Rick Hurst Web Developer in Bristol, UK



I’ve just returned from a Silverlight seminar/ workshop run by Mason Zimbler, where I was lucky enough to be one of a few Bristol freelancers invited to attend. This wasn’t a Silverlight evangelism seminar, but rather a practical hands on seminar that introduced the Expression suite of software (Design, Blend and Encoder) and some basic tasks using each piece of software. Having said that, we were able to discuss the all important question that always crops up for Silverlight – why would you use it rather than Flash?

I haven’t done a recent side by side comparison, and I don’t want to risk inviting a flame war from MS averse developers and fans of Flash, but Silverlight certainly has a few nice features, that weren’t in flash last time I looked. Notably it has excellent HD video streaming and handling, including a really nice video fill feature where multiple movies can be efficiently rendered at runtime into other (skewed, flipped, animated, reflected) containers from a single source movie, and I love the uncompiled nature and the fact that it uses XML (XAML) and javascript for scripting, and can integrate seamlessly with the DOM.

Downsides of course – the development tools are MS only, and even with Microsoft’s pervasiveness it is going to take a while for the critical mass to install the browser plugin – currently available for a handful of browsers for PC and Mac, not yet (ever?) for linux.

I was hoping to see a few more components provided in the box for common functionality such as form fields. I was under the impression that Microsoft would try to take advantage of silverlight’s .net underpinnings and sell Silverlight to hordes of Visual Studio developers by creating a library of form elements like you would find in a typical visual studio project. Third party components do exist, but I was surprised not to see it built into Blend.

Overall impression: it’s actually pretty good. If it wasn’t for the MS-only tools (and .net hosting to take full advantage of the features?) i’d be pretty enthusiastic about it. Being platform agnostic, I will certainly install the Expression suite trial (180 days), and experiment with it further. The “Design” program alone may make a decent cheap alternative to photoshop/ fireworks, but that’s not such a big deal – i’m more interested in the DOM interaction aspect, and the fact that I can use my JavaScript knowledge to create rich media interaction.