I remember when Java applets were going to revolutionise the web. Although the Java applet has cropped up in all kinds of web-applications over the years, it has never really become ubiquitous in the way that, say, Flash has. As a web-application developer, working mostly in Java, I have not developed an applet-based solution for years. Currently, I’m more excited by the possibilities afforded by AJAX.

Both Flash and Java applets have been part of the evolutionary process which seems to head towards the Rich Internet Application (RIA). With AJAX making a compelling claim to be the approach to building richer web-applications, where does this leave Java applets? Well, I was startled to come across ThinkFree Office Online recently. This is, essentially, an MS Office clone delivered as an online service and accessed via a web browser, using a set of Java applets. It is astonishingly feature-rich, and its text processing component bears comparison with the AJAX based Writely, recently acquired by Google.

Is the momentum behind AJAX, towards RIAs in general, giving the Java applet a new lease of life? Probably not, but it seems to work for ThinkFree.

Incidently, I couldn’t find any sign of support for OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications in ThinkFree Office Online. Writely does support this standard for text documents (.odt).

This was previously published at http://blog.sockdrawer.org and was retrieved from the Internet Archive.