If you have ever seen a Microsoft Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF, formerly ‘Avalon’) application run, you will be sold on how it will revolutionize the computer user experience. The first word of out of my mouth when I saw a demo was “Cool.” Since .COM went .BUST, almost everyone in the information technology (IT) space has been waiting for the Messiah of IT to present itself. In WPF, it has arrived and will change the way we do business.
Today, both developers and designers are starting to grasp what WPF is all about. WPF is the next generation of Microsoft’s presentation subsystem, which is a key part of Microsoft Windows Vista. Also bundled in WinFX is Windows Communication Foundation (WCF, Formerly ‘Indigo’). WCF provides the infrastructure to develop web services and the communication to present in WinFX. Both of these technologies will dramatically improve customer user interface (UI), application convergence, collaborative communication, and security, as well as maximize our computer hardware capabilities. WinFX will change the way we develop and design applications. User interfaces will be revolutionized by allowing for features such as:
- Fixed and flow format documents
- 2D and 3D vector graphics
- Data binding
WPF UI creation is done in conjunction with a new declarative markup language called extensible application markup language (XAML). Derived from the extensible markup language (XML), XAML instantiates objects through WPF. XAML, combined with WPF, allows you to create and control the appearance of document layouts and controls and how objects are bound to databases regardless of where the application will be used. This means that you ultimately only need one markup (XAML) to create a rich UI. As WPF is a .Net technology, you will be able to plug-in and run with this new interface and existing applications by adding only a few lines of code. This also means that the logic is separated from the presentation. A developer can code and the designer can create simultaneously. WPF is so vast that it encompasses and links objects together so that the application will, depending on its root element, run either on your desktop or on the Internet.
The great news is that this technology can be used today! If you are planning to launch any applications next year, now is the time to learn this technology. XAML and WPF currently run on Microsoft XP, Windows Server 2003, and Vista. All you need is the latest software development kit (SDK) for WinFX. The technology is well on its way to being fully baked. Beta 1 Release Candidate was already released in May 2005. Future-focused developers/designers are grasping and implementing the technology today.
If you already know and use the .Net Framework, adopting this technology is a natural progression. Although this technology is currently in Beta (and free to download), Microsoft has opened it up to the development community in order to allow you to have access to it as well as welcoming your feedback on how to make it better.