavaScript debugging tools, built-in support for JavaScript libraries, a DOM outline viewer, file transfer & synchronization, live previewing (Safari and Firefox), and much more.

Aptana Studio is the industry leading web development environment that combines powerful authoring tools for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, along with thousands of additional plugins created by the community.

(Available for Linux and Mac)


16. Picasa

Picasa

Picasa is a must have if you want to organize and share your photos on the internet. It’s light-weight, free, and just works!

Picasa is free photo editing software from Google that makes your pictures look great. Sharing your best photos with friends and family is as easy as pressing a button!

(Available for Linux and Mac)


17. Google Talk

Gtalk

If you’re one of the GMail lovers (like me), then Gtalk is the perfect Gmail notifier for you. And of course, you can chat with your buddies as well!

Google Talk (GTalk) is a free-of-charge Windows web-based application for instant messaging and voice over internet protocol (VOIP), offered by Google Inc.


18. Adobe Photoshop CS5

Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop CS5 is, for obvious reasons, the greatest tool available for graphics / web design available in the industry. Photoshop is open on all of my computers… at all times.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 software is the ultimate solution for advanced digital imaging, delivering all the editing and compositing capabilities of Photoshop CS4, plus breakthrough tools that let you create and edit 3D and motion-based content.


19. Pidgin

Pidgin

Pidgin is a simple instant messenger. I use it to chat with my friends and family, similar to Adium for the Mac. AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and Facebook are supported.

Pidgin is an easy to use and free chat client used by millions. Connect to AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and more chat networks all at once.


20. InstallPad

InstallPad

Although I don’t use InstallPad every day, it’s still a great tool, and is worthy of being listed here. It helps you to install all of your favorite Windows applications at once.

InstallPad takes a list of your favorite programs and will download and install the ones you pick. It doesn’t need to ask any questions, so you can go do more important things. InstallPad can resume downloads you’ve canceled, and can even try and find the latest version of your program online.

Alternative


21. 1Password PC (Beta)

1Password

The hugely popular Mac password manager, 1Password, is currently in Beta mode for Windows! Whether you need to store hundreds of website passwords, or track your software licenses, 1Password will do the trick!

“1Password for Windows has been a dream of ours for a long time and we’re thrilled to open beta testing to everyone!”

Free Alternative


22. Bubbles

Bubbles

Mac users have access to a nifty app, called Fluid, which allows them to turn any website (Mint.com, Producteev.com, etc) into a desktop app. It’s very helpful. PC offers its own version of this service, via an app, called Bubbles.

“Bubbles is an application platform, based on Browser technologies. It detaches Web Applications from the classic Browser and offers them with the familiar accessibility, capabilities and always-on nature of Desktop applications.”

Conclusion

These are the applications I use nearly every day on my PC. Did I miss any? Don’t agree with me? What do you recommend?

May 08 2010

11:31

Luxand Blink will Log You Into Windows by Recognizing Your Face

Normally users log into Windows by selecting their username and entering their password. Suppose you are conducting an exam which requires students to log in to the Windows running computer. Any person can log in as a student if they know their username and password.

Therefore a better, more secure log in solution is required. That is exactly what Blink delivers.

luxand

Blink is a software product by Luxand, a software company that has created numerous facial imaging related applications. The function of Blink is to recognize users by their face and then log them into Windows. What makes Blink special is that it does not need to be run by the users – it automatically starts prior to any user’s logging in.

luxand1

The algorithms used by Blink to recognize faces are advanced and detect the faces of users without requiring any special positioning or lighting. The advanced biometrics identification algorithms will recognize a face even if the person has recently gotten a haircut, shaved, worn or taken off their glasses.

What developers say:

Changed Haircut? Swapped Glasses for Contacts? No Problem!

Advanced biometric identification algorithms used in Blink! help it cope with changes of your personal appearance. Grow or shave off beard and mustaches, use makeup or dye you hair, wear or remove glasses or contact lenses – Blink! will let you in to your PC no matter what.

Logging in with Blink will mean that we no longer need to remember lengthy passwords. Also login attempts by unauthorized users will immediately be detected. Overall, the impact of Blink on computer usage will be immensely positive.

Blink comes as an 8MB download and is compatible with 32 bit versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7. Get the application by clicking here and remember to let us know what you think about it.

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January 10 2010

14:22

Who Else Wants Great Windows Desktop Blogging Client?

title-desktop-blogging-editor-clientIf you are blogger and since now it’s like trend – everybody is blogging, you should know, writing through WordPress Rich Text Editor isn’t that fastest and easiest way. Most importantly you must think about ways how to automate and fasten your work process. Choosing desktop blogging client is one of the most important aspects in my opinion – forget about standard Wordpress editor and start using something a lot more faster and handier.

This article is created to explain everything about desktop blogging editors, main features, why and how you should use one. I will also share my own experiences, I’ve been blogging daily and I’ve tested a lot of tools, automating programs and blogging clients and I think I can objectively evaluate features.

I’ve been blogging for 1.5 years now and when I switched to desktop blogging editor, I never went back. There are several great, free editors, Firefox plugins allowing you to write articles more easier. When I started I used Wordpress admin panel, I wrote everything in plain code writing all tags and urls myself – it wasn’t fast so I needed to figure something out.

Then I found Windows Live Writer and it seemed to be solution, but I got upload problems. There was several times when I uploaded images through Live Writer, but in the middle (let’s say 54/100 images) something went wrong with image, I needed to fix error, upload images from beginning and my server from those requests several times crashed. Also back then I didn’t know how to set different settings, so images wouldn’t have that drop shadow, resize image settings (it created one unnecessary thumb image for me). If you haven’t got huge posts with a lot of images Windows Live Writer is perfect solution, but I needed something different.

I figured out I need to upload images to server manually to reduce it’s overload. I used find/replace features to change image local address to direct online link. If you want to know how I do that, this blog post could help you – The Best And Fastest Way To Create Blog Post. I wrote there my experiences and my approach to write and manually create article. In that way I get very clean code using Blogdesk.

With Windows XP Blogdesk was perfect solution, but somehow with Windows Vista and Windows 7 it doesn’t work very good. I got mystic saving problems myself and I don’t really know what to suggest for my new guest authors. And yes,main reason I decided to write this article doing serious research in available desktop blogging editors is because I wanted to find new editor which could suit for me as well!

Let’s give it a try – shall we?

So.. What the heck is desktop blogging editors? Why You should use one?

As I mentioned above, when I started to blog I wrote my posts in WordPress Rich Text Editor, where you can get code/design view, upload images – at first it seems like a good way to go, but image uploading you need to do manually one by one and it takes a lot of time. And what you will do if you internet browser crashes in the middle of article and you forgot to save it? How you will write your post if you have no Internet connection?

Okay, then you could write your posts in word processors like Microsoft Word, Textpad and then just paste finished text into Wordpress post section. But again we have problems with formatting and image uploading. However this simple approach will work just fine for short textual posts with few images and almost no formatting, but I am talking more about serious blogging and approach.

Desktop blogging tools and editors are independent texting WYSIWYG software you can connect with you blog and essentially it is very simple text/code editor created specifically for easier and automated blogging. Now you can format, write text, add images, effects in design view and if you need to edit some code manually or check how it looks – just switch to code view! And the best thing is, you don’t need Internet connection to write your posts, only when you want to publish it. Your posts are always in safety in blogging editor, accessable in any time!

Everybody loves lists, so I created one with main benefits why you should use desktop blogging editor:

  1. Write Articles Offline – For example if you own laptop and travel, you don’t always have Internet connection. No problem! Write your post in blogging editor and you can publish it once you’ll get Internet connection just by hitting publish button. No more copy/paste and images will be uploaded automatically as well.
  2. Spell Checking – This is basic, but good blogging editor has this feature and after writing your post, just run spell checking and rapidly correct all mistakes you’ve accidentaly made.
  3. Multiple blogs – If you write for your own blog and you are guest writer on another, it is really painful to publish it and switch to another blog. With blogging client, you can change blog to publish with few clicks and without any worries.
  4. Quick and easy editing – Switch from design to code section to easily change some code, fix small errors.
  5. Automated Image Uploading – Usually blogging clients are connected directly with your blog and when you hit publish button, all images are uploaded from your computer to local server automatically. If you haven’t got many pictures, it’s great solution.
  6. Easy Post Management – Rapidly fast browse through your previous drafts, published articles, edit them, save – in Wordpress panel it would be many times slower process.
  7. Browser Crash – Sometimes browser just crash and you loose some time and work, with blogging client it is almost impossible. Usually clients have enabled autosave each 3-4minutes, in that way preventing any work loss.
  8. Feature Integration – Many clients support Flickr, Delicious, Youtube for automated image linking, video adding and more features.

Free Desktop Blogging Editors For Windows

From free desktop blogging editors I would recommend Windows Live writer, Blogdesk or w.bloggar. Every client offers different features, you should check out them all and then pick your favorite one, which suits you the best.

Windows Live Writer

Writer makes it easy to share your photos and videos on almost any blog service—Windows Live, Wordpress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, and many more.

It has many features, I will mention most important ones:

  • Crop and tilt photos
  • Insert multiple photos
  • Additional spell checking languages
  • Insert and publish video to YouTube
  • Word count
  • Twitter, Digg and Flickr Plug-ins
  • Type-down filtering in the Open dialog

Check out Windows Live Writer Tweaks, Tips and Updates article from Lifehacker for deeper research.

windows-live-writer-desktop-blogging-editor-client

Blogdesk

Blogging should be simple, but it gets complicated and time-consuming if you are serious about it. BlogDesk makes it easy to write, speeds up lavish processes and assists the author with smart features.

Feature list:

  • WYSIWYG editor
  • ImageWizard to easy insert images, create thumbnails
  • Reduced view – switch to cleaner view with less distractions
  • BlogWizards – easily configure blog
  • Spell checker
  • Tags-Generator
  • Frequently Used Phrases – time-saver for often used phrases

blogdesk-desktop-blogging-editor-client

Post2Blog

Post2Blog 3 is a FREEWARE handy blog editor with live spell-checking support for pro-bloggers.

Feature list:

  • WYSIWYG editor with complete hot-keys support;
  • Built-in “Live” spellchecking;
  • Images are uploaded automatically;
  • Compose new posts in MS Word and post them to your blog using Post2Blog toolbar for MS Word;
  • Add Technorati, Del.icio.us, Buzzwords, 43 Things tags to your posts;
  • Automatically send trackbacks, ping web-services to notify about updates in your blogs;
  • Use built-in smiles for use in your blog;

post2blog-desktop-blogging-editor-client

Thingamablog

Thingamablog is a cross-platform, standalone blogging application that makes authoring and publishing your weblogs almost effortless. Unlike most blogging solutions, Thingamablog does NOT require a third-party blogging host, a cgi/php enabled web host, or a MySQL database. In fact, all you need to setup, and manage, a blog with Thingamablog is FTP, SFTP, or network access to a web server.

Feature list:

  • Maintain multiple blogs
  • Read news with an integrated feed reader
  • Publish remotely to your blog via email
  • Set up flexible archiving options
  • Define your own custom template tags
  • Set up flexible archiving options

thingablog-desktop-blogging-editor-client

w.bloggar

The w.bloggar is an application that acts as an interface between the user and one or more blog(s); in other words, it is a Post and Template editor, with several features and resources that the browser based blog editors do not offer.

Feature list:

  • Import Text files
  • Colorized HTML code
  • Multiple accounts and blogs
  • Spell Checking
  • Multiple accounts and blogs
  • Toolbar Icons Skin
  • File and Image Upload
  • Supports Windows XP

wbloggar-desktop-blogging-editor-client

Zoundry Raven

The Zoundry Blog Writer™ is a rich WYSIWYG blogging editor that’s as easy to use as a word processor. With just a few clicks of a mouse instead of complex HTML coding, you can do things like drag and drop images, create block quotes, and format links to open in a new window.

Feature list:

  • Tabbed true WYSIWYG Editing
  • Improved content management
  • Manage multiple media storage services
  • Manage multiple blogs offline
  • Raven2Go: Portable Application support
  • WordPress 2.2+ Page & Tag support

Read more about Zoundry features here.

zoundry-raven-desktop-blogging-editor-client

Qumana (PC&Mac)

You don’t need to know a thing about HTML code to make perfect posts. Write your posts at your own pace without having to be online.

Qumana is an easy-to-use desktop blog editor, enabling you to write, edit and post to one or more blogs. You can use Qumana even when you are offline. Save your blog posts to your hard drive and upload whenever you like. Great for bloggers on the move.

Qumana features:

  • WYSIWYG editor, as easy as email
  • Clean interface with easy-to-understand buttons
  • Spell check with ‘as you type’ option
  • Technorati tagging
  • Source view option to edit HTML
  • Save posts as drafts, or edit old posts, from the Blog Manager
  • Easy image uploads and image alignment
  • DropPad – gather links, text, and pictures by dragging them to a desktop pad
  • Offline editing
  • Multi-window editing
  • Seamless posting and cross-posting
  • Trackback & pinging

qumana-desktop-blogging-editor-client

Commercial Desktop Blogging Editors For Windows


Blogjet

(Top 1 Commercial Pick)

A popular Windows blog client for your WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, Drupal, etc. blogs. Get convenience and speed of a native application, and the ability to write posts offline. BlogJet comes with English (US) and English (UK) dictionaries.

If you cannot decide, check out their huge feature list and video demo here. All recommendations and demos made this blogging client my top 1 choice. It’s not free, but at least I get many features, good support and regular updates. Such blog client is one of the most important tools in article creation, so I think 39.95$ is very good investment at least for me.

Several features:

  • WYSIWYG Editor
  • Post Management and Searching
  • Word Counter and Blog Statistics
  • 20 High-Quality Smileys
  • Spell Checker
  • Flickr and YouTube Support
  • Auto Replace
  • Modern Interface

Price: $39.95

blogjet-desktop-blogging-editor-client

RocketPost

RocketPost is smart blog software for power bloggers. It’s the only one with WYSIWYG editing, full local editing and full blog import. And it works just like email, so you already know how to use it.

Speed up your blogging with one-click Technorati, Flickr and Del.icio.us tags, built-in photo editing, instant photo albums, automatic linking to related posts, quote tracking, quick linking, drop caps, pull quotes and a running word count.

Not free software, but filled with many features, you might use daily to automate your article writing process greatly. Certainly a good pick as well.

Several features (read more):

  • WYSIWYG editing
  • Full local editing – See and edit all your posts in one place without having to download them every time
  • Full blog import – Download all your existing posts and get started in less than 5 minutes
  • Picture editing – Crop, resize and compress pictures right within your post
  • Check spelling while you type
  • Multiple-word AutoCorrect

Price: 29$

rocketpost-desktop-blogging-editor-client

Other Solutions

ScribeFire Blog Editor For Firefox

ScribeFire is a full-featured blog editor that integrates with your browser and lets you easily post to your blog.

scibefire-desktop-blogging-editor-client

What’s your favorite desktop blogging client? And why?

Related posts:

  1. The Best And Fastest Way To Create Blog Post
  2. 110+ Massive Wordpress Video Tutorial Collection
  3. 1st Year Of Blogging: Success And Achievements
  4. 50 Great Sites To Download Free Cool Wallpapers
  5. 33 Wordpress Plugins To Power Up Your Comment Section

November 10 2009

16:51

7AMP – Creating a Development Environment

Running a local development web server is one of the best ways of learning AJAX; reading up on it is one thing, but being able to pass the raw data back and forth between a browser and a server is really the only way to truly understand what is happening at a fundamental level. To create the dynamic and interactive apps and sites that we’ve come to know and love, you need a development server.

On Windows systems we really have only a few decent options available; we can use Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS), which is usually bundled with Ultimate or Business versions of Windows, or we can use Apache, the extremely popular open-source alternative. Remember when Microsoft enjoyed a 90% market share of the browser market? Apache is the MS of the web server world and at some points in its illustrious history has enjoyed almost total domination in its respective field.

IIS is generally quite easy to configure as it uses a graphical interface and is fairly intuitive, however IIS is geared towards development with the .net framework; .net is a proprietary language and generally you need something like Visual Studio to succeed in building web applications with it. Visual Studio does not come cheap (although free express versions are available and if you’re really hardcore you could use notepad to write the code) and many people prefer the open-source alternative PHP.

Similarly, MSSql is a perfectly adequate database solution made by Microsoft, but like its other offerings, is also a proprietary technology. Mysql is free, open-source, and very, very popular. It’s easy to use, robust and scalable and that’s why many developers prefer it. To create development environment we really want to spend as little as possible so really our choices here are clear – Apache as the platform, PHP as the server-side language, and Mysql as the storage technology. But getting all these technologies talking to each other is not quite as straight-forward as running a few installers.

Getting Started

First of all, we need to download the installers for Apache and Mysql and the files required to run PHP. The installers can be found at the following locations:

On the above pages choose the appropriate MSI packages for your platform (e.g. x64 or x32) and requirements (you may as well choose the full SSL version of Apache). With PHP however, we don’t want the installer, we want the zip file that contains all of the PHP files as there is more in this package than you get with the standard installer. It can be found at the following URL:

There are two different zip files for Windows on the PHP site, make sure you do not get the one with NTS (non thread-safe) in the name as this will not work with Apache (which is thread-safe). Before running the installers or unpacking the zip file we just need to do a couple of minor system tasks; we should stop any instant messenger applications temporarily as they can interfere with the Apache installation, and we should disable Windows User Account Control (UAC) as it interferes with the Mysql configuration utility. To disable UAC visit the User Accounts application in the Control Panel:

User Accounts

In the applet set the slider to the bottom setting:

UAC

Click the OK button and confirm the very last UAC notification you should ever receive (w00t!), then restart your machine as directed.

Installing Apache

The first thing we need to install is the Apache web server which serves web pages to browsers following HTTP requests, and forms the foundation of our development environment. Run the installer, click the next button to get started and accept the license terms. Click next again and you should then see the following screen:

Apache Installer 1

Complete the dialog as shown above and click next again; on the following screen choose the Typical option:

Apache Installer 2

We can now just keep clicking next until the installation occurs. Once finished you should see the Apache icon in the notification area; it should have a green play symbol to indicate that it is running:

Apache Icon

As a consequence of Apache running successfully, we should be able to open a browser, type http://localhost in the address bar and see the following message:

It works!

Configuring Apache

The web page we’re seeing is being served from Apache’s default content-serving directory which is probably located somewhere like this:

C:/Program Files (x86)/Apache Software Foundation/Apache2.2/htdocs

That’s fine, but it will be a bit of a chore having to dig that deep when we want to add or remove files. We can easily configure Apache to server content from a folder that is closer to hand; create a new directory on your C drive and call it apachesite.

In the Start menu group for Apache there is an option to Edit the Apache httpd.conf Configuration File, choose this and a text file will be opened. This is Apache’s main configuration file; unlike IIS, Apache does not have a GUI for configuration, instead we must edit this text file to make changes to the server. Scroll down to the Main Server Configuration section, which begins on line 144. On line 177 there should be the DocumentRoot directive, which will be pointing at the directory mentioned above. Change this line so that it points to the directory we created on the C drive:

DocumentRoot "C:/apachesite"

Just below this directive are several Directory directives; you’ll need to set the second one so that it points to the same path as the DocumentRoot:

<Directory "C:/apachesite">

Save the file and restart Apache which you can do by left-clicking the icon in the notification area and choosing Apache2.2 → Restart. To veryify that it works create a new HTML file called index.html in the new directory and request localhost from the browser again:

It still works!

Installing PHP

Next we can install PHP so that Apache can run PHP files when necessary; create another new directory on the C drive and call it php, then open the PHP zip that we downloaded and drag the entire contents into the php folder. That’s all we need to do as far as ‘installation’ is concerned; all we need to do now is configure Apache to use it.

Configuring Apache to use PHP

Edit the httpd.conf file again; after all of the AddModule directives near start of the file add the following new code:

####### PHP Config ###########
LoadModule php5_module "C:/php/php5apache2_2.dll"
AddType application/x-httpd-php .php
PHPIniDir "C:/php"
##############################

Save the file, but don’t worry about restarting Apache yet as we need to make a couple more changes and restart the computer anyway.

Configuring PHP

Like Apache, PHP relies on file-based configuration; in the C:\php folder rename the file called php.ini-recommended to php.ini. Now we need to add a Class Variable to Windows so that it knows where the PHP files reside. You’ll need to go back to the Control Panel and open the System applet. On the Advanced tab, near the bottom of the dialog is a button called Environment Variables – click this button and a new dialog will open:

Environment Variables

The new dialog is divided into 2 sections; in the bottom section select the line that has Path as the Variable name (you’ll need to scroll down a bit) and then click the Edit button below the second section to open the editor:

Edit

Go to the end of the Variable value line and add the following text to the exsting value:

;C:\php\;

This will map to the php folder we created on the C drive and which we unpacked the PHP files from the zip file into. It is very important that you don’t remove any of the existing text in the value (or other programs on your machine, or your entire machine, may stop working) and that you enter the new text exactly as it appears above. Once this is done click OK on the three dialog boxes and restart your computer.

Once your computer has restarted, the Apache icon should still have the green play symbol on it and PHP should be configured successfully. To test it create a page in your text editor and add the following code to it:

<?php phpinfo() ?>

Save the new file as phpinfo.php in the C:\apachesite folder and then request the page by typing the following address in the browser’s address bar:

http://localhost/phpinfo.php

Your browser should display the PHP information page:

PHP Info

Success! Now we just need to install Mysql and everything is ready.

Installing Mysql

Run the Mysql installer that we downloaded and keep clicking Next until you get to the configuration wizard:

Mysql Installer 1

Uncheck the Register box and then click the Finish button. Click next again and then on the following screen choose the default Detailed Configuration option:

Mysql Installer 2

On the next screen choose the Developer Machine option:

Mysql Installer 3

After clicking Next on the above screen choose the default option again on the following screen:

Mysql Installer 4

Go with the defaults that are selected on the next screen too:

Mysql Installer 5

And again, just go with the default option on the next page:

Mysql Installer 6

The next screen has both options checked, just keep them checked and move along:

Mysql Installer 7

Don’t worry about checking the Firewall Exception box, whether this is required will vary depending on your system and firewall so you can do this in a minute manually if need be. Provided you just want the standard Latin character set you can again just choose the default and click next:

Mysql Installer 8

On the next screen keep the defaults, but also check the box to add the executions path to the Windows Path variable (we did this manually when configuring PHP):

Mysql Installer 9

Enter a new password for the Root account and then click Next again:

Mysql Installer 9

On the final screen click the Execute button and the configuration changes will be applied:

Mysql Installer 10

Once the wizard has completed you should see confirmation:

Mysql Installer 11

At this point you should restart your computer again. You aren’t prompted to but Windows is fickle and the installation may not run correctly if you don’t do it. So ensure you do.

Testing Mysql

Ok, so you’re back after doing the reboot right? Good. Let’s just check Mysql is running correctly. In the start menu there should be a Mysql Command Line Client application, choose this and enter the password you set when running the Mysql configuration wizard. You should see the following screen:

Mysql CLI

Enter the following command at the prompt:

show databases;

The databases in use should be shown; a test database is installed by default:

Databases

Type the command

use test;

The test database will be selected:

Select Database

Let’s create a basic table; type the following command:

create table users(name varchar(20), age int);

This will create a new table called users and add two columns to it, one to hold name data consisting of up to 20 variable characters (alphanumeric) and the second to hold age data as an integer. Hit enter and you should get the Query OK message to confirm the table was created:

Create Table

To populate the table with some dummy data use the following command:

insert into users values('Dan', 31);

You should get the success message again after you hit enter:

Populate Table

As a final test we can check that the data has been inserted into the table corectly using the select command:

select * from users;

Which should show the table and the data we inserted:

Table

Configuring PHP to talk to Mysql

All we need to do now is configure PHP to talk to Mysql; earlier on we renamed a file to php.ini in the C:\php folder, open this file now in a text editor. First of all, scroll down to the Paths and Directories section and find the extension_dir directive on line 536; change it so that it appears as follows:

extension_dir = "./ext"

Then scroll down to the Dynamic Extensions section which begins on line 628. In the Windows extensions section remove the semi-colon from in front of the following lines:

  • extension=php_mysql.dll
  • extension=php_mysqli.dll

That’s all we need to do; save the file and once again restart your machine. After restarting you can check for Mysql support in the phpinfo.php page again:

PHP Mysql success

This is pretty much a guarantee of success, but really we should create one more PHP file so that we can test that we can read the data from our database; in a text editor create the following file:

<?php

  $user = 'root';
  $password = your_password_here;
  $database = 'test';
  $server = 'localhost';

  $connect = mysql_connect($server, $user, $password);
  $select = mysql_select_db($database, $connect);

  $query = mysql_query('select * from users');
  $data = mysql_fetch_assoc($query);

  echo 'Hi ' .$data['name']. ' you are ' .$data['age'];

  mysql_close($connect);

?>

Save this as phpmysql.php in the C:\apachesite and request it using your browser; you should see the following message:

Complete

If this doesn’t work, try putting your firewall into training mode and seeing if you get a notification asking whether to allow the application when you run the page.

Summary

We have now truly succeeded and have the perfect development environment for creating dynamic AJAX-powered pages. Sure, there may be various programs that we can run which will do some or all of the configuration for us, but which may or may not work on the latest version of Windows, but where is the fun in that?! Getting Apache, Mysql and PHP configured manually is an achievement and it gives us the opportunity to learn more about the platforms we’re using when creating modern web applications.



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