Silverlight 2.0 Made Easy

At this year’s Silicon Valley Codecamp, there was a large contingent of .NET evangelists in the speakers list. I attended yet another Silverlight presentation, this time given by Lino Tadros of Falafel Software. Most of the Microsoft technologist present at this years codecamp seem to be under heavy NDA, and they make it be known as if they are dropping names, to seem like they are in the know. What they don’t know is that I am also under NDA by the CIA.

The idea of Silverlight is to run an application natively on the client, on any browser, on any platform. It runs on macs, linux, and obviously windows. Silverlight is built on the same technology as Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) such as .NET and XAML. XAML is a markup language used to separate, design, and develop UI components. Lino joked that “for a long time development tools did not understand that we developer can not design.” In addition to Visual Studio, Microsoft has made available Expression Blend. Expression Blend is a designer friendly application to create XAML application.

WPF, Silverlight and XAML in particular try to solve many issues of past UI frameworks such as WinForms and MFC. With XAML you can add any content to a button, not just a text label as in most other UI frameworks. The power of this is that the content can be anything, a video, a list, anything… If you want a list in a button, why not, it is 2008, we are supposed to be living in the future, so says Lino.

Instead of subclassing UI component classes to customize the UI, the new model is to use stylesheets and templates to customize the look and feel of your UI. With the Expression Blend you can simply draw new components, or redesign existing components without having to override a paint method.

Silverlight, in essence, is a subset of WPF. If you want a project to work for both Silverlight and WPF, start with a Silverlight project. Many assemblies available for WPF projects are not available in Silverlight.

A current reservation with developing your next application with Silverlight is the market penetration but recently Microsoft paid for all development costs to have CNN and NBC run content, such as the 2008 summer Olympics, on Silverlight so as to start a bandwagon for other development shops to jump on.

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