MentorWizard and its predecessors employ a number of familiar technologies, combined in a unique way. Examples of these technologies include hypertext-like links, transaction management, and point-and-click user interactions. These technologies have appeared in a number of computing environments; however, currently the dominant new environment for application delivery is the World Wide Web.
What would the World Wide Web be like if it had been developed initially to run applications instead of distribute documents? It just might resemble MentorWizard, an application delivery framework that operates over the Internet but does not use a web browser.
Web browsers do provide an excellent user interface for the display of a wide variety of information. This display capability has been extended to support the various controls needed to deliver distributed applications over the Internet. The individual screens that make up a typical GUI application's user interface can be rendered quite well in a browser; however, the navigation between pages is sometimes awkward.
After all, browsers started out life as document display tools. Document readers need the ability to jump around as they search for relevant material. Users navigate within and between documents using hyperlinks and the "Back" and "Forward" buttons. Since no data entry is involved, the only "undo" they need is provided by the browser's "Back" and "Forward" buttons. Delivery of "undo" and user context features by these applications is difficult when the user can jump to any web page. When an application is trying to manage data entry by a user, going "Back" often necessitates undoing some data entry. Therefore developers often struggle to disable the browser's "Back" and "Forward" buttons so that they have the control they need to reliably deliver "undo" and other context-sensitive features.
Instead of trying to deliver the user interface for distributed applications through a web browser, MentorWizard presents its user interface in a client presentation engine that, unlike a browser, is optimized for applications. MentorWizard applications operate with screen-to-screen navigation that is optimized for the display and entry of data. A web browser is a wonderful tool for information display, but fails to provide the kind of navigation that is needed by many applications. Moreover, development of applications in the MentorWizard environment is easy - just as easy, in fact, as developing web pages for a browser.
Applications such as Microsoft Office or PhotoShop are ill suited to Internet-based deployment. For example, the widely used office suites such as Microsoft Office are large, client-based applications with traditional graphical user interfaces. These applications help users to create documents, drawings, and slide shows. They do not use a browser for their user interface, in part because their output is in the form of files often quite large files. The Internet is better suited to applications that operate on relatively small chunks of data that can be easily transferred from a server to a client system and back again. These include applications that support rules-based tasks, sometimes called "Electronic Performance Support" systems. MentorWizard is designed for such applications.