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Using WPF to give .NET applications that missing something

Microsoft's "Ready for a New Day" Vista launch tour is showing developers how to use .NET 3.0 and Visual Studio 2005 to mimic the operating system's new user experience.

Windows Vista isn't so much about user interface as it is about user experience -- whether playing a video as your system's background, scrolling through applications in use as if thumbing through a Rolodex, or using a memory stick to double system performance.

The idea behind this, said Bob Familiar, an architect evangelist with Microsoft, is to instill in end users "an emotional connection to our software," mimicking the connection people have to automobiles or MP3 players.

If a tree control in a grid isn't going to cut it any more, Windows Presentation Foundation is the way to go.
Bob Familiar
architect evangelistMicrosoft

"Let's face it: Users do not love our software today," Familiar said. "There's something missing from our software."

Familiar, along with Microsoft developer evangelists Russ Fustino and Chris Bowen, spoke to a crowd of developers in Nashua, New Hampshire as part of Microsoft's Ready for a New Day: Launch Tour 2007.

The message that all three speakers delivered is that Windows Vista and Office 2007 offer developers an opportunity to provide that "something missing" from their own applications.

The key here is Windows Presentation Foundation, the UI framework in .NET 3.0, which comes bundled with Vista. (.NET 3.0 isn't exactly a new version of the .NET Framework, since ASP.NET, ADO.NET and the CLR are still on their .NET 2.0 versions.)

WPF operates in a manner similar to ASP.NET. In the latter case, pages consist of HTML markup and VB or C# code-behind; with WPF, the markup is in XAML, the Extensible Application Markup Language, with code-behind again in VB or C#.

XAML is meant in part to make it easier for the graphics, animations and fancy fonts of application designers to be incorporated into applications without being modified by developers. In other words, Familiar said, business applications can now look like video games.

"Where would animation and visualization technologies make sense" in your business applications, he asked. "If a tree control in a grid isn't going to cut it any more, Windows Presentation Foundation is the way to go."

To program for Windows Presentation Foundation, Fustino recommended that developers check out the following downloads:

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Special Report: The .NET 3.0 Roadshow

Tip: Windows Vista development resources

While much of the event focused on WPF, the speakers devoted a bit of time to the other tools in .NET 3.0 -- the unified programming model of Windows Communication Foundation, the workflow engine of Windows Workflow Foundation and the user identity management system of Windows CardSpace.

All this technology was wrapped together in a demo of a site called DinnerNow, a sample application that lets end users order food online and have it delivered to their home or office. The site itself is fake, but developers can download all the sample code.

There's plenty to learn

Throughout the day, Fustino, Familiar and Bowen each mentioned several useful sites and learning initiatives for .NET developers who want to get started with Windows Vista. Information about each of these resources is available on the article Windows Vista development resources.

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