Silverlight 3 is now officially released and available for download! It’s definitely exciting for me personally because my company has been working on a Silverlight 3 client application for the past few months and really enjoyed the new features. Here are some of the key features Silverlight 3 brings to the table:
|Out of Browser Support||Users can run a Silverlight 3 application in the browser or run it directly from the desktop even when they’re not connected to the Internet. This supports several sync scenarios that can be useful when a connection isn’t always available.|
|Enhanced Graphics Support||New features include GPU acceleration, perspective 3D support, bitmap and pixel APIs for dynamically generating images, videos, etc. Animations can also be eased in and out and perform many other cool effects. Pixel shaders allow objects to have different effects applied to them such as shadows and blurs.|
|New Controls||Silverlight 3 provides many new controls that can be used to build solid line of business (LOB) applications. Controls can be bound to each other using element to element binding and validation can also be perform more easily. Several new controls are also available in the Silverlight 3 toolkit released by Microsoft.|
|Better Navigation||Navigating between Silverlight “pages” is now built in along with better search engine optimization (SEO) support and deep linking.|
|Enhanced Text Rendering||One knock against Silverlight 2 was that text didn’t render as clearly as it should in some situations. Silverlight 3 includes a major update to the text rendering engine. Text renders very crisply now.|
|Enhanced Styles||Silverlight 3 provides merged dictionary support allowing multiple style files to be merged into an application (similar to how a standard web application can use multiple CSS files). This allows themes and other styles to be switched much more easily. Styles can also be based on other styles (similar to inheritance in OO languages).|
|Faster Transfer of Data||Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) support was available in Silverlight 2 but Silverlight 3 now adds support for binary XML serialization which allows data to be transferred between a Silverlight application and a WCF service much faster than before.|
|Assembly Caching||Silverlight 3 allows developers to store assemblies on a central company server and Silverlight 3 applications can then download them as needed rather than downloading everything up front in a single .xap file. This can significantly speed-up application load times.|
|Enhanced Networking Support||A new client networking (ClientHttp) stack is available that supports more verbs than simply GET/POST. Applications that fully leverage REST APIs will benefit from this new feature.|
|HD Media Support||Silverlight 3 includes support for GPU acceleration (as mentioned earlier) as well as 1080p HD videos to be played over the web. New codec support for H.264, AAC audio and MPEG-4 content is also included. If you need to provide media solutions then Silverlight covers all of the major scenarios now.|
Some other changes to Visual Studio and Silverlight applications in general:
- The Visual Studio 2008 designer has been removed for Silverlight 3 applications. A lot of developers turned it off anyway so all of the dev efforts have gone into the designer that’ll be available in Visual Studio 2010. Expression Blend 3 can also be used of course.
- The Silverlight ASP.NET server control isn’t used now. It simply emitted the object and associated params tags anyway.
- Expression Blend 3 has also been released (currently a release candidate) along with a new feature called SketchFlow. SketchFlow allows application prototypes and mockups to be created more easily in order to get customer feedback…very cool if you haven’t seen it. Although I rarely used Blend for coding previously, it now includes code intellisense which is a nice feature to have and adds support for behaviors, importing Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files and integrating sample data into applications.
To get started with Silverlight 3 visit http://silverlight.net/getstarted/.
If you’re interested in a focused look at some of the new features in Silverlight 3 check out David Yack’s new Silverlight 3 JumpStart Book.