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Media Technology

An electronic magazine that doesn’t suck

I’ve been having some interesting chats on the .net forums about the future of print magazines in an increasingly webby world, and one of my big moans is that the e-magazines so far have used really annoying technology – so for example I’m not a big fan of pages in PDF or solutions such as Xinio Reader.

One of the magazines I write for is Official Windows Vista Magazine, and one of the things I’ve been covering recently is Windows Presentation Foundation. It’s part of the .NET framework and it’s designed to do two things: to create applications, and to create browser-based applications. For now it’s a Vista and/or IE7 thing, but the WPF Everywhere plugin will make WPF applications work on Firefox and Safari too.

It’s impressive stuff. The British Library’s Turning The Pages project, which brings ancient tomes to life, has started using WPF (previously it used Shockwave) to excellent effect, and Paul Douglas of Official Windows Vista Magazine has persuaded the developers – Armadillo Systems, with some help from Microsoft – to create a browser version of the Vista mag using the same technology.

You can see more details and get the browser-based mag here.

Just to clarify, the tech used by the magazine is built into Vista so the browser-based mag will work immediately, but if you’re on Windows XP you’ll need to install the .NET framework 3.0 first.

Is this the future of magazines? Probably not on the desktop, although I think a browser-based magazine built in WPF would be superb on a tablet PC (if such things ever come down in price). In the case of this particular application I think the tilted presentation looks nice but has a detrimental effect on readability, but maybe that’s just me – and it’s definitely the closest approximation to a real magazine that I’ve seen on screen. As a tech showcase I think it’s really interesting – not least the text rendering, and of course the content. My blabs are on pages 10 to 11, heh.

So if you’re running IE7 and/or Vista, have a look and a play around with it. I’d be interested to hear what you think.