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Sending Email with AJAX: Building a Small Application


AJAX has become ubiquitous, thanks to the fact that it gives web developers the ability to create applications that make http requests without reloading the page on which the application is running. It is also extremely versatile and powerful. This article, the first in a series, will start you on the way to creating an AJAX-based email application.

Author Info:
By: Alejandro Gervasio
Rating: 5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars / 42
January 17, 2006
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · Sending Email with AJAX: Building a Small Application
  2. · Getting started: developing the application’s user interface
  3. · Spicing things up: writing the CSS rules for the AJAX email application
  4. · Working with building blocks: defining the (X)HTML markup for the email application

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Sending Email with AJAX: Building a Small Application - Getting started: developing the application’s user interface
(Page 2 of 4 )

Before I start writing both the (X)HTML markup  and the CSS styles that will render the structure of my AJAX-based email application, let me show you a simple screenshot, which I hope will serve to give you a better idea of how the corresponding user interface will look:

As you can see by the image above, the look and feel of the application resembles the structure of a simple email client program. To the left of the main screen, the interface will show an area destined to list and eventually add contacts, and display some basic information such as the contact’s full name and email addresses (in this case, this data will pop up when the mouse is placed over the respective contact name).

In a similar way, the program’s right panel will show the typical fields used when sending out email, including the "SUBJECT”, “TO”, “CC” and “BCC” fields, in addition to the email text area, where the user will type the corresponding message. Also, notice the three additional control buttons, placed at the bottom of the panel, labeled from left to right “Send Message”, “Clear Message” and “Display Contacts” respectively. As you may have guessed, the first control will submit the message, the second will clear all the fields, and the last one will refresh the list of contacts. All the processes wil be performed without reloading the web page.

Additionally, the application will expose some other extra features, such as adding a new contact on the fly, refreshing the list of contacts and populating message fields, whenever the proper contact link is clicked. As you may realize, the email program might not fit all your requirements, but it does present a set of quite appealing, valuable features. Of course, the best part of this project is that you can change the look and feel of the application or even add more functionality to it, without having to introduce major modifications to the client-side application layer itself.

So that’s my schematic description for the user interface of this AJAX email application. Let’s spend a few minutes writing the CSS rules and (X)MTML markup responsible for adding visual presentation and structure to the program.


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