There is much to learn about Microsoft's new Windows Presentation Foundation for user interface design. The software framework may pace a new spate of development that could -- if it does not go overboard with too much "eye candy" and too many "dancing bears" for users to follow -- could someday make the move from the Windows XP operating system to the Windows Vista operating system as significant a step forward as was the step from DOS to Windows.
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For now, it's all about learning; Microsoft hopes what developers learn now will translate into future smart clients and better Office oriented apps.
Among things to learn about in the early going are new collections of APIs. Some useful descriptions of API changes appeared in "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Windows Presentation Foundation Beta 1 Release" by Microsoft's Tim Sneath. The article appeared in the August online edition of MSDN. [See "Related" below.]
Some of the new APIs relate to Metro. First described at Windows HEC 2005, Metro is the codename for a set of protocols outlining the use of XML, ZIP, Unicode and other formats to describe the content and appearance of paginated documents. The new Windows Presentation Foundation APIs "enable integration of Metro technologies and documents with traditional applications, the Web, and hardware," according to Microsoft's Sneath. He notes that Metro is also used in Windows as a foundation technology for the printer pipeline and spool format.
There is more. This new print pipeline, which directly integrates Metro as a spool format is associated with a new a new printer page description language that enables for higher quality printing.
The Metro document format comprises:
1- A common container based on the ZIP cabinet format, which provides a consistent way to store both content and the rights management and digital signature metadata; and
2- A definition of "electronic paper" known as the Metro Reach package, which is based on XML.
[The code name 'Metro' recently gave way to the proper name: "XML Paper Specification."]
An easier-to-use multimedia capability for Windows developers is a clear goal of Windows Presentation Foundation. Visual, audio, imaging, speech recognition and other APIs have come due for updates, although the present Windows Vista Beta 1 does not yet support every new enhancement at runtime. Of course, the biggest move in Windows Vista is the move to managed code, which has been ongoing since the advent of .NET. Windows Presentation Foundation is exposed through managed code, and a good understanding of the new WinFX API is key to next-generation development.
A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Windows Presentation Foundation Beta 1 Release -MSDN
Metro download and docs -Microsoft
More on WinFX downloads and docs -Microsoft