Altabel Group's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Silverlight

HTML5 brings a host of new elements and attributes to allow developers to make their documents more easily understood by other systems (especially search engines!), display data more uniquely, and take on some of the load that has required complex JavaScript or browser plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight to handle. Here are some new items in HTML5 that will make it easier for you to write your Web sites.

1: video and audio
One of the biggest uses for Flash, Silverlight, and similar technologies is to get a multimedia item to play. With HTML5 supporting the new video and audio controls, those technologies are now relegated to being used for fallback status. The browser can now natively display the controls, and the content can be manipulated through JavaScript. Don’t let the codec confusion scare you away. You can specify multiple sources for content, so you can make sure that your multimedia will play regardless of what codec the user’s browser supports.

2: input type attributes
The venerable input element now has a type attribute, and browsers do some pretty slick things depending on its value. For example, set type to “datetime” and browsers can show calendar/clock controls to pick the right time, a trick that used to require JavaScript. There is a wide variety of type attributes, and learning them (and the additional attributes that go with some of them) will eliminate the need for a lot of JavaScript work.

3: canvas
The canvas tag gives HTML a bitmapped surface to work with, much like what you would use with GDI+ or the .NET Image object. While canvas isn’t perfect (layers need to be replicated by using multiple canvas objects stacked on top of each other, for example), it is a great way to build charts and graphs, which have been a traditional weak spot in HTML, as well as custom graphics. And that is just a start!

4: header and footer
The header and footer tags are two of the new semantic tags available. These two tags do not get you anything above and beyond div for the actual display. But they will reap long-term rewards for your search engine efforts, since the search engines will be able to tell the difference between “content” and things that are important to the user but that aren’t the actual content.

5: article and section
The article and section tags are two more semantic tags that will boost your search engine visibility. Articles can be composed of multiple sections, and a section can have multiple articles. Confusing? Not really. An article represents a full block of content, and a section is a piece of a bigger whole. For example, if you are looking at a blog, the front page might have a section for the listing of all the posts, and each post would be an article with a section for the actual post and another for comments.

6: output
The new output tag is unique, in that it expects its content to be generated dynamically with JavaScript. It has a value attribute, which can be manipulated through the DOM with JavaScript to change what is displayed on the screen. This is much more convenient than the current ways of doing things.

7: details
It seems like every Web site needs to have an expanding/collapsing block of text. While this is easy enough to do with JavaScript or server-side code, the details tag makes it even easier. It does exactly what we’ve all been doing for years now: makes a simple block that expands and collapses the content when the header is clicked. The details tag does not have widespread support yet, but it will soon.

8: figure and figcaption
Figure is a container for content (typically images, but it can be anything), and figcaption (which gets put inside the figure tag) provides a caption or subtitle for the contents of the figure tag. For example, you could have four images representing charts of sales growth within a figure tag, and a figcaption with text like “Year-to-year sales growth, 1989 – 1993.” The images would be shown next to each other with the text running below all four.

9: progress and meter
Progress and meter are similar. You use progress for a task or a “measure how complete something is” scenario. It also has an indeterminate mode for something that has an unknown duration (like searching a database). The meter tag is for gauges and measurements of value (thermometers, quantity used, etc.). While they may look alike on the screen in many cases, they do have different semantic meanings.

10: datalist
The datalist tag acts like a combo box, where the system provides a pre-made list of suggestions, but users are free to type in their own input as well. There are tons of possible uses for this, such as a search box pre-populated with items based on the user’s history. This is another one of those things that currently requires a bunch of JavaScript (or JavaScript libraries) to handle but that can be done natively with HTML5.

What other new tags have you found especially useful? Share your HTML5 experiences in comments.

Kind Regards,
Lina Deveikyte
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Not so long ago we discussed that HTML5 will replace Silverlight in Windows8. And now new triumph of HTML5. Adobe decided to kill Flash for mobile and focus its attention on HTML5. Think most of you have heard about it as Adobe`s message triggered hot discussions on different techforums and in Ln.

To my mind, this must have been a hard decision for Adobe to make. Adobe’s chief of developer relations Mike Chambers in order to clear the situation, gave in his blog three main reasons why they decided to do it:
HTML5 is already almost universally supported in mobile browsers and Adobe realized that Flash would never get there. “Our goal has always been to obtain the same level of ubiquity for the Flash Player on mobile browsers, but, at the end of the day, it is something that did not, and was not going to happen.”
Apps made browser-based apps less necessary. “Essentially, users’ preferences to consume rich content on mobile devices via applications means that there is not as much need or demand for the Flash Player on mobile devices as there is on the desktop.”

Fragmentation. To make Flash work on mobile platforms, Adobe had to work with multiple hardware makers (Motorola, Samsung), platform companies (Google, RIM), and component manufacturers (like Nvidia). That took too much time. “This is something that we realized is simply not scalable or sustainable.”
So now it`s clear that Adobe will increase investment in HTML5 and shift resources from Flash to HTML5.

In his blog Mike Chambers underlined that Adobe is not killing Flash completely. They will continue investing in and promoting Flash for desktop browsers, as well as AIR on mobile devices. However here a few pitfalls and questions can arise. Firstly: why should we use Air instead of native application? Air depends on a huge runtime and it doesn’t have access to too many things. Second: why to keep AIR alive when the new PhoneGap technology allows to achieve the same result – native apps for the same number of platforms but developed with HTML, CSS and JS? AIR seems to be just a temporary solution for all those Flash developers that hasn’t got a chance to switch yet… What is more Adobe`s message can lead to the mass panic of the clients: Why should they want something in Flash when they can have it in html5 and it will be viewable from mobile? As the result the future of flash is still not clear.

Flash biggest selling point was the motto “Build once, deploy anywhere”, and now it is no longer true. It seems to me that Adobe`s message led to quite an important communication error and there isn’t much Adobe can do to reverse the message. As Adobe finally admitted that Apple was right and named HTML5 ‘the best and only solution’ , it completely deteriorated the image of Flash and admitted the victory of HTML5 for mobile.

Best regards,
Anna Kozik
Altabel Group – professional software development

Windows 8: The death of the silverlight framework? That was the question that I asked to LI users and it triggered a great deal of debate. And now we can say for sure that Silverlight is dead , my friends. Certainly it won`t happen right now, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, as the customers won`t rush to use Windows 8 soon after its release, still there remain little time before Silverlight “passes away”. I am not happy about it, but I am also no longer in denial. In case Microsoft doesn’t change course Silverlight, as well as Flash and some other plug-in technologies, will be effectively unusable when Windows 8 is released.

On September 14th it was announced that the Metro-style browser in Windows 8 does not support plug-ins. The Metro-style browser is the full screen, chromeless implementation of Internet Explorer that most people are expected to use with Windows 8.

Dean Hachamovitch : “ For the web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free. The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web.”

So it means no Flash, no QuickTime, no PDF readers, and no Silverlight.

Why is it so? “Metro-style browser can’t support plugins. Metro is not based on the Win32 libraries, it uses an entirely new OS-level API known as Windows Runtime or WinRT. Since the plug-ins are most likely built on Win32 components such as GDI they would have to be completely rewritten to run under Metro”.

And now let`s talk about the loses. The companies most invested in Silverlight are not loosing so much and appear to be in a rather good situation. Such companies have been adopting Silverlight, and Flex, for use in internal applications. “This sort of application generally have no HTML and simply use the browser as a delivery mechanism. As such these applications can be ported to the Metro runtime with surprisingly little effort. A new distribution mechanism will be needed, but something like the Windows app store for enterprises is undoubtedly in the works”.

The companies that will suffer most of all are those that use Flash or Silverlight to augment their websites. Since they cannot simply port their code to Metro they will need to go rewrite the components from scratch using HTML and JavaScript.

So what are your thoughts of this sad news? Is there any future now for Silverlight or Silverlight 5 will be the last major release?

Kind regards,
Anna Kozik – Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

In the beginning there was SharePoint, a platform for collaboration and content management. It allows people to work together. It’s an easy task to set up a site where people can share information and manage documents from start to finish.

SharePoint 2007 was already good, but SharePoint 2010 is even better. New features such as taxonomy, document sets, content organizers, and better record management make it to an attractive platform. The user interface on the other side is not that attractive. But with a little bit of branding you can create a new look.
And here enters Silverlight. Silverlight is a powerful development technology for creating attractive and interactive user interfaces.

The first version of Silverlight was released in 2007. It was merely JavaScript based. Almost everybody was skeptical about it, and it was said that it would never have the grandeur of Flash. But as versions come and go, Silverlight has become a full-blown solid technology for designing powerful user interfaces.

A Silverlight application can be more than a pretty user interface created by designers; you can also add code to it to give it a more functional aspect. Because Silverlight classes are a subset of the .NET Framework, it makes it easy for .NET programmers to add the necessary functionality. Moreover, a designer can create the user interface with a tool like Microsoft Expression Blend and hand it over to the developer, who can open it in Microsoft Visual Studio and complete the application.

In April 2010, Silverlight 4 was released with yet another new set of features.
There is a belief that Silverlight can play a powerful role in the branding of SharePoint sites. Silverlight applications can communicate with a SharePoint site and thus render SharePoint data in an attractive way.
The first versions of Silverlight were hard to integrate with SharePoint, asking for a number of modifications in the web.config file of each SharePoint web application. It drove a lot of SharePoint developers (and even a number of well-known SharePoint gurus) mad. As of Silverlight 3, this hurdle has disappeared.
In SharePoint 2007, communication was possible only through the SharePoint web services or through custom WCF services. But SharePoint 2010 comes with a set of client object models that makes it easier for developers to have a Silverlight application communicate with SharePoint.

In SharePoint 2010, Silverlight is already integrated out of the box: if you want to create a list or a site, you are presented with a Silverlight wizard. SharePoint 2010 also comes with a Silverlight web part that lets you render a Silverlight application that you uploaded to a document library or deployed to the SharePoint hive. There is also the out-of-the-box Silverlight media player. This is a Silverlight application that you can host within the Silverlight web part and that displays your media files.

A View on the Future

In December 2010, Silverlight 5 was announced. This version of Silverlight will add some great new features and capabilities for premium media solutions across browsers, desktops, and devices. The first beta version of Silverlight 5 became available in April, 2011.

Silverlight for Windows Phone is the application development platform for Windows Phone 7. Silverlight uses the XNA framework for audio capture and playback and can even access Xbox Live. This XNA framework is provided by Microsoft for high-performance gaming, used on Xbox.

In 2010 we entered the mobile phone era. We use our mobile phones for calling people or sending short messages, but more and more we are also using the Internet from our phones. Many companies see the hole in the market and start developing mobile phone applications. The banking sector, for example, will offer its services through mobile phone.

When talking about Silverlight integration in SharePoint, most developers think primarily about web parts. But this integration can reach far beyond that. You can host Silverlight applications from within most SharePoint artifacts such as custom fields, custom list forms, list views, application pages, master pages, navigation, search, and so on.

In that light, there is definitely a future for SharePoint-based applications running on mobile phones. Don’t you think so? What other future predictions can you make for SharePoint and Silverlight? Do you think these technologies are a good choice?

Altabel Group – professional software development

I think many of you have been keeping up with the Windows 8 announcements and you are aware that Microsoft made a bit of a stir in the .NET development community with their 10 minute demo of Windows 8. They explicitly mentioned HTML5 and JavaScript as the ways to build new-look Windows 8 applications while there’s been no mention of Silverlight or .NET and their place in the OS. The developer communities of both technologies have been panicking a little as a result. Because of Microsoft’s lack of assurances, there’s a chance that both might see a diminished role in the OS. If that trend continues, there is a possibility that .NET and Silverlight could soon die, leaving a bunch of developers’ skills useless.

Many think it won`t happen, at least with .NET as it’s widely used by some high-profile companies. Silverlight… there is a little bit of concern about it.

Obviously, we can`t suppose what Microsoft is planning for Silverlight, but some people are beginning to have difficulties understanding how any company could still trust it as a viable technological choice. First the mixed messages, then the clear favoritism Microsoft is showing towards HTML5 and JavaScript (which, IMO, is justified but that’s another topic), and now the unwillingness to stand up for one of their products that is being doubted so openly, for the first time by its very users who only want assurance of Microsoft that their investments in the technology haven’t been a total waste.

What are your ideas ? What is the future of Silverlight? Do you think developers will switch from SL to the more open standard of HTML/JS?

Anna Kozik
Altabel Group

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