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Summary:

Over the weekend, I was talking about web application development to a retired friend who was once a top programmer. He doesn’t do a lot of programming anymore, and remarked that application development tools for the web are so fragmented that it’s difficult to stay on […]

Over the weekend, I was talking about web application development to a retired friend who was once a top programmer. He doesn’t do a lot of programming anymore, and remarked that application development tools for the web are so fragmented that it’s difficult to stay on top of the various languages and tools that are available. For example, he expressed some interest in learning Flash and AJAX, but didn’t know where to start.


In this post, I’ll cover four free, good resources for easy-to-digest web application development tools, templates and training.


I’ve mentioned W3Schools before. The site recently got an interface overhaul making it much easier to navigate. As always, the good thing about this site is that you can access many compact, accessible tutorials on everything from Flash to AJAX to PHP, but unlike many similar offerings, you actually publish your test attempts to web pages and see what the results look like. You’ll find the many application development lessons housed at the site running down the left and right rails of the home page.

Down the right rail of W3Schools, there is a sub-site full of examples of pages built using JavaScript, AJAX, CSS and many more tools. For example, at this page, you’ll find links that take you to CSS-controlled portions of pages, where you can see before and after snapshots of how CSS was applied in each case.

My programmer friend was particularly interested in putting together a couple of Flash sites. For those who are unfamiliar with Flash but want to get simple templates and tools to work with, the Lite version of TrendyFlash is a good place to start. You can take a look at user-rated, user-built sample sites done with TrendyFlash here, and it’s easy to convert pages you build to Flash presentations.  (W3Schools also provides a complete Flash tutorial, including a good lesson on Flash animation.)

Do you need design input for a site? Mike Gunderloy has covered Open Source Designs here.  It provides over 2,000 web site designs, with the majority of them XHTML/CSS-based. It’s a proven way to get a site going with a good theme, look and platform to build on. In a similar vein to Open Source Designs, look into Open Designs.  This site relies a group of open source site designers from around the world providing thousands more XHTML- and CSS- based free web design templates for downloading. Everything at these sites is free.

Between W3Schools, the example applications linked to there, and the free resources for good looking designs, it’s easy to take advantage of cutting-edge tools without necessarily mastering development and design languages and environments from end to end. Sometimes simply picking and choosing what will work for your site goes a long way.

By Samuel Dean

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