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  • Book review : WPF 4 Unleashed

    Posted on October 19th, 2010 Thibaut 68 comments
    WPF 4 unleashed Widely acclaimed as the best WPF 4 book out there, I decided to buy this book from Microsoft’s Adam Nathan to improve my WPF/Silverlight knowledge. This book really covers in great details almost every topic of interest in WPF : XAML, controls (user controls + custom controls), layout, panels, resources, data binding, styling & theming, 2D & 3D graphics, animation, audio, video, interoperability with non-WPF technologies and more… Presentation of the book is really nice also, in full color with coherent evolution from chapter to chapter. Just note that, because of its extreme completeness, this book isn’t suitable to learn WPF in a “fast & effective fashion”. It’s rather a reference book to keep near your computer to check specific information.

    Pros

    • Great book, covers WPF really in deep
    • Full color, well organized book
    • You’ll learn a lot from this expert author who really knows his stuff

    Cons

    • The biggest pro is the biggest con : so many details that it’s easy to lose your attention from core points
    • Some chapters cover advanced topics before basic ones (eg : “2D graphics” chapter covers PolyQuadraticBezierSegment in the first pages, way before Rectangle)

    Conclusion

    I would definitely recommend this book, which is a must-have on your bookshelf if you’re a WPF/Silverlight developer. But if you’re a beginner looking for a quick-start book to make effective use of your time, you’d rather buy a less detailed book before buying this one !

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  • ReMIX10 : summary

    Posted on October 3rd, 2010 Thibaut No comments

    ReMIX10

    Last Tuesday, I assisted to the 2010 edition of the ReMIX, reedition of the popular MIX event. As usual, two tracks were available : web developer and UX. My current focus being Silverlight, I assisted exclusively to the UX track. Below, you’ll find my notes about the sessions.

    Opening keynote

    IE 9

    Silverlight 4

    Windows Phone 7

    • Silverlight & XNA support
      • Silverlight : for applications
      • XNA : for games
    • Free version of Blend dedicated to Windows Phone development
    • Demos of games on the phone. Companies such as Fishing Cactus presented their games for WP7

    Natural interface

    Session #1 : design venture

    • Prensented by Georg Petschnigg from Microsoft Pioneer Studios
    • Bringing design and business together
    • 2 points :
      • technology knowledge (languages, tools, …)
      • open vision on the world, cultures, etc to be creative and to innovate
    • Innovation process :
      Innovation process
    • From insight to core idea :
      • What’s unique about you
      • What does the world need
    • Observe people, their habits : find new ideas and ways to improve
    • From core idea to product : the three reads in industrial design
      • Eye : what you see
      • Touch : material, feeling
      • Use : does it suits my needs ?
    • Translate them in software :
      • Form (eye) : look & feel
      • Touch : controls
      • Use : features
    • Three reads of industrial design are from top to bottom (first attracted by what you see, then you touch it and use it if you like it)
    • Three reads of software design are from bottom to top
    • Importance of visual designers now : with all new rich web technologies (HTML 5, Silverlight, …), your product can be beautiful, more simple, and visual designers can add “life” to it
    • Passion is key to outstanding quality work. Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel). You must have a “soul” in your work, enjoy people you’re working with to be great at creating and innovating

    Session #2 : UX Superpowers with Expression Blend 4

    • Presented by Arturo Toledo (Microsoft)
    • MVVM support
    • New pixel shader effects
    • New shapes (clouds, comics bubble, …)
    • Path layout : items added and layed on a path (one of the best features of Expression Blend 4, see example below). Items automatically arranged as they are added/removed, can be animated along the path, …
      Path layout
    • Examples of applications using path layout : organic menu, etc
    • Lots of demos of the new stuff

    Session #3 : Windows Phone 7 design principles

    WP7

    • Presented by kat Holmes and Karen Davis (from Microsoft WP7 team)
    • Design principles for WP7 : colors, information architecture : remain consistent with Microsoft guidelines, use of Blend for WP7 is strongly suggested so you work on the base of these guidelines
    • Presentation of the two main screen layouts for WP7 :
      • Panorama : when your content is not best suited to be redueced to fit screen size : keep it large
      • Pivot : more traditional layout, where all information can be on one page
    • 3 key points for WP7 development :
      • Personal : familiar and thus easy to use
      • Relevant : don’t overdo, focus on content
      • Connected : compliment, don’t duplicate existing features or applications

    Session #4 : a website life, from sketch to publishing

    • Presented by Arturo Toledo (Microsoft)
    • WebMatrix : 3 tools :
      • IIS Express (instead of Cassini : no more bad surprises because Cassini was different than IIS)
      • SQL Server Compact : local, file-based DB
      • ASP.NET Web Pages (new script syntax : Razor)
    • Concept of code helpers. Eg : @Twitter.Profile(”ThibautVS”) displays a list of my tweets
    • Can run SEO reports, giving you hints on how to improve your search engines friendliness
    • Most of the presentation consisted of coding examples using the new, powerful Razor syntax.
    • More information in this MSDN article : How WebMatrix, Razor, ASP.NET Web Pages and MVC fit together

    Conclusion

    It’s always nice to participate to such events because it enables you to maintain a vision of the Microsoft technologies landscape. Then you can pick up what you’re interested in and start a deep dive into it. That’s exactly what I’m doing with Silverlight 4, Expression Blend 4 and HTML 5. See you next year ;)

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  • Dr. Silverlight #1

    Posted on October 2nd, 2010 Thibaut No comments

    Dr. Silverlight

    With this post, I’m starting a new concept called Doctor Silverlight. In the form of questions & answers, you’ll find a list of problems that I’ve encountered with their solution. Hope it will be useful by saving you precious time and don’t hesitate to comment if you’ve got similar things to share ;)

    Q: I’ve got a blurry content (text, pictures, etc), typically when I perform rescaling on these elements.
    A: Set UseLayoutRounding=”False” on the scaling container (true by default, it’s basically a antialiasing mode that can result in blurriness).
    Q: VisualStateManager is not working (no error, but simply does not do what it’s supposed to, even if the references are correct.
    A: The VisualStateManager tag should be the child of the root panel of the page/control.
    Q: The location of the DropDown of a ComboBox is placed at a wrong position (typically top left).
    A: When the ComboBox is used in a popup, this problem arises when the popup is contained in an element decorated with an effect (eg : DropShadow). This is a Silverlight bug. So place the effect at another position.
    Q: I don’t want the first row of the DataGrid to be selected by default. I set SelectedIndex to -1 or SelectedItem to null and it doesn’t work (code behind databinding scenario, not MVVM).
    A: Set one of these properties in code behind AFTER performing the databinding (typically setting the ItemsSource) of the DataGrid. If you set SelectedIndex to -1 in XAML, it won’t work.
    Q: I want a ComboBox to be editable but can’t find the property to achieve this goal.
    A: As incredible as it might sound, the ComboBox control cannot be editable (this is something we have in other technologies for more than 10 years, but anyway). You have to style the AutoCompleteBox to achieve this behavior. Go to the Silverlight toolkit showcase, click on AutoCompleteBox in the left pane, then styling tab. There you have examples and code to get some kind of editable combobox.
    Q: I created a custom control, added manually Themes/Generic.xaml to define the style of it. But styles don’t apply…
    A: You forgot the set the DefaultStyleKey property in the constructor of your custom control.

     

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