Silverlight 2 Released

Silverlight 2 has been released. This is the real silverlight release.  The release last year 1.0 was just a javascript release and only had one object, the downloader, not even a text input.  But now there are real tools like rich ui controls, services support (REST), DLR (C#, Linq, ironpython/ruby) and Sockets which are much needed for games and game platform development.

There are also much better tools at this stage:

Bam. Silverlight 2 is out. There’s the expected stuff, like the final SDK, Expression, and Silverlight tools:

And from Tim’s blog:

But there’s also http://www.eclipse4sl.org/. Yes, that means you can code Silverlight in Eclipse. Details and progress at the Eclipse Tools for Silverlight Blog. It’ll be licensed under the EPL 1.0 License.

I have done lots of Silverlight initially when 1.0 came out as well as the agency I was working at.  We did video players, mini-games, demo apps and even the Halo 3 online manual at silverlight.net.  But it wasn’t really ready until now.  It still has a long way to go to really be an alternative to Flash but it is capable platform at version 2 for applications, mini-games and video apps for sure. But in the end it just provides competition to make both the Flash/Flex platforms and Silveright compete for developer support.

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Moock Mentions XFL for Open Flash IDE Source Formats

Colin Moock an actionscript brain since the great Flash 4 advances that brought all sorts of fun to flash, like games, has mentioned XFL an open format for flash from a discussion with Adobe product managers.

This would be a format that would be able to import, export and allow compile to SWF. MXML for Flex does this now but bringing the two together into one common format and allowing for all sorts of open source and third party contributions to making flash will let it literally explode in support.

I recently met with Flash authoring product-manager, Richard Galvan, to talk about Diesel, the next version of Flash (i.e., Flash CS4, or version 10 for those counting). Adobe has already demonstrated a bunch of high-impact features for Diesel, including inverse kinematics, a new tweening model, 3D “postcards in space”, and advanced text components (see MAX 07 keynote, FOTB 07 keynote, and FITC Amsterdam 08 keynote). But Richard was keen to talk about a lesser known feature quietly percolating behind the scenes: XFL.

Since its inception, the Flash authoring tool has stored documents in a binary source-file called .fla. Historically, interchanging source with the Flash authoring tool has been virtually impossible for third-party software because the specification for .fla has never been public. But things are changing in the next version of Flash. Flash CS4 will be able to export *and* import a new source format called XFL. An XFL file is a .zip file that contains the source material for a Flash document. Within the .zip file resides an XML file describing the structure of the document and a folder with the document’s assets (graphics, sounds, etc). The exact details of the XFL format are not yet available, but Richard assures me that Adobe intends to document them publicly, allowing third-party tools to import and export XFL.

If this is a market test or check of interest I think that everyone I know working with flash would be very excited about opening and unifying the flash format and allowing great IDEs and tools to help produce better flash content more quickly. Also, with the competition Silverlight using XAML (uncompressed) this also allows a competitive advantage maybe making Silverlight add better compression and loading tools beyond their downloader object.

I hope this is also in the plans for Director. If they used similar formats it could be very nice and something to watch as an emerging market to prepare for.

Read the full post at moock.org

Degrafa for Flex Looking Pretty Sweet (AS3 and Commonizing Paths Graphics Pipeline for Silverlight and Flex)


Just recently through the holidays Degrafa has made some great strides as a very cool SVG pathing and designers toolkit for Flex. I have to say some recent Flex apps have really looked good like Picnik and Buzzword but this kit looks to clean up the lack of design and default style-itis that has plagued most common Flex Apps.

This so far looking like a pretty strong kit for bringing the designer pipeline into Flex to provide some really nice looking web styled apps. It has a direct crossover to Silverlight and Path objects that are largely just a series of data created in Expression or exported from Illustrator into XAML. The one benefit of Flex/Flash is it compiles to a very small SWF where with Silverlight you have to package the XAML in a zip and use the downloader object to extract it out. These XAML files and Paths can get massive as I am sure the ones for Degrafa will for Flex but the compile option is nice as it is compressed heavily.

All about Degrafa

Yes the launch includes shiny buttons…

Sphere Sample (right click for source)

Also, it appears it is a way to bridge the pathing and pipeline for flash or Silverlight. At one of the contributors blogs they mention this:

We have lot of interesting features planned for the coming releases. There is also a converter app that will be made available for converting the juicy Degrafa graphics to XAML.

Degrafa has gone live.

Developing…

AS3, AS2, Silverlight, Actionscript in Google Trends for Vector Wars

Here is an interesting look to start the new year at Google Trends for some common keywords to this blog audience. Comparing AS2, AS3, Silverlight and actionscript you can see that there is some pretty interesting things happening.

as3 as2 actionscript silverlight  

First off, AS2 and AS3 are clouded because they are also related to EDI and EDI-INT so they get a bit inflated. Silverlight though is pretty unique in the naming. So from this graph we can see this happening:

  • Silverlight and AS3 are growing rapidly
  • Silverlight is crossing over as3 or meeting it
  • The market looking for Silverlight is about 8-10 times as large as actionscript/as3/as3
  • Silverlight and AS3 are growing, AS2 has no growth left and is an EOL language (end of life)
  • AS2 (even with crossover to EDI trends for “as2”) leveled out, where AS3 is starting to lift to a larger market. This is strongly due to it being a fun language based on ES4 and interests programmers.
  • The as3 effect started right in March-April 2007 (hrm I started this blog in April 2007 coincidenc? j/k :))

Another chart including Flex shows a better picture of the keyword wars between flex and silverlight.

as3 as2 actionscript silverlight flex

So from this graph we can see this happening:

  • Flex has a large buzz
  • Adobe’s marketing efforts are many while silverlight is more unique and focused
  • Flex, as3 and Silverlight are popular, and growing in their support (the growth market for technology is in these areas, not in tech from Flash 8/as2)
  • AS2 still taking a nosedive

Flash and Flex programmers and designers should know that with Silverlight 2.0 release coming and the capabilities of Silverlight 2.0 more competitive, flashers should be working on Flex, Flash9 or at least AS3 if not Flex. The RIA competition market will heat up immensely this year with Silverlight 2.0 and possibly Flex3 and coding and programming for Flash and Flex is becoming more involved. It also has a very strong competitor in Silverlight 2.0 coming that will drive this market.

This is all great news if you are ready for it, if you are still coding actionscript2 (AS2) and paying no mind to Silverlight, Flex or at least actionscript3 (AS3) then you will see your market slowly start to fade as things are ramped up and more of a programming focus in the vector wars. If you are a flash coder and ignoring Silverlight, your solutions will suffer. If you are a silverlight coder or .NET coder and ignoring the Flex and AS3 rise your solutions will suffer. I have been playing in AS3, Flex and Silverlight for over a year on both now and they are an entirely new platform with great programming models. The competition puts focus on this market so it is a great time to be skilled in these areas.

MosesProposes: Standardizing Animation and Motion Kits for Flash, Flex, After Effects, Javascript and I add Director and haXe

The Proposal

Moses, the maker of FuseKit, is hoping to influence Adobe product lines to include a common base for animation and motion going forward. Currently the AS3 world is very alive and is inspiring developers like myself to build lots of toolkits and really creating reusable code and kits that can make things very easy from going to Flash to Flex. But wouldn’t it be nice if a part of these kits that have to be downloaded every time you have an application use them be part of the native Adobe applications, or a core animation kit that partially standardizes animation basics to build upon further?

Are we just asking for trouble or is this a good idea? I don’t’ think it can hurt to bring this to the surface. I know that common syntax and familiar kits can really help the developers and designers move from Flash to Flex to After Effects to Javascript, it could also help Adobe with usage and usefulness of their entire suite of products. Or further this could be a standard that allows Silverlight to also build upon (open standard) and may the best platform win.

I think it would be very wise for Adobe to:

  • Standardize animation toolkits across their products and
  • Start standardizing some of the basic tools of building motion and filter kits to native but still allowing a flourishing open source and community research and development aspect.

What MosesProposes:

Moses did speak with someone at Adobe about this and it is generally in the plans:

“It was also a pleasure to see Richard Galvan present the upcoming crop of Flash features: the sleek update to the animation timeline (better late than never?), support for columnated flowing text (double finally!) and the big one, native 3D player support for Display Objects as rotatable 2D planes. He ran out of time and didn’t get to a few others shown at Adobe MAX, such as built-in IK (inverse kinematics) and faster pixel-level drawing for texture-mapping and photoshop-like filter effects.

Talking to him after the presentation I learned that Richard has a keen awareness of exactly where each feature is at currently. We chatted about low-level animation mechanics of the Flash Player, and I found out that the holy grail of a time-based player is indeed on the distant horizon, but that each rev will need to be a small step toward this goal. The new Flash timeline features meld After Effects, Premiere and Live Motion, and from what I’ve seen I have to say that they are nailing this long-overdue upgrade with great design decisions and a level of usability we’ve never seen in Flash. Kudos, team!”

The Current Situation

Right now Tweener and TweenLite (and animation package and a few others) have a unique position in that they work the same almost for AS2 and AS3 (Flex or Flash – with minor property changes such as _x to x as that has changed in AS3). But it would be nice if these kits also had a version for After Effects (really bringing that tool into Flash/flex developer worlds) and Javascript and it would be great if Silverlight also were supported (AgTweener anyone?).

Tweener is leading the pack in this aspect of creating a similar experience from AS2 to AS3 in Flash and AS3 in Flex and even JSTweener for Javascript, and a kit for haXe which is becoming my favorite toy and the dark horse with the most upside potential, with haXe on the loose these points may all be moot as haXe can target any platform (except After Effects easily, correct me if I am wrong and Silverlight but it could easily be done so to do it for Silverlight 1.0 which is ES3 based).

I don’t use After Effects as much right now but if I could easily incorporate this into Flash/Flex and script and animate in a similar syntax and way I know After Effects would definitely have a boost in interest.

Also, the forgotten one Director, can we please get an ES4 based language in that application, or an update? Then kits and add-ons are much more possible. I really miss hardware accelerated 3d in browser as a pushed technology, Director is still around but it does not get the focus it needs. Feel the freedom and coolness just in this small test here in director, hardware accelerated 3d is the best, the Director application environment and Lingo and hacked in javascript are not the best. As a long-time Director user, hobbyist and professional I am disappointed in Director’s support at Adobe thus far, but I digress.

The Reality

The reality is right now the only problem with kits like Tweener, TweenLite, Tween, mx.transitions, mx.motion, etc is that the source has to be embedded in movieclips multiple times. Sometimes there are multiple animation kits per compiled SWF that have to be used for more advanced features. This adds bulk that if common might not need to be there (this comes into play still on mobile and large games/apps).

Let’s say you have an application that pulls in many disconnected SWFs and they all have animation in them, well if you have 20 of these let’s say, and you embedded a very small Tweener at 9k per SWF. That is about 200k of duplication of AS code. Due to the kits small sizes this is not a problem really but when animation kits like Animation Package come into play, you are talking 40k per SWF which would leave you with almost a meg of just duplicated animation code. I don’t think this is that major of a problem for kits like Tweener (9k compiled) and Tweenlite (3k compiled) but as projects get bigger and more depth of animation platforms needed this can be a problem. This can also be solved in architecture with a controller and dummy SWFs to animate but there are times when you need animation in the compiled SWFs and then also need it in many others and the controller.

The other reality is the animation kits (mx.transitions.easing, mx.transitions.tween) for Flex and Tween for fl are a little bloated, more difficult than needed to use and as has been seen, much slower than kits currently available in the community. My one fear about this is that if Adobe makes this, possibly like Microsoft’s toolkits and libraries they put out, they are always bloated and slower, then because they are embedded they are untouchable. If it was standard enough as building blocks that are faster because they are native, then this is the best option as embedded script would be hard pressed to beat native code in the players/applications.

The Future Plans

Some of this is underway….

Animation kits for future, Adobe is releasing Flash 10 called ‘Astro’ that has many new improvements in tweening with xml closer to flex or even Silverlight like transitions and storyboards. Aral Balkan, a sponsor of OSFlash, posted on this and even that Diesel Flash CS4 will include more Tween tools for IK/bones. Tweener , TweenLite, Animation Package, Animation System etc these are all helping to define the best way to do animation kits.

Physics toolkits have their own animation kits currently usually to handle the movement according to algorithms. FOAM, APE , Box2DFlashAS3 (just released very recently will be posting more on this after I check it) and Motor Physics (unreleased but heavily demoed at polygonal labs) are great physics toolkits and I like this being part of the community to get refined, maybe one of them or the best performing ones becomes part of the proposed Adobe Animation bundle. These will define the best way to do physics kits.

3d in flash toolkits have also been emerging rapidly in 2007 with Papervision3D, Away3d based on pv3d, Sandy, and even engines starting to get built on top of these platforms.

The general direction is moving towards another platform in there somewhere but I think much work is left to be done to standardized physics systems, 3d and advanced motion filter tweens and bezier, splines (Catmull-Rom), editors, etc. I think it is getting time for basic animation kits to become more standard though and in latest versions of flash this is included in the flex and flash scripts but not the native code.

Right now the standard in syntax and the broadest reach is Tweener and due to the bigger fish syndrome, haXe that can target any platform, it also has a Tweener and can create code for as2, as3 and any target written in if After Effects, Premiere or other apps get more robust and standard animation and motion kits. Tweener has kits made and contributed for AS2, AS3, haXe, Javascript and others.

There is also Hydra and the AIF Toolkit that are standardizing After Effects and Flash shaders and filters into a new shader language like Cg and reminiscent of processing.org.

As humans we trial and error and build new platforms in the market to step on to create better platforms to build cool stuff, it is evolving right now. AS3 is inspiring platforms within platforms of Flash and Adobe kits as well as on Silverlight and in the Javascript world with JSTweener, jquery etc. As these things are refined we build a level standard platform to build more stuff on. Eventually this will be there and whoever does the standard platform for animation will probably reap in users and abilitty to easily add new products and solutions where people already have training. Silverlight is an example with .NET developers. .NET was also an example with C# so similar to Java. ES4 based AS3 has proven it is inspiring all types of new platforms and kits and will continue to do so and it is an interesting time in this industry whichever direction it goes.

Dojo Adds Silverlight Effects Support

Dojo Toolkit, a robust javascript library similar to my favorite js kit mootools, recently update and added some support for Silverlight effects. This is one really cool aspect of Silverlight in that it allows you to script/code it in many languages in the DLR (Dynamic Language Runtime) including ironpython, C#, IronRuby, javascript and others. Where as with Flash you only have Actionscript3 available.

Check out the Silverlight demos here:

butterfly.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 33K
circles.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 4.0K
clock.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 7.3K
lion.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 22K
tiger.html 20-Aug-2007 18:19 100K

DojoX

  • high quality implementations of previously experimental features: gfx (portable 2D drawing), data wires, offline, storage, cometd, etc.
  • dojox.gfx now includes Sliverlight support
  • many more features and improvements than there’s room for here.

Dijit

  • unified look and feel for all widgets
  • ambitious a11y and i18n features in every Dijit widget
  • a mature CSS-driven theme system with multiple, high-quality themes
  • huge improvements in system performance
  • data-bound widgets
  • Declarations for lightweight widget writing
  • a new page parser that allows instances of any class, not just widgets
  • no magic

Core

  • reduced API surface area (easier to remember and use)
  • dojo.query() always available, returns real arrays
  • from-scratch high-performance DnD system
  • Base (dojo.js) is 25K on the wire (gzipped)
  • dojo.data APIs finalized
  • new build system
  • new test harness for both CLI and browser use
  • dojo.behavior now marked stable and based on dojo.query
  • excellent animation APIs with Color animations in Base (always available)
  • all the features you’ve come to count on from Dojo (RPC, JSON-P, JSON, i18n, formatting utilities, etc.)

[ source ]

SharpDevelop 3.0 (Open Source .NET IDE) w/ WPF and XAML Support

SharpDevelop 3 which can be downloaded from build servers here is looking pretty good for revision 3 of my favorite .NET Open Source IDE and maybe even favorite overall considering it responds quicker that everyone’s .NET tool VS.NET.

The latest revision in builds just got the WPF and XAML tools in there. I tend to not use SharpDevelop for website development but do so for class libraries, apps and maybe forms development on occasion. This might help the layout side of things for the next gen of user interface development in .NET beyond just Expression.

One thing that has been apparent with IDEs as sometimes as they grow in size and scope and try to add more features, it is actually a slow down in some cases. I have been slowed from VS.NET 2003 to 2005. They are great tools but things start taking longer, it seems it should be the other way around.

When I need to just bust out a class library many times I do so in SharpDevelop because it is responsive and quick. I just hope they retain this speed. I unfortunately like to work on many projects at once so my IDE has to be smart about long processes (I curse you pending checkins! In 2004 when in beta VS.NET forced me to external IDE source control in Subversion and TortoiseSVN – much happier now).

XAMLPad right now is a pretty good quick development tools for XAML as well beyond just Expression and VS.NET Orcas Beta.

Be sure to try out SharpDevelop if you have not yet and develop .NET or would like to start. It is a great IDE and has some good extras like converting C# > VB.NET buffers whichcan be extended out to a service.