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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Orcas Workshop: Day Two

Another busy day, at the Visual Studio "Orcas" and .NET Framework 3.5 Training Workshop. The first topic was a very high level roadmap of the different Microsoft technologies that are available or are coming available within the next year or so (ASP.Net 2.0, ASP.Net 3.5, Silverlight 1.0, Silverlight 1.1, WPF 3.0, WPF 3.5, etc). I'm not sure who the prime demographic was for this presentation, but I find it hard to believe it was too many people in the room. All the information was already well known to everybody in the room (either because they knew it coming into the conference or because it was discussed yesterday at the conference).

The presentation I found the most interesting today was the one on ASP.Net 3.5. I've listed some of the interesting things I learned today about it below.

New Features for ASP.Net 3.5

Even though I don't work with ASP.Net professionally (at least, not much), I do work with it personally (I've volunteered to maintain my communities website which I am switching to ASP.Net 2.0 tonight!). So I was pretty interested in this topic. It's also important to keep up with this stuff since the Internet is not going away, in fact, it's more likely that desktop development will go away that browser-based development (though I won't be holding my breath for that).

  • Support for multi-targeting. This allows you to use Visual Studio 2008 to build ASP.Net 2.0 websites.
  • Better support for AJAX.
  • Designer support for nested master pages.
  • Much improved CSS support in the designer. There is a Manage Styles window that allows you to view the styles that effect an element on a page.
  • Direct Style Application - This is a feature that allows you to have more control over how styles are applied to you HTML. There is the default automatic mode that will figure out how to set the style based on the context and there is the manual mode that provides more fine grained control over how the style is applied (you can set the target rule to determine what element gets the style set).
  • The designer has a split view so you can view the HTML at the same time as the designer. This allows you to make changes to either the HTML or the designer and see the changes reflected immediately in the other.
  • There is eye dropper support for selecting colors (hopefully the eye dropper works outside of Visual Studio, but if not, I still have Color Cop).
  • CSS Property Grid window shows the CSS styles that effect a particular item. Very cool. Select an element in the designer and the window shows the styles that are being used (this is different from the Manage Styles window however, I don't actually recall how :) ).
  • New ListView control - Provides more control over displaying lists of items. This can be hierarchical (a ListView can be put inside another ListView).
  • JavaScript Intellisense - Wow, this has been needed for awhile and they seem to have done a very good job with it. The Intellisense will show you what scripting elements (methods, properties, etc) that you have available, even in included JavaScript libraries. If you decorate your methods with XML comments, the Intellisense will even provide your comments including suggested data types (if a parameter should be a string, you can include that in the XML comments and it will display the data type in the Intellisense). If you include the data type of the return value, VS08 will give Intellisense on the returned value. Since variables can change types in JavaScript, Intellisense will provide the proper comments based on the context.
  • JavaScript debugging - You can now set breakpoints in JavaScript and debug into the script. While debugging, you have access to data visualizers similar (the same?) to what is available with VB.Net or C# code today (view as string, HTML, etc).


I'm not sure if I will be able to make use of this technology, but it's certainly interesting for it's own sake and who knows, this could become the future of browser based development.

  • Supported on IE, Firefox, and Safari browsers on Win XP, Vista, Windows 2003, Longhorn, and Mac (but I'm not sure what versions of the Mac).
  • Expression suite can be used to create Silverlight applications.
  • RTM for 1.0 by end of summer. The 1.1 beta will be released sometime by the end of 2007, but there is no release date for it yet.
  • 1.0 only allows JavaScript for programming for the client. 1.1 will support a subset of .Net.
  • The download size for 1.0 is around 1MB. The size of 1.1 will be around 4MB.
  • Silverlight provides an HTTP downloader for applications that includes progress, ZIP packaging, and asynchronous HTTP GET.
  • Expression Blend will be available in February 2008.
  • Expression Media Encoder will allow media to be converted to types supported by Silverlight. You can also adjust the quality of the media to improve download performance. You definitely have to check it out. Learn More (I don't think the website does a very good job of showing how cool this really is). I believe a beta version is available for free download on the site as well.
  • They showed a video of Scott Guthrie doing a demo of a Silverlight 1.1 application that showed the power of compiled .Net code vs JavaScript. It's a chess game between .Net and JavaScript. .Net wins every time! There is a better video of it out there, but I couldn't find it.


Blah blah blah. This is a technology that seems very important, but I just haven't been able to get excited about it yet. It's such a huge paradigm shift and there just isn't enough tool support, 3rd party controls, or compelling features available to make this feasible for a large scale, line-of-business application (which is what I write at work). As a developer I would love to dive into this technology, but as a professional, I've got to consider how this will effect the company I work for and the customers we serve. Unfortunately, this means I cannot commit to the time it will take to learn this.

What this means for you is that I tuned out for a large portion of this talk and so my notes are fairly sparse (I've been through it all before anyway at a previous conference that went into way more depth). But what I paid attention to I will share :).

  • xbap is a WPF application that can be deployed from a browser in partial trust mode.
  • Use Visual Studio for code: code editing, events, debugging, deployment, XAML editing (direct)
  • VS08 is still considered an early adopter tool. It doesn't contain all of the features that would be nice to have for building WPF applications, but it will get you there if needed.
  • VS08 beta 2 will provide designer support for automatically generating the default event handler when a control is double clicked (this is not available in beta 1). However, there will be no support for adding non-default events from the designer (such as the property grid in C#). However XAML will allow you to automatically create events using Intellisense (similar to C#).
  • Use Expression Blend for design: designing controls, templates, etc.
  • Expression Blend does not contain any source control integration.

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