AJ's blog

August 17, 2009

Silverlight Bits&Pieces – Part 1: Introduction

With Silverlight I was lucky…

  • I never got to look into Silverlight 1, so I avoided the scripting mess😉
  • For Silverlight 2 I participated in some research efforts on our company and I worked on a business solution (as in business solution, not just a “simple” control). This did not only include the obvious stuff like drawing and driving the UI, but also some necessary groundwork.
  • Microsoft launched Silverlight 3 officially on Friday, July, 10th; on the following Monday, July, 13th, I was officially in a customer’s Silverlight 3 project. We had just waited for the availability😉

And to relay the probably most important experience for me so far: Working with Silverlight 3 and Blend is fun!

It’s easier to get what you want than with web applications, the programming model is much more concise and powerful than ASP.NET, Blend has a far better user experience than the WebForms designers ever had (after being nearly a decade and several versions old!).
For me, working with Silverlight has a thrill factor comparable to what I encountered when I first started to develop with .NET.

Note: From now on, I’ll refer to Silverlight 3 simply as SL.

So, I may have a little head start with SL business applications and their demands, but I’m sure that will wear down over time. Anyway, I thought I might share some of the experiences, insights, and ways I discovered.

This is not going to be me providing a tutorial, or me telling you what to do. It’s about me telling you what worked for me. Some may be outright trivial (especially the first ones, laying the foundation), some may be about the how to do it, rather than the what to do. But then, I also had to tackle a few things that go beyond the usual “My first Silverlight Hello World Application” type of samples.

Disclaimer: This is as much about telling you how I did things as it is a learning experience for me. I may be wrong at times. I may tell you in one post to go left and a few posts later that you had better not listened. No warranties here, sorry.

And I’ll try something different and keep the posts short and to a certain point😉 (and I admit that this post is already in violation with this intention…).

Preconditions

Just for the record: I’ll base the work on SL as you can get it here. That includes:

  • Microsoft Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2008 (includes developer runtime and SDK)
  • Microsoft Expression Blend 3 + Sketchflow

I refrained from using RIA services, because I want to understand the technology bare boned. That being said, I think that RIA services has really great potential and for those interested I recommend Brad’s series. I also haven’t thought about including the control toolkit, yet.

Setting the stage

My way of learning a new technology is usually a) read about it to understand the idea behind it, b) do some technical prototypes to dive into one or the other feature, and c) take a real world example and see how the technology fares. In my experience, point c is the most important, because it goes beyond the usual samples that are built to suit the technology. Rather it stresses the technology’s abilities to meet actual needs. This is usually when you’ll encounter the pitfalls.

My real world example for SL was kind of a library or book management application. At SDX we maintain our books in a simple SharePoint list, so every colleague knows what books are actually available, where to find them, who has borrowed it currently. This list is more intended to keep people informed, than controlling whether they return the books on time. Weren’t our colleagues dispersed at various customers’ sites, a simple bookshelf with no bureaucracy at all would be sufficient. (And I wouldn’t have to go hunting for lost books every now and then😉 .)

The Database

The database I’m going to use is simple enough. It contains books, information about who borrowed it, and user information:

image

Additionally I like to create views as I need them (rather than using EF for this). For example BookInventory contains all books as well as the related information on the currently borrowed books and employees.

And with these conditions set, we are ready to start. The next post will start at the beginning, stay tuned😉

That’s all for now folks,
AJ.NET

 

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