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Smart client

Web Design & Development Guide

Smart client

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Smart Client is a new "buzzword" used in software development, generally referring to applications which:

  • are delivered over the web
  • do not require installation (or provide automated installation and updates)
  • automatically update without user action
  • have the look and feel of desktop applications

The term "Smart Client" is meant to refer to simultaneously capturing the benefits of a "thin client" (zero-install, auto-update) and a "fat client" (high performance, high productivity).

A "Smart Client" application can be created in several very different technologies. The original use of the term in the context of the web was Isomorphic Software's SmartClient product (they own the SmartClient.com domain), which uses an Ajax-based, cross-browser cross-platform approach. Subsequently Microsoft began using the terminology to refer to .NET applications delivered via the Internet Explorer browser to Windows XP. The terms "Rich Internet Application" (RIA) and "rich web application" are essentially synonymous with "Smart Client", and are used to refer to several other technological approaches including Flash, Java applets and Webstart applications.

The Smart Client approach came about because when businesses tried to develop web applications to replace their old desktop applications, user productivity decreased. This was because web-based user interfaces based on server-side HTML generation are typically not as responsive, have fewer hot keys and require more use of the mouse, etc.

Smart Client applications bridge the gap between web applications and desktop applications. They provide the benefits of a web application (such as leveraging the internet and offering remote access to data) while still providing the snappy look and feel inherent to desktop applications.


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