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April 2010 - Posts

  • DevExpress Newsletter 26, Message from the CTO: Silverlight 2. No, 3. Er, 4.

    Silverlight seems to be the quite the super-chrysalis of the Microsoft platform space. In version 1, it was all about media. Playing video streams and the like. Then moments later, popping out of its pupa, came version 2 (note, I may be misremembering the length of time between v1 and v2) and suddenly you could write C# applications to run against a cut-down CLR in the Silverlight sandbox.

    Then scant days later came version 3, another metamorphosis -- my memory still failing me as to the actual length of time -- with more functionality supported out of the (sand)box and some mumblings of even having Silverlight applications working outside the browser.

    Finally, last week, we got Silverlight 4 in our hands and, furthermore, in the hands of our instance of VS2010. This time the transformation was complete and I dare say future versions won't be quite so ground-breaking. Application developers got

    - Printing support
    - Full set of controls
    - Better localization, including RTL
    - CLR supports same compliled code to run on desktop and in browser
    - Enhanced data binding
    - Great support for design within VS2010
    - The ability to write desktop sandboxed applications

    Applications got

    - Richer multimedia, including better run-time streaming support
    - Video and audio recording
    - Multitouch support
    - Better support for 'desktop model' user interaction, including animation support
    - Sandboxes

    To go along with this metamorphosis of Silverlight 4 into a WPF-lite (I certainly do remember an early version of Silverlight beng known as WPF/E), we're reassessing our support for what I may call "XAML platforms" by refactoring our codebase for Silverlight and WPF into one common library called XPF (for eXpress Presentation Framework). You'll see the first results of this with our v2010 vol 1 release.

    You could say that we've got our own chrysalis happening with our XPF controls.

  • Merging our Silverlight and WPF UI controls

    The first beta of DXperience v2010 vol.1 has just been made available to our DXperience customers, and so I’d like to take this chance to talk a little about one of the major impacts of that release: the merging of our Silverlight and WPF controls to use a common codebase that we’re calling XPF. (For a brief announcement of this, see here.)

    (Incidentally, let me quickly say that if you have any version of DXperience, anything from ASP.NET to Universal, you automatically get access to our betas for the next release. Just visit Client Center and login to download the beta.)

    When we started to look at the new features and functionality of both Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0, we came to the conclusion that we needed to revamp our Silverlight and WPF offerings. Not only that, but since the changes in the new Microsoft releases were so major (remember: .NET 4.0 is not .NET 2.0 in disguise, like the intermediary versions were), we felt that our response had to be just as bold and authoritative, especially with regard to Silverlight and WPF.

    Finally, with VS2010, Visual Studio has a form designer worthy of Silverlight and WPF. We could target both it and Microsoft Blend to produce our own control designers, much as we do with our WinForms and ASP.NET controls. Also Silverlight in v4 has the ability to create desktop applications that aren’t sandboxed into triviality. In fact, Silverlight, more than ever, resembles a WPF-lite on the desktop side, to the extent of pundits considering their eventual merging. At long last it is possible to write one set of non-trivial code and compile it both for Silverlight and for WPF without having to reinvent so many wheels on the Silverlight side (and to a much lesser extent on the WPF side).

    But, there’s a catch. (Isn’t there always.) In order to take advantage of all this goodness, we needed to move to .NET 4 and VS2010. Full commitment; no holding back.

    Once that decision was made, the others fell into place very quickly. We’ve felt in the past that having two ‘XAML platform’ codebases was a colossal waste of resources and effort, so the merging of them into a common codebase with the help of .NET 4 caused a huge sigh of relief. The Silverlight and WPF teams were merged, and once that was complete the code merging work was completed pretty quickly too, a couple of weeks all told. Naturally, in doing so, we took the most advanced and full featured code and controls and discarded the rest. In practice this meant that most of the common library consisted of the old WPF controls; our Silverlight controls had been struggling to keep up.

    Thinking about the future, this aggressive change of direction has several consequences. Firstly, our tech writers’ job is much simplified. No longer will we have to write two sets of documentation for two sets of different controls: a common codebase means one set of documentations. Secondly and similarly, our support team’s job is improved in a similar manner and we can serve you much faster and comprehensively. Thirdly, it means that we can release controls in tandem for both platforms (although in practice for major controls, it’ll mean that a control will appear on one platform first with the other coming in short order). Fourthly, it’ll mean that enhancements to controls in XPF will be released for both platforms at the same time.

    Nevertheless this move does have a downside. As I stated above, the Silverlight and WPF controls in DXperience v2010.1 will require .NET 4 and VS2010. In particular, you must use the new Silverlight 4 and WPF 4; the controls will not function with the previous versions of WPF and Silverlight, such as Silverlight 3. Similarly, you cannot use VS2008 or earlier, but must use VS2010. To my mind this isn’t that much of a downside: VS2010 is light years ahead of its earlier brethren in terms of user experience and its use is de rigueur if you are creating applications with either Silverlight or WPF.

    To alleviate this requirement, we’re going to continue supporting our previous Silverlight and WPF controls as part of v2009.3, much as we continue to support .NET 1/1.1 (and VS2002/2003) with v2006.3. You’ll receive regular updates to that version as we fix issues, but we will not be enhancing those controls further. We of course recommend that you upgrade to v2010.1 for your future Silverlight and WPF applications. Both the new Microsoft stack and our new XPF controls will make your XAML platform development, be it Silverlight or WPF, easier and faster.

  • DevExpress acquires Visual Studio 2008 and earlier

    Joe King, Senior Developer

    [UPDATE: The following post was just a joke for April’s Fools Day and we hope you had a good laugh with us. It’s not for real. Or ... is it? In the Matrix you can never tell. JMB.]

    GLENDALE, CA., 4/1/2010. In a deal to be formally announced at DevConnections on April 12 at the time Visual Studio 2010 is released, DevExpress has acquired all rights, intellectual property, and development teams for prior versions of Visual Studio (2002, 2003, 2005, and 2008). Microsoft spokesman Flip O’Roal explained “Visual Studio 2010 shows the way forward both in using WPF within the IDE and in designing and developing applications with WPF and Silverlight. The older WinForms support is tedious to maintain, so we’re happy that DevExpress, being the premier third-party vendor of WinForms controls, have taken over the mature Visual Studio product line with a view to producing a competing IDE for .NET developers.” Avril Poisson, Program Manager for the Visual Studio 2010 UI, added, “We feel we have the better product of course but we recognize that there are a lot of WinForms developers still out there. May the best IDE win!”

    “No doubt, it’s a big opportunity for us,” said Julian Bucknall, CTO for DevExpress, “and we have high hopes for success. For a start we shall at long last have the ability to make Visual Studio an add-in to CodeRush.” Mark Miller, Chief Architect for DevExpress’ IDE productivity tools, clarified: “Once CodeRush drives Visual Studio, you can expect even more stunning refactorings, better code templates and navigation, and more complete code issue analysis than ever before.”

    Because of various copyright issues, Visual Basic is not part of the deal. “That, of course, is no problem,” explained Joe King, Senior Developer. “At DevConnections, we’ll also be announcing the public beta for our new VD Remedy add-in which will convert Visual Basic code to Delphi for compilation with our new Delphi back-end.” Negotiations are in train to encourage Anders Hejlsberg to transfer to DevExpress to head this initiative.

    For more details on this momentous deal, we strongly advise you to visit the DevExpress Visual Studio acquisition page.

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