Getting started with Silverlight

Most of us should be familiar with today’s most anticipated run time application, Silverlight, from Microsoft. Silverlight was developed and released in 2007 with the aim to overcome the inadequacies of HTML to innovate and create more awesome & interactive graphical applications. In this article we will attempt to give you a quick round up about Silverlight and how Silverlight qualifies to have bright prospects in the web-designing world over other leading software, like flash.

What is Silverlight?

The framework of Silverlight is used to build browser hosted, platform free rich applications constituting interactive graphics, media and vector animations that can be run on operating systems like Windows, Mac, and Linux. Silverlight can be thought of as a technology by Microsoft that combines advanced graphical features with powerful coding support. Most of the coding is done in Visual Studio. As most developers are already familiar with Visual Studio environment and consider VS to be user friendly and empowering, programming Silverlight applications is an inviting experience.

Apart from the programming environment, there are tools for designers as well. When Microsoft released Silverlight 2 it added .NET (3.0 Framework) to Silverlight, making it easy for .NET developers to utilize their programming skills and create rich applications for the Web with collaboration of designers in a snap. This means that you can program Silverlight applications with any .NET language like VB, C Sharp etc. Silverlight 2 also included CLR.

Silverlight is strikingly small & fast to download. Silverlight is also secure to use. Silverlight applications run in sandbox environment preventing user computers from malicious codes.

While surfing, when you encounter a webpage with Silverlight content, you will require browser-plug-in to view this content. The plug-in, once installed, will run and execute the code and render the Silverlight content in the particular designed region on the webpage. The Silverlight plug-in, like other technologies such as ActiveX, Shockwave, Flash and Java, extends the boundaries & potentials of the browser to a richer environment to present a more interactive interface.

Some note worthy Features of Silverlight

  • Controls in Silverlight: Silverlight has built-in essential controls like buttons, radio buttons, checkboxes, etc. However Silverlight empowers you with immense flexibility. If you want all of the functionality of these essential blocks but want to modify the typical hoard look. Silverlight gives you this flexibility. With Silverlight you can maneuver & restyle these basic building blocks with custom visuals.
  • Data binding In Silverlight: With Silverlight one can display considerable amount of data with small code. Silverlight also includes controls like data-grid to support data.
  • Interactive 2D illustration in Silverlight: Silverlight is good for 2D art. Any drawing you draw can be manipulated at the client side making your Silverlight interactive. You can also add events in your drawing like ‘response to click’.
  • Creating Animations in Silverlight: It has a time based animation creation framework with which you can define the course of animation with time. What does the animation do at what time? Silverlight presents an animation model which is based on storyboards. It has great resemblance with WPF’s animation system.
  • Media Support in Silverlight: You can play any audio or video in Silverlight using the ‘MediaElement ’class.  Silverlight supports a range of video standards, including high-definition H.264 video and AAC audio. With Silverlight you can show movies in full-screen. As Silverlight does not use Windows Media player Active X controls, you have the flexibility to create any front-end.
  • Microsoft also provides a free companion hosting service (at that gives you space to store media files. Currently, it offers a generous 10 GB.
  • Other Support & Networking: With Silverlight, one can send XML requests over HTTP to open direct socket connections, this can enhance communication by enabling two-way interactivity. Silverlight applications can also call ASP.NET web services (.asmx) or WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) web services, giving a wider horizon of possibilities to the user.

As the Silverlight evolution continues, we are witnessing ambitious changes. From the modest technology of Silverlight 1, we saw Silverlight 2 adding .NET and CLR. Silverlight 3 could create browser independent applications that can even run while you are offline. Moreover with Silverlight 3, you can create natural animations and you can transit from page to page while the page to page navigation is fully integrated with browser history. Silverlight 3 also provides a better data validation and enables you to save file via the SaveFileDialog.

Silverlight 4, now made available, has more to offer.  It enables printing, editable design surfaces for Silverlight; right click event handling, and all the most exciting is web-cam and microphone access. As Silverlight technology is advancing, it is sure to succeed contemporary software applications in the near future.