What’s New in Silverlight 5?

Today, at Silverlight Firestarter, ScottGu announced new features coming up in Silverlight 5.

Silverlight 5 introduces more than 40 new features, including support for running Silverlight applications with desktop features in the browser, dramatic video quality and performance improvements, and features that improve developer productivity.

More information at http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/future/

A Quick Overview

These are the expected features to be included with the Silverlight 5 Beta. As expected, the final product will be more power packed.

Expected releases:

  • Public Beta during Spring 2011
  • Final version by end of 2011

I like to start the list with most compelling (for me) features,

  • Layout Transitions
  • Ancestor RelativeSource
  • Custom Markup Extensions
  • Binding Style Setters
  • Breakpoints in Xaml

What’s New?

Media Support and Rich UI Capabilities

  • Hardware Decode and presentation of H.264 improve performance for lower-power devices to render high-definition video using GPU support.
  • TrickPlay allows video to be played at different speeds and supports fast-forward and rewind. At up to twice the speed, audio pitch correction allows users to watch videos while preserving a normal audio pitch.
  • Improved power awareness prevents the screen saver from being shown while watching video and allows the computer to sleep when video is not active.
  • Remote-control support allows users to control media playback.
  • Digital rights management advancements allow seamless switching between DRM media sources.

Business Application Development

Fluid Layout Interface

Fluid user interface enables smoother animation within the UI. Inter-Layout Transitions allow developers to specify animations to apply when elements are added, removed or re-ordered within a layout. This provides smoother user experiences when, for example, items are inserted into a list.

Text improvements

  • Multicolumn text and linked text container allow text to flow around other elements.
  • Tracking/leading set precisely how far apart each character is for full creative control.
  • Text clarity is improved with Pixel Snapping.
  • Text layout performance is significantly improved.
  • OpenType support has been enhanced.

Model View ViewModel (MVVM) and Databinding enhancements

  • Debugging support now allows breakpoints to be set on a binding, so you can step through binding failures.
  • Implicit DataTemplates allow templates to be created across an application to support a particular type by default.
  • Ancestor RelativeSource allows, for example, a DataTemplate to bind to a property on the control that contains it.
  • Binding in style setters allows bindings to be used within styles to reference other properties.
  • The DataContextChanged event is being introduced. Markup extensions allow code to be run at XAML parse time for both properties and event handlers, enabling cutting-edge MVVM support.

Networking and Windows Communication Foundation enhancements

  • Reduced network latency by using a background thread for networking.
  • WS-Trust support: Security Assertion Markup Language authentication token.

Silverlight 5 performance improvements

  • Reduced network latency by using a background thread for networking.
  • XAML parser improvements that speed up startup and runtime performance.
  • Support for 64-bit operating systems.

Graphics improvements

  • Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) accelerated 3-D application programming interface (API) provides rich graphics on the Web for building advanced data visualizations and rich user experience (UI).
  • Immediate mode graphics API allows direct rendering to the GPU.
  • Hardware acceleration is enabled in windowless mode with Internet Explorer 9.

Bringing desktop capabilities to the browser

  • Host HTML content as a Web browser control within the Silverlight application. HTML pages, such as help content or e-mail, can be integrated within the application.
  • Read and write files to the user’s My Documents folder, making it easier to find media files or create local copies of reports.
  • Launch Microsoft Office and other desktop programs. Users can open Microsoft Outlook and create an e-mail message, or send a report to Word utilizing the power of Office.
  • Access devices and other system capabilities by calling into application COM components. Users can access a USB security card reader or a bar-code scanner.
  • Enjoy full keyboard support in full screen, which enables richer kiosk and media viewing applications.
  • Call existing unmanaged code directly from within Silverlight with PInvoke.

Out-of-browser enhancements

  • Existing unmanaged code can be called directly from within Silverlight with PInvoke.
  • Child Window support allows multiple windows to be launched from the application.

Tools Improvements

  • Microsoft Visual Studio profiling support including CPU, memory, thread contention.
  • Visual Studio Team Test support.

Support for Postscript vector printing enables users to create reports and documents, including the ability to create a virtual print view different from what is shown on the screen.

Applications can now work the way users expect with added support for double-click and Combobox type ahead.

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