By now, everybody knows that Silverlight is a programming model especially designed for building and deploying so-called "Rich Internet Applications" (RIA) that integrate graphics, animation, sound and even video within the .NET Framework. Prior to its release earlier this year, Silverlight was known as the Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere.

In its most basic expression, Silverlight operates in a browser plug-in, available from Microsoft, for delivering media developed within the Silverlight programming model. Considering its ancestry and origins, Silverlight is remarkably platform agnostic, and works as well with Apple OS X and its Safari browser, as it does with Firefox and IE on Windows.

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There's even a Linux variant known as Moonlight that's under development to permit Linux-based browsers to partake of Silverlight-based rich media as well. For once, Microsoft seems more interested in fomenting development and delivery of RIAs than it does in maintaining browser hegemony or control.

Silverlight lets developers distribute multimedia as an integral part of their applications, with full screen takeover capability, and medium-def (720p) video support. Silverlight 1.1, available as an alpha download, also works with the MS Dynamic Language Runtime currently available for Python, Ruby, and JavaScript, as well as Visual Basic, all inside the .NET Framework. Presumably, upcoming language versions for Visual Studio 2008 will add Silverlight capability to C#, C++, and so forth as well.

You can sink your teeth into Silverlight 1.0 now, though, thanks to the Silverlight 1.0 SDK, now available for download. This kit includes documentation, quick starts, online samples and other development resources, as well as tools and ready to run code. You will also want to grab the Silverlight browser plug-in as well.

No mention of Silverlight is complete, however, without also point readers at the Microsoft Silverlight Web site. There you'll find lots of useful information, examples, and explanations for Silverlight, as well as an active Developer Community and pointers to development tools and plug-ins for Windows and Mac OS X. This also includes Silverlight 1.1 alpha, as well as alpha tools for using Silverlight with Visual Studio 2008.

Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security. E-mail with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!

This was first published in November 2007

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