Sneak Preview -- Sun Download Manager 2.0



We're well into the Sun Download Manager 2.0 project now, and all is going well. We finished usability testing last week with good results, and we have a new design fairly well finished. Here's a rough screen shot of the new main screen:

SDM 2.0 main window

Obviously we're tying the design more closely to the Sun brand and current "look and feel," and we've added a small window at the bottom for a couple of lines of advertising text we plan to pull dynamically from Sun's ad server. SDM always has been and will remain free, with no spyware or other "malware" of any sort, so we trust our users will understand the addition of a small bit of advertising to help pay the bills.

I wrote earlier about areas of improvement we've noted for the current version of SDM -- I'll elaborate a bit on how we plan to address them.

The main goal is to integrate SDM with the SDLC download experience. We're going to add a check box next to each file on the SDLC download page and a shiny new button that says "Download Selected with Sun Download Manager." Users select the files they wish (we'll also have "Select All" options), then push the magic button. This will initiate Java Web Start to automatically download, install, and run SDM (if it's already installed, it'll just initiate the resident version). Through some clever work by our engineers, we'll pass the list of selected files into SDM so its file queue is fully loaded upon start-up. The user just clicks "Start" and (hopefully!) enjoys all the benefits of using our download manager. (Download links will be fully exposed, as they are today, for those who prefer to download through the browser or with other utilities.)

The best part of this approach is we're able to keep SDM a 100% Java application that's fully cross-platform. As with any new approach, there are some concerns we're addressing:
  • The solution relies on JavaScript and customers having a relatively recent version of Java Runtime Environment installed. (Java Web Start is included automatically with Java versions 1.4 and later).
  • Because of this requirement, we're planning to use some new JavaScript routines to auto-detect what, if any, Java version is installed and tailor the messaging and experience accordingly. (We looked at using an applet for this but found the JavaScript will be faster. We don't anticipate 100% accuracy with this solution but it will simply fall back to current functionality if needed.)
  • We have a full reliance on Java Web Start without a ton of experience on our team using this in the "real world," so we need to test the heck out of it on as many browser/platform/Java version combos as we can get.
  • For systems that don't meet these requirements, we'll show the download page pretty much as it looks today, though we'll also let our customers know that if they upgrade/install Java, they can take advantage of an integrated download manager.

So that's the general plan. I can't provide a release date yet but will try to provide updates as we go.


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About

I helped design, build, and manage download systems at Sun for many years. Recently I've focused on web eMarketing systems. Occasionally, I write about other interests, such as holography and jazz guitar. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/garyzel

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