Microsoft open sources Windows Library for JavaScript

The Windows WinJS JavaScript library can now be used to help build apps for non-Microsoft browsers

The WinJS preview site demonstrates some of WinJS' capabilities, such as this FlipView gallery

The WinJS preview site demonstrates some of WinJS' capabilities, such as this FlipView gallery

Potentially helping developers more quickly build cross-platform applications, Microsoft is releasing as open source its WinJS JavaScript library for building Windows-styled controls.

Now that the library is open source, developers can use it to build and design Windows-like Web applications for other browsers and platforms, including Chrome, Firefox, Android, and iOS.

Such cross-platform capability could save developers time by eliminating the need to code the same app multiple times for non-Windows platforms and browsers other than Internet Explorer, according to the company.

While the name "WinJS" may imply that it is a Microsoft version of JavaScript, it is in fact a collection of JavaScript tools for enabling advanced components and user interface controls, which minimize the changes developers have to make for using these features across different devices.

"We're really not interested in having a Microsoft's version of another thing you already have. That is not our goal. Our goal is to contribute something new, to solve actual problems people have," said Paul Gusmorino, a principal program manager lead on the team responsible for user interface platforms in Windows, in a WinJS session at the Microsoft Build developer conference, being held this week in San Francisco.

Microsoft first released this library in 2011 so developers could build Windows applications both for Windows Phone and the Windows 8 Modern interfaces using JavaScript, along with HTML, CSS and other Web development tools. It was one of two ways Microsoft offered to build interfaces for its new Windows 8 platforms, the other being XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language).

The library features components that can help build the infrastructure of a Web app, such as data binding. It also offers advanced user interface controls and designs such as ListView, FlipView, animations and semantic zoom.

Microsoft offers demonstrations of the various features, along with their implementation code, on the WinJS Preview Web site.

Gusmorino admitted that work still needs to be done to make WinJS fully compatible with non-Microsoft browsers, such as Firefox and Google Chrome. Some work has already been done to allow WinJS to easily interoperate with other JavaScript libraries, such as Angular, jQuery, and Knockout.

The library, now under the care of the Microsoft Open Technologies subsidiary, itself is now under a Apache 2.0 license, and the code base is maintained on GitHub.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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