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Are Desktop Applications Dead?

April 19, 2011 | development / technology / app development

In the Web 2.0 era, the traditional desktop application has been declared all but dead. Everything is moving to the “cloud” and the majority of user’s time is spent in their web browser. Companies like Google are leading this trend, and they have went so far as producing an operating system that consists of only a web browser.

There are many advantages to a web based application. Data is centrally stored, managed and backed up. Access is available worldwide on any trusted computer with an Internet connection, and by running any operating system with a modern web browser. System up-time is increased and IT costs are lower. However, despite these compelling benefits, we should ask ourselves: “What are we losing by abandoning traditional desktop applications for web based application?”

Web 2.0 applications are characterized by their use of standards-compliant HTML, CSS, Ajax and JavaScript. Even with the advancements in browsers, libraries and techniques, these technologies have a long way to go before they can offer an experience to the user that is as responsive and polished as traditional desktop applications. Desktop applications are generally pre-compiled (at least into an intermediate bytecode), so they run faster and are more responsive. They are able to leverage the special features of the operating system and hardware they run on. This allows them to present the user with a richer interface access and peripheral hardware connected to the user’s computer such as document scanners, printers and bar-code readers.

When developing our Omniprise ERP solution, the advantages of web based applications were too big to ignore. However, so were those of the desktop. That’s why we combined the best of both platforms by offering a desktop interface to our Omniprise system. All of the data is still centrally stored on the Omniprise server and can be accessed through the browser, but the user can also take advantage of the special features only the desktop interface provides.

Most notably, the desktop interface has an advanced tabbing and docking system that allows the user to work on many tasks at once. Users can open multiple tabs and dock them side-by-side, top-to-bottom, or in any combination. Tabs can even be floated out of the interface to make it easier to work in Omniprise while using other software at the same time. Many useful tool windows are available to show important information like tasks, alerts and trouble tickets at a glance. The information displayed can be customized and the windows can be docked and floated like regular tabs. This allows you to have a list of current tasks on your computers desktop that updates in real time.

Another great feature our desktop interface provides is its integration with other parts of our Omniprise software suite, such as OmniScan. This allows users to scan documents using any attached scanner directly into the item they are currently working on. Scan in receipts to your expense reports or hand written notes to attach to your task. In addition, there is a screen locker, which allows you to safely leave your computer without losing your work.

No, the desktop application is not dead and won’t be anytime soon. Since desktop and web applications each have their own advantages, why not capitalize on the strengths of both?

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