I'm still catching my breath from being on the road the past few weeks. Hence the lack of new postings. In an effort to catch back up, I thought I'd highlight a few exciting announcements from last week’s MIX 09 conference:
Silverlight 3 Beta
Tons and tons of new stuff but the big story here is the ability for Silverlight applications to run outside the browser. By setting an attribute on your Silverlight object tag in the hosting page, users will be able to take a Silverlight 3 application in a page and run it offline from the desktop or start menu (works on PCs and Macs). The applications will literally launch from the temporary internet folder where they were downloaded. There's a new property and event into the application framework to detect if the computer is running on or offline. The Silverlight autoupdate facilities still work normally if the computer is online. They are tentatively calling these "lightweight data snacking applications". Also of note, there is a new SDK to enable Virtual Earth mapping from within Silveright applications.
Expression Blend 3 Beta
Two big features coming in Expression Blend. The first is an expanded library of prebuilt behaviors for wiring navigation to UI elements. Building the basic navigation pathways in an application will be as easy as clicking an element (tab, button, etc) and choosing the "Navigate to Page" behavior and selecting another page within the project. I predict that this will DRASTICALLY decrease the time to get your UI up and running.
And speaking of mock ups, there's a nifty new feature coming in the next beta of Blend 3 called SketchFlow. This is reminiscent of the ProtoXAML tool that's been floating around the net for a while. It sets the UI theme to what looks like a back-of-the-napkin style hand drawn user interface. The idea is to force your customer to review the application flow and not the pretty pixels. Combined with the new behaviors I mentioned above I expect this to dramatically accelerate the creation of prototypes and mock-ups. In addition to the look and feel, Sketchflow embeds a small utility into your Silverlight or WPF application that let's your end users see the full page/form structure of the application and mark up each screen with annotations that can be sent back to the development team for review.
Internet Explorer 8 RTM
This has been a long time coming and worth the wait I think. I’ve installed it on my machines and so far everything looks and works great. There are tons of new features. Web slices and accelerators are the head liners. Web slices let you take regions of a web page and host them on the toolbar in small drop down viewers. Convenient for quickly looking at information from a site such as current traffic conditions, weather, stock tickers, etc. Web accelerators let you highlight text on a page with the mouse and get a list of context sensitive actions such as Blog, Email, Search, or Map what you’ve highlighted. So far my favorites are the new find on page bar (ctrl-f) and the color coded tabs to let you know which tabs contain related pages. I do wish inactive tabs could be closed without activating them (ala Firefox).
Azure Services Platform
Two key announcements here: First, Azure will run .NET applications in full trust mode to allow support of native code and non-.NET languages via Fast CGI (PHP anyone?). Second, the recently announced SQL Server Data Services will support full relational database capabilities and will use the TDS wire protocol for speed and to allow developers to connect directly to their cloud databases from within Visual Studio Server Explorer. The first production release of Azure will drop by the end of this year.
Windows Web Application Gallery
This is a new hub that will host the installation bits of the most popular open source and community web applications that run on the Windows platform. Featured apps include DotNetNuke, Umbraco, BlogEngine.NET, WordPress, and Drupal.
ASP.NET Model View Controller (MVC) 1.0 Released
Yep, that’s right. The MVC framework is FINALLY released. Head on over here to learn more and download it.
Those are my highlights. You can see recordings of all the MIX sessions here. I encourage you to check them out, especially the keynote by Debra Adler on the second day. It’s an incredibly inspirational story of how one person can change the world. In Debra’s case, she rewrote the rules for prescription delivery and convinced a major industry pharmacy to be the instrument of change. Highly recommended viewing!