Monday, July 20, 2009

What's New in Silverlight 3?

Silverlight 3 has been officially released on 10th July 2009 and available for download!

Speaking of which, here are some of the key features of Silverlight 3.

Out-of-Browser Support

Users can run a Silverlight 3 application in the browser or run it directly from the desktop even when they're not connected to the Internet. This supports several sync scenarios that can be useful when a connection isn't always available.

Enhanced Graphics Support

New features include GPU acceleration, perspective 3-D support, bitmap and pixel APIs for dynamically generating images, videos, etc. Animations can also be eased in and out and perform many other cool effects. Pixel shaders allow objects to have different effects applied to them, like shadows and blurs.

New Controls

Silverlight 3 provides many new controls that can be used to build solid line-of-business (LOB) applications. Controls can be bound to each other using element-to-element binding, and validation can also be performed more easily. Several new controls are also available in the Silverlight 3 toolkit released by Microsoft.

Better Navigation

Navigating between Silverlight "pages" is now built-in along with better search engine optimization (SEO) support and deep linking.

Enhanced Text Rendering

One knock against Silverlight 2 was that text didn't render as clearly as it should in some situations. Silverlight 3 includes a major update to the text-rendering engine. Text renders very crisply now.

Enhanced Styles

Silverlight 3 provides merged dictionary support, allowing multiple style files to be merged into an application (similar to how a standard Web application can use multiple CSS files). This allows themes and other styles to be switched much more easily. Styles can also be based on other styles, similar to inheritance in OO languages.

Faster Transfer of Data

Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) support was available in Silverlight 2 but Silverlight 3 now adds support for binary XML serialization, which allows data to be transferred between a Silverlight application and a WCF service much faster than before.

Assembly Caching

Silverlight 3 allows developers to store assemblies on a central company server and Silverlight 3 applications can then download them as needed rather than downloading everything upfront in a single .XAP file. This can significantly speed-up application load times.

Enhanced Networking Support

A new client networking (ClientHttp) stack is available that supports more verbs than simply GET/POST. Applications that fully leverage REST APIs will benefit from this new feature.

HD Media Support

Silverlight 3 includes support for GPU acceleration (as mentioned earlier) as well as 1080p HD videos to be played over the Web. New codec support for H.264, AAC audio and MPEG-4 content is also included. If you need to provide media solutions, then Silverlight covers all of the major scenarios now.

Here are some other changes to Visual Studio and Silverlight applications in general:

  • The Visual Studio 2008 designer has been removed for Silverlight 3 applications. A lot of developers turned it off, anyway, so all of the dev efforts have gone into the designer that'll be available in Visual Studio 2010. Expression Blend 3 can also be used, of course, or you can also use Kaxaml.
  • The Silverlight ASP.NET server control isn't used now. It simply emitted the object and associated params tags, anyway.
  • Expression Blend 3 has also been released, along with a new feature called SketchFlow. SketchFlow allows application prototypes and mock-ups to be created more easily in order to get customer feedback. Though I rarely used Blend for coding previously, it now includes code intellisense, which is a nice feature to have and adds support for behaviors, importing Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files, and integrating sample data into applications.

To get started with Silverlight 3, go here.

You can find some more useful links in my previous post.

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