One of the things I've been meaning to try out for quite some time is the ASP.NET AJAX (aka Atlas) framework. There are 3 parts to this framework, but only two that I need to be concerned about when doing ASP.NET development. The 3 parts are the client-side library, which is available for any server-side platform; the main ASP.NET controls, which enable AJAX capabilities; and, the extra ASP.NET controls that provide specialized functionality. You can get more info on these from Scott Guthrie's weblog entry, "Atlas" 1.0 Naming and Roadmap . I did start to play with AJAX before the ASP.NET AJAX framework was available, but I never commited enough time to actually focus on it. Since then, the one reason I've hesitated the most on it was because I really wanted to see some wiz-bang beautiful feature that I couldn't live without. Granted, the main purpose of AJAX is not to enhance the user interface (UI), but to enhance the user experience (UX). Nonetheless, I wanted something I could show users, who are more impressed by the explicit combination of UI and UX -- by definition, UX implicitly includes UI, but that isn't always the main focus of UX enhancements. What I was really waiting for was something I didn't realize existed: the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit . If you haven't checked it out, this is a must-see that will really convince you that it's time to give ASP.NET AJAX a shot. Beyond this, I was uterly suprised at the amount of work I needed to do in order to AJAX-enable my application. There are 3 very simple steps: (1) add a reference to the ASP.NET AJAX assemblies; (2) add an instance of the <atlas:ScriptManager /> control to your page; and, (3) surround the controls you want to be AJAX-enabled in an <atlas:UpdatePanel></atlas:UpdatePanel> control. All very easy and with a quick turn-around to see results.
Now, as I mentioned, I wanted to see more than this in my AJAX efforts. I was talking to a co-worker about what I'd like to create in a demo I was working on, but didn't have to time to invest. That's when he introduced me to the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit. When I gave that a look, I was gleefully surprised. I'm not sure why I didn't know about this sooner. If I would have, I'd have definitely played with it earlier. I admit, these controls don't add capabilities to your web application, but they do save you time and effort in making your app perform and look better.
I've used this ASP.NET AJAX in a demo app and a very small Media Center management app I worked on for someone and have been extremely impressed. I plan on doing a little work for a local football league in the coming weeks, too, and ASP.NET AJAX will definitely be part of my arsenal. I honestly can't see doing things differently. I'm a very big UX geek, so anything I can do to make the application look and feel better, I'm all about it. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to post on the Media Center and football stats projects I'm working on.