Silverlight 4 Sounds Very Promising

by Jon Davis 18. November 2009 23:05

News from PDC 2009 is trickling in, and this is an amazing year for PDC goers. Office 2010 beta was released to MSDN subscribers. SharePoint 2010 beta was released to MSDN subscribers. The attendees even got a tablet PC notebook computer with Windows 7—all of the attendees got one, this was not a raffle—all except Microsoft employees.

Silverlight 4 beta was also released. Judging from its feature list, I have high hopes for this version. Microsoft is clearly listening to us, and that makes me very, very glad—I mean, the only reason why we bother to blog, tweet, and elsewhere whine about missing features is because we want our dependence upon Microsoft to succeed.

The big highlights (“big” cause I threw in my own feedback for these) include print support, right mouse button support, webcam/microphone support, mouse wheel support, and COM frickin interop. Some interesting highlights I didn’t give feedback for but really appreciate include RichText, network authentication, Silverlight as a drop target, and keyboard access in full-screen mode. I’m kind of sitting here pale-faced right now, it’s like Microsoft picked up a sledgehammer and pounded out the big gaping holes that we all felt about Silverlight all in one shot. Kinda makes Silverlight 3 seem almost meaningless because of both the timeframe between Silverlight 3’s beta and Silverlight 4’s beta, and the depth of the featureset revealed in v4 versus v3. I look forward to seeing Silverlight 4 in action, and I now feel almost motivated and nearly excuseless to dig in and really develop some Silverlight chops.

I do think there are two missing features that are still painfully missing. Both of them are related to the offline app support.

The first missing feature is windowing. I’ve already complained about this. Confining Silverlight to a single OS window is painfully limiting. I understand that the lack of windowing support enforces a sort of UI sandbox that retains both security and UIX consistency which is important for a web site. But my interest is more in the offline app support. I really want to use Silverlight to do stuff developers would normally use Adobe AIR for. Using Silverlight instead of AIR would keep me using the Microsoft toolset I’ve already invested in and would make it much easier to harness the power of IIS 7 & ASP.NET XML services from a Mac client. I can already do that using what’s there, but absent OS windowing it’s just a lot more confining than AIR.

The other missing feature, again this being also related to offline app support, is either system notification tray support for Windows clients. I bring this up because it’s my understanding that Seesmic for Windows, developed on Silverlight, is the new replacement for twhirl (twhirl is an Adobe AIR app and I’m a heavy twhirl user) but the reasons why I liked twhirl is because it doesn’t make a mess on my taskbar, I can forget about it until I get an alert at which point if I want to I can track it down my system notification tray and click on it. This in fact was why I didn’t care for TweetDeck (another Adobe AIR app) because, at least at the time I was using it, I didn’t see this option there to keep it tucked away as a small 16x16 icon in the bottom right of my screen, it has to fill a big taskbar slot and I hate that crap because at the end of every day I already have about 100 taskbar-consuming windows open.

But I’m otherwise very impressed with the progress that’s been made for Silverlight, and I’m very, very excited for Microsoft and look forward to what this will mean to the future of software development.

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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