Wednesday, September 14, 2005

PDC: Choosing a Presentation Technology



Microsoft announced two new presentation technologies, Atlas and WPF/E (Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere) at the PDC.

One of the sessions I went to was entitled "Choosing a Presentation Technology". I thought a summary of this session would be helpful to gain a high level understanding of the presentation technologies:

ATLAS
  • Has the reach of DHTML (w/o client install), application level features
  • Web client framework for AJAX that provides a richer, more interactive web (think AJAX for ASP.Net)
  • Deeply integrated with ASP.Net 2.0 and VS 2005
  • Rich experiences without the pain of traditional web scripting
  • Productivity: application + UI building blocks. Easier to author, debug and maintain (Component model, controls)
  • Data binding between controls and data sources
  • build programmatically or declaratively
  • Access to ASP.Net hosted and serviced components
  • MSN Hotmail beta that uses Atlas is coming and has outlook-like client side functionality

WPF/E

  • Interactive content across multiple platforms (Windows, Mac, Devices)
  • XAML subset + Javascript
  • Vector, images, video, animation, text controls
  • No 3D, adaptive documents or HW acceleration
  • Hostable and programmable
  • Native or ActiveX hosting for application scenarios
  • ActiveX and Plugins for browser hosting (i.e. safari plugin on Mac which was demonstrated)

At first I didn't understand why Microsoft would want to promote XAML everywhere but I had someone put it in context for me: think Macromedia Flash. Starts to make a little more sense.

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)

  • Immersive experiences, next gen Windows Apps
  • XAML, XAML, XAML, XAML
  • Unified approach to UI, documents and media
  • vector based engine
  • Declarative programming models for "toolability" and flexibility that can bring designers into the process
  • Tries to avoid the owner draw pattern through composition.
  • procedural code is a peer of the declarative markup and that keeps the patterns aligned
  • Databinding baked in
  • Layout: flow, stack, grid etc. Enables support for UIs with multiple form factors
  • Document services

WPF is formerly known as Avalon and has been a buzzword since PDC '03. It may not be the technology of the near future, but its definitely the technology of the future.

Windows Forms

  • 3rd release of this technology is coming out in April. Only released technology discussed.
  • Supports 98, Me, W2K, XP, and Vista
  • Powerful and productive programming model
  • Poor support of reading and documents
  • Graphics and media support is there but difficult
  • Interop to Win32 and Avalon

The best way to describe Windows Forms is that it is the technology of today and will be the bridge to the technology of the future.

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