First Look: Silverlight 2.0 UI Controls
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by Todd Anglin
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The Future of Silverlight UI Controls

Silverlight 2 beta 1 has introduced a lot of essential UI controls to the infant web platform, but there is much more that needs to be done to make Silverlight "complete." From a more complete collection of built-in controls to a robust and functioning 3rd party market, Silverlight has some work ahead of it to become an equal peer among stalwarts like WinForms and ASP.NET. There are three key areas in Silverlight's UI component model that need improvement: More advanced controls, 3rd party support, and better data access support.

Advanced Controls

While the first beta of Silverlight 2 does ship with a DataGrid control, it is lacking many of the other "complex" controls that are required to build complete line-of-business (LOB) apps. Controls like treeviews, tabstrips, menus, rich text editors, and schedulers are all absent in the current preview. Some of these controls may be added by Microsoft in the next two betas, but if history is any indication, there will be gaps in Microsoft's effort.

Part of the challenge with Silverlight and its requirement to provide vast collection of controls is that it is trying to appeal to two distinct developer groups: Windows developers that want to build their apps for the web and web developers that want more rich "desktop-like" experiences in their web apps. Each group is used to a different "default" collection of controls, so it is going to be very hard for Microsoft to please everyone. All the more reason the next point is important.

3rd Party Support

Every successful Microsoft development platform has been such due in part to rich 3rd party support, especially in the UI control arena. Microsoft recognizes that it can't (and doesn't want) to please everyone and they rely on the symbiotic relationship with component vendors to address the needs of a diverse development community. Silverlight is no exception.

As Silverlight moves past its first beta and approaches RTM near the end of summer 2008, UI component vendors (like Telerik, DevExpress, etc.) will start to ship complete toolboxes of controls built for the new platform. And while it's good to know that's coming, production versions of 3rd party UI controls are still months away. It's an important consideration to keep in mind when debating any Silverlight development this year. Just imagine how productive you'd be without your favorite UI component set in your current WinForms/ASP.NET projects!

Data Access Support

Finally, Silverlight has a long way to go to make data access a more intuitive process. Silverlight beta 1 has none of the traditional "data source" controls we've grown to expect in Microsoft's development platforms, so building a "quick" proof-of-concept Silverlight application that accesses a SQL Server database is no trivial task. At present, it requires (at least) a web service to serve the data from your web server to your Silverlight application running in the browser.

There are solutions on the horizon, like the Astoria project, that promise to ease the pain, but Microsoft has no published plans to add data source controls to Silverlight (or WPF, for that matter). Some Microsoft insiders have blogged about the possibility of data source controls in the future, but at this point it's nothing more than ideas. The only way to ensure Microsoft spends enough time on this problem is if they get clear feedback from the community- a.k.a. you! If you want data access in Silverlight to be easier, let Microsoft know.

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User Comments

Title: how to embbed images in canvas ?   
Name: andrew
Date: 2008-10-11 12:39:36 PM
Is there a way to put images in canvas based on logic ?

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