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Silverlight 3 Released
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by Scott Guthrie
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Introduction

Republished with Permission - Original Article

Today we officially shipped the final release of Silverlight 3.

Silverlight 3 Features

Silverlight 3 is a major update and delivers a ton of new features and capabilities.  Some of the new Silverlight 3 runtime capabilities include:

HD Media

Silverlight 3 now supports hardware graphics acceleration – enabling both video and graphics compositing to be offloaded onto a GPU.  This can dramatically lower CPU usage on a computer, and enables HD video to be played on older low end machines.  You can now deliver and play 1080p HD video experiences over the web.

Silverlight 3 includes new media codec support for H.264 video, AAC audio and MPEG-4 content.  This enables you to easily play and stream media encoded using these standards.  Silverlight 3 also includes raw bitstream audio/video APIs that enable you to create additional codecs (in any .NET language) that support playing any other media format.  Silverlight 3 also adds a variety of additional media features that enable better logging (for media analytics and ad monetization scenarios), provide the ability to disable screen-savers when playing long-form video content, and enable content protection.

IIS Media Services is a free server product that complements Silverlight and provides the ability to efficiently stream media over HTTP.  It enables both on-demand and live HD video to be delivered using “smooth streaming” - which is an adaptive streaming algorithm that can deliver video at bitrates optimized for a client’s network conditions and CPU capabilities.  Check out this demo to see a good example of smooth streaming in action with Silverlight.

The HD support within Silverlight, combined with the Smooth Streaming support of IIS Media Services, enables a dramatically better video experiences on the web.  This past week alone, we’ve had multiple customers broadcast live HD events using Silverlight and smooth streaming (up to 3MBits) including: Wimbledon, the Tour de France, AVP Volleyball, and the Michael Jackson Memorial Service.

Immersive Graphics

The new GPU acceleration capabilities of Silverlight 3 enable even richer and more immersive graphic experiences.

Silverlight 3 also adds new perspective 3D support that can be used with graphic elements, videos and controls.  Silverlight 3 also includes new bitmap and pixel APIs, as well as the ability to create and apply custom pixel shader effects (e.g. blur, dropshadow, swirl, etc) to any image, video element, or control.  Easing support can also now be used to enable more textured motion within animations.

Out of Browser Support

Silverlight 3 enables applications to run outside the browser and taken offline.  Users can safely install web applications on their computers, and create persistent shortcuts to them on the desktop, start menu and taskbar (this is supported on both Windows and the Mac).

New network detection support within Silverlight enables developers to monitor the network status of a machine and switch between offline and online modes within their applications.  Silverlight 3 also includes an automatic update mechanism for applications – so that clients who have installed applications are automatically updated when new application versions are deployed on the originating webserver.

Application Development

Silverlight 3 includes a ton of new application development features.

The Silverlight 3 runtime/SDK combined with the Silverlight Toolkit now includes ~100 UI controls that enable common scenarios (layout, data, charting, child windows, etc) while also providing full styling and template customization support.

Silverlight 3 enables richer data binding features.  Element to element binding support between controls is now enabled.  Validation error template support has been added to controls (enabling better error message display).  Hierarchical data binding is supported by the DataGrid.  And a new DataForm control enables better master/detail scenarios.  Silverlight 3 also now enables SaveFileDialog support.

Silverlight 3 includes a new navigation framework that enables deep-linking and forward/back button integration within the browser.  This also enables search engine optimization (SEO) support so that content within a Silverlight application can be indexed by search engines – including Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Silverlight 3 also supports the ability to cache assemblies on the client, and re-use them across multiple applications (decreasing the download size and improving the startup time of applications).

Silverlight 3 includes much better text rendering and font support.  Text rendered using Silverlight 3 applications is much crisper and cleaner than previous releases, and applications now have access to local fonts.  The Silverlight 3 styling system also now supports merged resource dictionaries, BasedOn style inheritance support, and the ability for styles to be reset any number of times.  Silverlight 3 also adds richer accessibility support, and is the first browser plug-in to provide access to all system colors, allowing partially-sighted people to make changes such as high contrast color schemes for ease of readability using familiar operating system controls.

Silverlight 3 includes richer networking support.  WCF error faults are now supported across the network.  Server-side push duplex support is now easier to setup.  Binary XML serialization of payloads is now supported.  The new .NET RIA Services framework (which now has a go-live license) can be used to easily build multi-tier data applications that span the client and server.  .NET RIA Services enables you to write validation code once and have it applied on both the client and middle-tier layers of your applications.

Visual Studio 2008 Tools for Silverlight 3

Today we are also shipping a free download that enables Silverlight 3 development support for VS 2008 and Visual Web Developer 2008 Express (which is free).  The VS 2008 Tools for Silverlight download provides project support, intellisense, compilation, and debugging for Silverlight 3 applications.  The next release of Visual Studio - VS 2010 - will add to this and provide a fully interactive WYSIWYG designer for Silverlight (including data binding support within the designer).

Click here to download the VS 2008 Tools for Silverlight (this will also install the SL3 developer runtime + sdk).  Click here to download the Silverlight Toolkit (which adds additional controls).

Expression Studio 3

Today we are also shipping a release candidate (RC) of Expression Blend 3 (including Sketchflow) that enables rich editing of Silverlight 3 applications and projects. 

You can download the Expression Blend 3 + Sketchflow RC here

Expression Blend 3 is a major update and enables dramatically richer tooling support.  Some of its improvements include:

Sketchflow: SketchFlow makes it significantly easier to create prototypes, experiment with dynamic user experiences, and incorporate feedback from customers.  If you haven’t seen or tried it yet - you must.  It really is a game changing new way to create great user centric applications.

Intellisense: Blend 3 includes C#, VB and XAML intellisense support.  You can now write code and event handlers within Blend without having to switch to VS. 

Behaviors: Blend 3 includes behavior support which can encapsulate complex design interactions into reusable components that can be directly applied to a control within the design surface.  This enables designers to quickly add functionality and behavior to applications without having to write code.

Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator Import: Blend 3 now has built-in support for importing Photoshop and Illustrator files.  As part of the import process you can view and pick individual Photoshop layers to import, customize and regroup layers, and have Photoshop/Illustrator elements retain their original formats within XAML: including layer positions, editable text and font settings, and vector element conversion to XAML.

Sample Data: Blend 3 adds design-time sample data support which makes it easy to mock up data-connected applications and see what they look like without requiring access to live data.  You can generate sample data or import sample data from an XML file and it is available to controls on the artboard at design-time. You can customize your sample data details, and you can easily switch between using sample data and using live data at run-time.

TFS: Blend 3 now includes Team Foundation Server (TFS) support – allowing you to use source control and enlist within projects.  Blend shares the same project and solution format as Visual Studio – allowing both VS and Blend to work simultaneously on the same projects and enabling seamless editing between them.

Other Improvements: Additional enhancements including improved animation and easing function support, 3D transform support, visual effects support, and an improved visual state manager designer.

Christian Schormann has a great blog post that describes Expression Blend 3 in more detail. 

The final release of Expression Studio 3 (which includes the Blend + Sketchflow, Web, Encoder and Design products) will ship within the next 30 days.  Expression Studio 3 will be included as part of the MSDN Premium and higher subscriptions (meaning MSDN Premium customers don’t have to pay anything extra to get all of the Expression Studio products).  Expression Studio 3 will also be available for standalone purchase for $599 (with discounts available for upgrades from previous versions of Expression and/or competitive products).

Summary

Today’s release is a major update of our Silverlight stack of products – and comes only 9 months after the release of Silverlight 2. 

You can learn more about Silverlight 3 and the tools that go along with it from the below sites:

www.silverlight.net (tutorials, downloads and forums where you can get help)

expression.microsoft.com (Expression community home)

www.microsoft.com/silverlight (Silverlight home – some V3 feature demos here)

Hope this helps,

Scott

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