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Why jQuery?

When I attended the Future of Web Apps Summit in February this year, I remember being a bit bemused while listening to David Heinemeier Hansson talk about Ruby on Rails (official site). I didn’t use any “development frameworks” except those I had built myself; I think I had been put off by the idea of something more to learn and also making my projects dependent on code that I didn’t understand.

However, something about the concept of frameworks appealed to me. after all, I spend all day working on computers but, when it comes down to it, I only have a hazy idea of how they work inside, so I can’t carry the logic of that particular objection very far. It was a couple of weeks later that I started looking into the Prototype Javascript framework to help me move forward with my interest in the concept of AJAX-based pages, which had begun somewhat earlier but was stoked up by the summit. I can date that quite accurately, thanks to my habit of bookmarking resources on del.icio.us, a useful side-effect of exploring the social bookmarking phenomenon.

Prototype let me dip my toes into the waters of working within development frameworks. Once I had found some documentation I began to make much quicker progress in adding useful Javascript enhancements to my pages because I could rely on the framework to do all the heavy coding and use the higher level abstractions it provided to describe what I wanted. The disadvantage of Prototype is that it is quite a “heavy” library – more than 40KB, which is a significant overhead for just adding one or two special effects to the page!

More recently, I began experimenting with Moo tools (see del.icio.us for my related bookmarks), which is a much lighter weight library. Having a grasp of Prototype gave me a head start with this but I felt scuppered by limited documentation. That caused me to download yet another framework, jQuery (bookmarks for that one as well!), which looked to sit somewhere in the middle as regards size but for which I had also discovered better online documentation (including the excellent Visual jQuery site).

That is how I came to settle on the jQuery framework (at least for this month!) and I am glad that I have begun to voyage with frameworks as a support rather than contenting myself with paddling in just the limited Javascript I understand!

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