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Archive for March, 2009

New WPF Themes released

For the last year I’ve been talking about the need to make a set of themes and templates available for WPF developers.   There are plenty of companies who want nice looking WPF applications (other than the default Windows XP/Vista look) but don’t know where to start.  I’ve argued, to anyone who’ll listen, that we need a community site that showcases the power of WPF templates.

CSS Zen Garden

I suspect that many of you are familiar with the CSS Zen Garden.

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The goal of the site is to showcase what is possible with CSS-based design. Style sheets contributed by graphic designers from around the world are used to change the visual presentation of a single HTML file, producing hundreds of different designs. Aside from reference to an external CSS file, the HTML markup itself never changes. All visual differences are the result of the CSS (and supporting imagery).

The magnitude of the changes you can make to a prototype website by swapping the CSS is staggering.  CSS Zen Garden permits designers to show how creative they can be with CSS and allows other to use these CSS files as starting points for their own development.

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Where is the WPF/Silverlight Zen Garden?

Both WPF and Silverlight support templated controls.  Templates allow us to completely change the way a control looks, while keeping the same behavior.  This is a powerful concept that allows developer to change a button from

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to

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My dream is to have a community site where designers can display their templates for WPF/Silverlight controls and others can peruse the catalog looking for design ideas and samples.

WPF Futures releases new control templates

Microsoft has made a few small steps in publishing control templates. A few months ago Microsoft released a set of control templates for Silverlight.  Those templates have been modified to work with WPF controls and were released last week for your consumption.

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The stream of product announcements and feature enhancements during the Mix09 keynote was non-stop.  I estimate that Scott Guthrie must have rattled off ninety or more of these tidbits in the two and a half hour Mix09 kickoff.  At a rapid pace Scott discussed IIS, Silverlight Expression Blend, the Microsoft Web Installer, adaptive streaming and many more.

There was a lot of anticipation regarding Silverlight 3 and Microsoft delivered the goods.  Tim Heuer has a summary of all the new Silverlight features.  Give it a once over, there is a lot to absorb.

http://timheuer.com/blog/archive/2009/03/18/silverlight-3-whats-new-a-guide.aspx

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Attend a keynote at a big Microsoft conference and at some point in the presentation you will hear a musical fanfare followed by a breathless product announcement.

Depending on the show and the time of year the announcements can be hum-drum or spectacular.  Do you remember when Microsoft announced a new development framework called .NET a few years ago? 

 

Of course Scott Guthrie’s keynotes tend to be a little more fun.

 

Img0398 by Long Zheng.

How to Top Mix08?

Silverlight 3 is going to be the brightest light in the Mix09 marquee this year.  Expect to hear a flurry of announcements regarding new features in Silverlight.  Silverlight 2 is impressive but Microsoft needs to show improvements in many areas to offset the advantages of their competitors RIA frameworks. 

The tools in Expression Suite get little love from Adobe devotees. The designer wars are heating up however and Microsoft will show some startling improvements in Expression Blend.  You definitely won’t want to miss the Expression Blend announcements.

WPF and XAML are also gaining significant improvements, some of which will be shown at Mix.  I saw a preview of what’s coming in Silverlight, Expression Blend and WPF while at the MVP summit earlier this month. What I saw at the summit was very exciting and I expect it will be thoroughly covered during Mix sessions this week.

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I know that there are even more surprises coming, including one super NDA Silverlight secret, so keep your ears open.

Expect live coverage of the Mix event here at the WpfWonderland blog.

[update]

Mix09 is over and the secrets have been revealed.

Tim Heuer has a nice summary of Silverlight 3 features.

http://timheuer.com/blog/archive/2009/03/18/silverlight-3-whats-new-a-guide.aspx

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Are you a sushi veteran?   If so it is probably hard to remember your first few trips to a sushi bar.   Looking at the names, wondering what to order.  Nigiri, Onigiri, Temaki.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have an expert on hand to guide you step by step through your dinner order?

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Phenomblue, a consultancy in Omaha Nebraska, has created a Microsoft Surface proof of concept application for a sushi bar.  The application shows you the sushi items available on the menu (in a rich graphical way), lets you watch videos of the chef preparing the entry and simplifies the ordering process.  Watch the video here.

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Nice touches in the application

You can tell that a lot of work went into the UI for this application.  Creating a Surface application forces you to rethink your UI design.  There are many elements to consider, but l want to touch on two of them in this post.

Surface is a 360 degree environment.  People can approach the Surface from from any side.  A traditional top oriented UI will disappoint at least 75% of the people working at the table.  In this app small wooden boats float in from opposite directions and stop in front of the user on either side of the  table.   Watch the user touch the boat, it sinks a little into the water.

Do not show help files.   Surface applications strive for an immersive and intuitive experience.  The application should lead the user through the learning process whenever possible.  Observe what happens when the diner drags the sushi to the center platter.

First, a nice animation of a fan appears.

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Then the orange slider moves up and down, showing the hungry diner how easily they can order five rolls instead of one.   Nice attention to details. The key is that the application works with the patron by using animation in a practical way.

Kudos to Phenomblue.

 

 


Mastering Microsoft Surface Development with WPF

Learn to program the Microsoft Surface today.
Take our intensive five day course

 

A multi-faceted course that delivers loads of content in an instructor-led format. You get lots of lab time and thousands of lines of sample code to take back to work with you. Best of all we bundle the Microsoft Surface™ and WPF content into to one convenient package, so you can learn everything you need in one information packed week.

Next class:

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Sometimes the best way to tell a story is with an animation. Melih Bilgil, a visual artist from Germany, show splendid usage of simple black icons on a white canvas in his ‘History of the Internet’ video.

 

Can you spot the subtle use of color in the video?

PICOL

Melih created a new Pictorial icon set (PICOL) which sees heavy use in the video.   See his site to download your own copy.

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See the entire Reflecting on Design series.

The point is to find beauty elsewhere; photographs, typography, architecture, fine art, industrial design. Just maybe they’ll help wake up your inner designer.

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Mix09 is coming next week.  I can’t wait to be there and see all the announcements about Silverlight 3. Since this is the main Microsoft RIA event it is loaded with enough Silverlight and WPF content to keep even an aged RIA veteran happy. 

Mix is more than just technology news however.  The Mix team always stages an abundance of activities and social events during the week.   

On Wednesday they will be showing the movie Objectified.

Objectified is a feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them. It’s a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. It’s about the designers who re-examine, re-evaluate and re-invent our manufactured environment on a daily basis. It’s about personal expression, identity, consumerism, and sustainability. 

Through vérité footage and in-depth conversations, the film documents the creative processes of some of the world’s most influential product designers, and looks at how the things they make impact our lives. What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?

Gary Hustwit, the director, will lead a question and answer session after the screening.

 

Brainstorming the film logo

The director want a special look for the movies logo.  You can learn a little about the design process from the designer here or just look at the history of the design below.

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Are you a .NET developer?  If so, I bet you are familiar with CodePlex.com.   CodePlex has been around for several years.  There are thousands of projects hosted on CodePlex, some have a very active developer community working on project improvements.

CodeGallery

There is lesser known Microsoft code sharing site called CodeGallery.  What if you just want to share code? Do you have a project where you don’t need to collaborate with other developers?  This is the main idea behind CodeGallery.

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MSDN Code Gallery is your destination for downloading sample applications and code snippets , as well as sharing your own resources.

Code Gallery is a community-enabled Web site where you can share developer information and resources such as sample applications and code snippets. CodePlex is Microsoft’s open source project hosting Web site. Code Gallery is a pure storage site, with no project management capabilities. If you need to manage a live code project, CodePlex is a better choice.

Adding code to CodeGallery

The first step is create an account on CodeGallery.  Next you will be presented with the Create New Resource Page’ screen.

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Once your project is create you can change a number of settings.

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