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Jonas Bush

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Axosoft PureChat

At Axosoft, after we ship major releases of OnTime, we typically have some time to unwind and work on other side projects. These have been ways for the developers here to learn new technologies, or to try out new features and additions to technologies we're currently using. So after we launched OnTime 2008, we had to come up with something else to do to try and let our brains cool down for awhile. :) We also wanted to try and work on something that may have more practical uses in the future, rather than working on purely theoretical ideas.

One of the ideas we came up with was a web-based chat application that could be used for things like technical and pre-sales support. With that in mind, I'm thrilled to be able to announce that we're launching our first product other than OnTime for commercial release: Axosoft PureChat.

There's plenty of other places where we will talk about PureChat from a marketing and sales standpoint, so I wanted to highlight some of the technical aspects of the product.

PureChat is written entirely with C# and javascript, against the 2.0 .NET framework. It uses Microsoft's ASP.Net AJAX, as well as selected controls from the AJAX Control Toolkit. Before I go any further, I just want to say that the Atlas (I think I'll always call it Atlas, it's shorter and sounds better) javascript framework really adds a lot of value and productivity for doing any sort of extensive work in javascript. Major kudos go out to that team at Microsoft.

When we were thinking about the initial goal for PureChat, the main goal was simplicity of use and installation. Everything in PureChat is web-based, there are no thick client apps to install or run, for either the chat operators, or the end users that are requesting chats. As far as installation, there is a small dll (around 520kb as of this writing) that is the PureChat assembly. If your web site does not currently use ASP.Net AJAX or the AJAX Control Toolkit, we provide those assemblies as well in the release. There are also a dozen or so files you will have to copy in to your website architecture. These are the markup pages, user controls and other support files that make PureChat run. To get PureChat up and running, all you have to do is drop the markup for a user control onto your page (typically this would be a master page or a control that resides in a master page, for example a header control). Once that's done, we provide starter images that you can use to represent when an operator is available for a chat. A chat will only be available to be requested when there is an operator logged in and present, ready for incoming chat requests.

One of the more interesting things we were able to, from a developer's standpoint, was the creation of grids and treeviews completely in code, and then sending the resulting HTML to the client. We use the built-in gridview and treeview controls that come with ASP.Net on the operator's console, to display things like the list of pending chats, the operators that are currently logged on, and other pieces of information. We create these objects completely through code, render them to a string, and then return the string as part of class that gets returned to the client, serialized as a JSON object.

Again, we're very excited about this new product. Please leave any comments you might have here, or on the forums.

Published Wednesday, January 30, 2008 1:27 PM by Jonas
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