10 most useful Google Chrome experiments

Of the nearly 80 projects featured on Chrome Experiments, the majority are graphic demos

When it comes to presenting graphically oriented programs through a browser, the usual go-to development platforms have been Adobe Flash and -- to a lesser extent -- Microsoft Silverlight. But other, more open technologies are starting to show promise.

That's what Google aims to highlight on Chrome Experiments, a Web site that showcases JavaScript programs that deliver a rich user-graphics experience.

Of the nearly 80 projects featured on Chrome Experiments, the majority are graphic demos. As impressive as such eye candy is, they're not good examples of how capable JavaScript can be for running graphically-oriented applications that are actually useful.

But there are a few notable ones, which we present here. (Despite the site's name, these programs should run on any browser that supports JavaScript.)

1.Canvas Sketch: Fingerpainting for mobile devices

Canvas Sketch has the very basics of a paint program: freehand and line drawing, eraser, and fill tools; and tools to draw rectangular and circular shapes. Its color palette is limited to 26 colors, and no image can be larger than 501 by 334 pixels.

So why even bother using this? Canvas Sketch was designed for smartphones and mobile devices that can run JavaScript-enabled Web browsers. (There's an "iPhone mode" that resizes Canvas Sketch's default horizontal layout to a vertically-oriented one that fits within the iPhone's screen dimensions.) You can save your digital doodles in GIF, JPG or PNG format.

So long as you think of, and use, it as a mobile app for simple scribbling using your finger on the touchscreen, Canvas Sketch serves as a nifty example of the type of JavaScript apps which can be made for small-scale platforms.

2. Impressionist: Monet-ize your photos

This image-manipulation tool is designed to do only one thing: convert a photograph into what looks like a painting. You start by uploading your image file to the Impressionist server. From there, you apply the oil-paint effect in one of two ways.

The first is by a freehand drawing method. You choose your brush size and shape, and then paint over any areas of your picture where you want to apply an ersatz oil colors look.

But the second is the most fun. Upon selecting the desired brush shape, size and width, you click "start" and your picture then comes alive as if thousands of paint brushes are dabbing and swirling it with oil paints. (The colors are derived from your original image's palette.) This real-time rendering runs continuously until you stop it. Using Impressionist just to watch this effect in motion is hypnotic.

3. Sketchpad: Drawing made easy

This drawing application has gotten a lot of attention lately as an excellent example of the power of JavaScript, and it's obvious to see why. Sketchpad has the features of a typical, basic paint program, and delivers it with the sort of speedy performance you expect from a desktop counterpart.

Its tools (such as for drawing, cropping and masking) work smoothly, as do its toolbar and canvas windows when you click on and drag to reposition them in the work area. Sketchpad's other strength is its huge variety of built-in patterns and gradients you can use in your image -- there's even a "spirograph" drawing tool.

4 Twitterbrowse: Find friends and followers

Enter the username of a Twitter account into its search box, and twitterbrowse pulls up the user photos of the friends and followers for that person, laying them out into a grid. These images can be sorted alphabetically, or by friends or followers. When you re-sort, the photos neatly shuffle into the selected order.

Click on the user photo of a friend or follower, and information about the total number of friends and followers for that username will slide out from the right side of the user photo. You can then click a link to jump to a new page where you can browse through the friends and followers -- arranged into its own grid -- for that selected Twitter user.

Slick as this is, it would be cool if its developer could add reading and writing tweets to his demo. That would make twitterbrowse a great alternative user interface for using Twitter.

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Howard Wen

Network World
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