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InfoQ Homepage News Silverlight 4 Developer Beta Is Packed with New Features

Silverlight 4 Developer Beta Is Packed with New Features

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Microsoft has announced the availability of Silverlight 4 Developer Beta at PDC 2009 only months after the previous release, Silverlight 3. There are numerous new features including: a comprehensive set of controls (over 60), one code both for the desktop and Silverlight sandbox, MEF support, a fully editable design surface, full Intellisense, better audio-video support, better performance and many more.

Silverlight 4 has a number of new basic features:

  • Comprehensive printing support enabling hardcopy reports and documents as well as a virtual print view, independent of screen content.
  • A full set of forms controls with over 60 customizable, styleable components. New controls include RichTextbox with hyperlinks, images and editing and Masked textbox for complex field validation. Enhanced controls include DataGrid with sortable/resizeable columns and copy/paste rows.
  • WCF RIA Services introduces enterprise class networking and data access for building n-tier applications including transactions, paging of data, WCF and HTTP enhancements.
  • Localization enhancements with Bi-Directional text, Right-to-Left support and complex scripts such as Arabic, Hebrew and Thai and 30 new languages.
  • The .NET Common Runtime (CLR) now enables the same compiled code to be run on the desktop and Silverlight without change.
  • Enhanced data binding support increases flexibility and productivity through data grouping/editing and string formatting within bindings.
  • Managed Extensibility Framework supports building large composite applications.
  • Exclusive tooling support for Silverlight, new in Visual Studio 2010. Including a full editable design surface, drag & drop data-binding, automatically bound controls, data source selection, integration with Expression Blend styling resources, Silverlight project support and full IntelliSense.

The developer tools have been enhanced:

  • Fully editable design surface for drawing out controls and layouts.
  • Rich property grid and new editors for values
  • Drag and drop support for data binding and automatically creating bound controls such as listbox, datagrid. New data sources window and picker.
  • Easy to pick styles and resources to make a good looking application based on designer resources built in Expression Blend.
  • Built in project support for Silverlight applications
  • Editor with full intellisense for XAML and C# and VB languages.

The list of new capabilities for creating truly rich applications is pretty long:

  • Fluid interface enhancements advance application usability through animation effects.
  • Webcam and microphone to allow sharing of video and audio for instance for chat or customer service applications.
  • Audio and video local recording capabilities capture RAW video without requiring server interaction, enabling a wide range of end-user interaction and communication scenarios for example video conferencing.
  • Bring data in to your application with features such as copy and paste or drag and drop.
  • Long lists can now be scrolled effortlessly with the mouse wheel.
  • Support conventional desktop interaction models through new features such as right-click context menu.
  • Support for Google’s Chrome browser.
  • Performance optimizations mean Silverlight 4 applications start quicker and run 200% faster than the equivalent Silverlight 3 application.
  • Deep Zoom enhancements include hardware acceleration to support larger datasets and faster animation.
  • Multi-touch support enables a range of gestures and touch interactions to be integrated into user experiences.
  • Multicast networking, enabling Enterprises to lower the cost of streaming broadcast events such as company meetings and training, interoperating seamlessly with existing Windows Media Server streaming infrastructure.
  • Content protection for H.264 media through Silverlight DRM powered by PlayReady.
  • Output protection for audio/video streams allowing content owners or distributors to ensure protected content is only viewed through a secure video connection.

Being an early release, Silverlight 4 is only for developers so an end-user runtime is not available. Silverlight 4 needs VS 2010. The basic tools and documentation are:

Silverlight 4 Beta Tools for Visual Studio 2010 – includes the developer runtime, Visual Studio project support and the Silverlight 4 SDK.

Silverlight Toolkit – includes various controls with their source code released under an open source license.

Online Silverlight 4 Beta Documentation

Offline CHM help Silverlight 4 Beta Documentation

Videos and Sample Code – videos explaining top features. Includes C# and VB.NET source code.

One application demoed at PDC 2009 was FishBowl, a Facebook client which in fact is an out-of-browser Silverlight application allowing users to connect to their Facebook account having the option to interact with it through a customizable rich interface. The source code for FishBowl is available on CodePlex.

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