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Silverlight 4 overview: Ready for prime time

The Silverlight 4 beta release is available for download. Get a quick overview of the new features including Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2, Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend for .NET 4 Preview.

At PDC 2009 recently, we heard that the Silverlight 4 beta release is available for download. This tip gives a quick overview of the new features.

From a modest start less than three years ago, Silverlight has grown into a serious competitor in the rich Internet client space. Currently it is installed on 45% percent of all internet connected devices. In some areas of the world, most notably Europe, the number climbs to 60%. For another important indicator in the growing influence of Silverlight just look around the Internet and tally up the companies betting on this new technology; over 350 partners in all. These companies are placing a strategic bet on Silverlight for several reasons, including:

  • One, Microsoft is a dominant player in many technologies and it seems likely that the Silverlight platform will be a success.
  • Two, Silverlight is similar to other Microsoft frameworks, like WPF, and is programmed in familiar Microsoft languages like Visual Basic and C#.
  • Three, Silverlight is filled with compelling feature that simplifies building modern graphic rich applications. With Silverlight 4 these features get even better.

To get started you'll need to download and install the following:

  • Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2
  • Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2010
  • Expression Blend for .NET 4 Preview

Silverlight 4 is bursting with enhancements and new features. Here's are some of the highlights.

Silverlight 4 now includes the soon to be released.NET 4 runtime. This means new features like support for Dynamic objects.

Silverlight 1 shipped with no print support. Immediately Microsoft was flooded with requests to add this feature. It took a few releases but Microsoft finally has a printing API in Silverlight.

 public void SampleCode() { var doc = new PrintDocument(); doc.DocumentName = "Printing the Grid"; // wire up event which will print UI docToPrint.PrintPage += PrintUi; docToPrint.Print(); } public void PrintUi(object s, EventArgs e) { e.PageVisual = this.MainGrid; }

Better controls
The included control count keeps rising-- here are a few of the new controls.

BusyIndicator: A simple 'waiting' screen that informs users of a pending task.

RichTextArea: Embed complex text, image and lists in your Silverlight application. Note that this is a separate control from the WebBrowser control, which permits usage of HTML.

Charting: Though Microsoft's chart offering is not as complete as the third party vendor chart packages their charts handle the most common data visualization needs.

Accordion: A collection of collapsible areas.

LayoutTransformer: Applies a transform to its embedded content.

Rating: Displays a rating picker which is customizable with your own images.

Time Picker: Allows the user to select a time from a dropdown.

New Themes: 11 new themes are available for sprucing up your control set.


Bi-Directional Support: Silverlight controls now support bi-directional text and left-to-right layout.

Languages: Thirty new languages are now supported, including Thai, Hebrew and Arabic.

Other improvements

  • Silverlight now loads applications quicker than Silverlight 3 and improves runtime performance by up to 200%.
  • Cut and paste now work as expected in most client side applications.
  • Drag and drop is now available, allowing users to drag content into the Silverlight application.
  • Mouse interaction is better with right click events and mouse scrolling capabilities added.
  • If the user's monitor is multi-touch aware you can capture the multi-touch input in your Silverlight application.
  • Deep Zoom now uses hardware acceleration, which results in faster animation and support for larger datasets. For an interesting use of Deep Zoom and Photo Synth see Microsoft Pivot; a new data visualization system that works with huge datasets.
  • Google Chrome browser support.

In addition to the Silverlight bits, there are beta releases available for related tools like WCF RIA Services, Visual Studio 2010, Silverlight Toolkit and Expression Blend 4. So, there's a lot for us Silverlight users to explore.

Dig Deeper on Silverlight and Expression application development