Sencha Con 2013 Day 1

Sencha Con 2013 kicked off today, with some stunning improvements demoed across the product set. I'm attending as an audience member for the first time so thought I'd share how things look from the cheap seats.


The keynote was very well put together, with none of the AV issues that plagued us last year (maybe they seemed worse from behind the curtain!). It started off with a welcome from Paul Kopacki, followed by some insights into the current status of developers in the world of business (apparently we're kingmakers - who knew!). One of Blackberry's evangelists came up and made a pretty good pitch for giving them a second look (the free hardware probably helped a little...)

The meat, though, was in the second half of the presentation. We were treated to a succession of great new features across Ext JS, Sencha Touch and Sencha Architect, which I'll go into in a little more detail below.

But it was Abe Elias and Jacky Nguyen who stole the show in the end. Unleashing a visionary new product, Sencha Space, they demonstrated a brand new way to enable businesses to elegantly solve the problem of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

Nobody wants to be given a mobile phone by their IT department when they've got a brand new iPhone in their pocket. But those IT guys have good reason for doing this - consumer browsers are currently inherently insecure. Sencha Space solves this problem by providing a single app that employees can install, log in to and gain access to all of the apps needed to be productive in the company.

I could write a lot more about it but the 2 minute video below can surely do a better job:

Update: looks like this video got taken down at some point

Ext JS upgrades

The keynote lasted most of the morning, but in the afternoon Don Griffin came back on stage to tell us more about what's coming soon in Ext JS. Don heads up Ext JS these days, and is one of the most intelligent and experienced people I've had the joy of working with. I'm pretty sure he gained the largest amount of spontaneous applause of the day during the Ext JS talk, which is no surprise given the awesome stuff he showed us.

I forget which order things were revealed in, but these things stood out for me:

  • Touch Support - while this may seem anathema to the thinking behind Ext JS, it's an undeniable fact that people try to use Ext JS applications on tablets. Whether they should or not is a different question, but in this next release it will be officially supported by the framework. Momentum scrolling, pinch to zoom and dragdrop resizing are all supported at your fingertips.
  • Grid Gadgets - quite likely the coolest new feature, Gadgets allow you to render any Component into each cell in a Grid, in an extremely CPU and memory efficient manner. Seeing a live grid updating with rich charts and other widgets at high frequency was a fantastic experience
  • Border Layout - allows your users to rearrange the border layouts used in your apps with drag and drop. Easy to switch between accordion layout, box layout or tabs
  • A shedload more. The enforced pub crawl has temporarily relieved me of a full memory. So impressed with everything that was demonstrated today.

Sencha Touch upgrades

Jacky came up and delivered a presentation on what's coming up in Sencha Touch, using his idiosyncratic and inimitable style. Some of the things that stood out for me:

  • Touch gets a grid. It performs really well and looks great. Good for (sparing) use on tablet apps
  • XML configs. Not sure how I feel about this yet, but ST 2.3 will allow for views to be declared in XML, which is transformed into the normal JSON format under the covers. You end up writing few lines of code, but the overall file size probably doesn't change too much. With a decent editor the syntax highlighting definitely makes the View code easier to read though
  • ViewModel. Just as we have for encapsulating data models, we now have ViewModel for encapsulating a view model, which includes things like state. Leads to a much improved API for updating Views in response to other changes
  • Theming. 2 additional themes were added, and the others have all been refactored to make theming even easier

Again there's a lot more here and I couldn't possibly do it all justice in a blog post. It's geniunely thrilling to see these young frameworks mature into stellar products that are being used by literally millions of developers. Very exciting.

Architect upgrades

Architect has come a really long way since its inception a couple of years ago. The new features introduced today looked like some of the largest steps forward the product has ever taken. I'm finally getting close to actually thinking about using it in real life (I'm a glutten for editing code in Sublime Text). Some standout features:

  • New template apps to get you up and running with a new app in seconds
  • Integration with Appurify, which allows you to test your Architect apps on real devices hosted by their service
  • Allows you to install third party extensions into Architect, and have them seamlessly integrated into your project

Day 1 Summary

Although I worked with these people for years, somehow I'm still surprised when I see every single developer giving world class presentations. I don't know how I was able to leave Sencha a year ago, but every time I interact with Abe, Don, Jacky, Tommy, Jamie, Rob, Nige, and all of the other rockstars at that place I'm reminded what a great and unique time that was. Really looking forward to what tomorrow brings!

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