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InfoQ Homepage News Return of the Rich Client - .NET 3.0 Meets the NY Times

Return of the Rich Client - .NET 3.0 Meets the NY Times

Listening to all the Web 2.0 hype, you would think rich client applications have gone the way of DOS and dinosaurs. But it appears that the New York Times didn't get the memo, and they have the killer app to prove it.

The New York Times has released a beta of the Times Reader to critical acclaim. While some question the logic of creating a separate application just to view website content, they cannot actually find fault with the program. The readability enchancements alone are just too good. As Rafe Needleman says. "I admit that if I wanted to take a stand against this type of application, I could simply not use it--the Times' Web site has the same content. But the New York Times Reader really is a better way to read the Times' news."

The Times Reader isn't your typical rich client application. By leveraging Microsoft's ClickOnce technology, the application is updated automatically without user involvement. New features are automatically downloaded and installed whenever the user starts the program.

The presentation is done with Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), a component of the soon to be released .NET 3.0. This gives the NY Times developers unprecedented control over the layout. Unlike a web browser, which has trouble displaying columns, the Times Reader can freely flow text from column to column as the page resizes. There are no scroll bars, users simply use the arrow keys to turn the page. And because it is an installed application, it can include the fonts used in the print edition of the NY Times. Other features not normally available to browsers include deep support for off-line viewing, automatic tracking of read pages, and the ability to annotate pages with your own notes.

Can this the beginning of a renaissance in rich client applications?

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