Developer Express does Silverlight

09 November 2007
Actually it's more like Silverlight does DX, but bear with me, OK?

First of all, check out our Silverlight-powered What's New for DXperience v2007 vol3. This is a simple enough Silverlight 1.0 application, the result of a collaboration between one of our designers and one of the devs. It certainly was fun to do, but in the end was nothing more or less than what could be produced with Flash, for example.

There's nothing really there in Silverlight 1.0 for us to get a hold of and make a business from. It's more of a designer's platform than a real developer's platform. No, the real fun is with Silverlight 1.1 with the cut-back Framework written in C# and the compiler that compiles it all. Much more developer-oriented this one.

The issue of course is that all we have is an early alpha. The Framework-lite we have in this release is very, very light. Lots of things are missing, lots of things are very exploratory or not even nailed down. We have no real data on what is slated to appear and what isn't.

Nevertheless, we did have a little demo of a couple of controls we've been testing the waters with, And if you'd asked me nicely at DevConnections I'd have shown you them.

Important Sidebar: Our Silverlight controls are not finished. They are not a product yet. They are not for sale; nor have we even talked about how to sell them. We do not have a schedule for releasing them, just as there is no known release date for Silverlight 1.1. We have only really run them in IE7, not Firefox or Safari. We don't know if they work in Mac OS/X. They are not even alpha-ready, let alone beta-ready. They are not vaporware per se, more like steamware: ready to condense when the temperature cools enough. There, I think that covers all the bases :).

The issue we've found in creating these controls is that the Framework is just too unformed. For instance, there are two classes you can use to create a new control: Canvas and Control. Microsoft would like you to use Control, but even in our rudimentary experiments it's not extensible enough and is too closed. So our controls were built on top of Canvas just so we could get something done.

The controls we've done are a couple of variants of a layout panel. One's a docked panel that knows how to dock itself to the sides of the browser window (or to each other, if there's already a panel docked there). The other one is a layered layout panel that displays a set of items and knows now to flow them vertically and horizontally. It also knows about resizing events, so that reflows happen automatically. There's also drag-and-drop of the items so that you can reorder them manually. And so on.

Essentially Vlad, our dev on the project, had to take a whole chunk of our existing code and make it work with the reduced Framework in Silverlight. [Update: he tells me that in fact he didn't, it was easier to rewrite it from scratch.] That was the easy bit, the harder part was coercing Silverlight to his (not inconsiderable) will.

Anyway, I'll see if I can't get an image to display (I don't have it installed on my machine here).

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