“Project Siena” lets you program, without programming

Whilst Windows 8’s latest iteration is finally catching up to Vista; applications built specifically for its “Modern UI” are still sparse – despite recent heavyweights including Facebook, Flipboard, and Foursquare all jumping on board.

To help alleviate this problem, and get non-programmers building basic applications in minutes, Microsoft has released “Project Siena” to the Windows Store.

Siena’s release will primarily empower business users to create apps which cater to their very specific needs. This may be using their expertise combined with the ability to tap into large data pools without the need for the IT department…

Microsoft technical evangelist James Quick said in a blog post on Project Siena, "As far as data, you can pull data from an Excel sheet, Azure Mobile Services, REST calls, RSS feeds or SharePoint. This gives the developer a couple of different options for loading dynamic data, which potentially makes your app more enjoyable.”

He concludes: “Simply pump out new data to the user, and that gives them more reason to open back up your app, right?"

The experience is very similar to that of ‘App Studio’ released for Windows Phone applications, and functions as a (greatly) stripped-down version of Visual Studio.

Your applications interface can be created through the usual suspect of components including; text blocks, galleries (images, text, or both), video, audio, toggle buttons, list boxes, and input boxes. After you’ve made the visual aesthetics pleasing; you can add navigation, get input from the user and store/display it, or even add the ability for the user to draw on the screen with the pen.

Microsoft has given examples of what has already been created by Siena which include Apps to explore media-rich product catalogs; apps used on the spot to resolve customer service bottlenecks and logistics exceptions; and apps for auditing and inspecting a manufacturing facility through photos, videos, and pen and voice notes, all tied to an asset database.

"Project Siena is a very interesting take on engaging nonprofessional developers that are working in the context of knowledge workers at enterprises," Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC, told eWEEK

The Redmond-based company is hoping the app will be as easy to use (and start creating) by people with the skill level of PowerPoint and Excel users. One of the best aspects about Siena is it could inspire more people to take up learning actual programming; through the ability to open the projects you’ve built (made using HTML5 and JavaScript) in their favourite future tools.

What do you think about Microsoft’s “Project Siena”? Could it even boost the Windows 8 platform?

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