Introducing the February 2011 Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit

Posted 16 February 2011  

Today we pushed the button on the February 2011 release of the Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit. We’ve added a few new controls that previously app developers had to pick up separately while working on polishing their apps, including the tilt effect and performance progress bar. VB samples, too!

Februrary 2011 Toolkit Release

Please download the new Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit release here. This is a great download to pair with your updated January 2011 Windows Phone Developer Tools installation.

What’s new?

Tilt effect

We have integrated the TiltEffect attached property, allowing developers to really easily turn on the “tilt effect” in this apps, automatically giving buttons, hyperlinks and check boxes the desired tilt effect that is found in many parts of the Windows Phone experience.

MSDN documents are available for this feature:

This is the same control that was once presented on Peter Torr’s blog and became a sample, now much easier to use.

PerformanceProgressBar

There have been several PerformanceProgressBar iterations, and finally there is one available built-in to the Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit.

This version is very easy to use, you can just drop it on a page, without needing to specify styles like earlier workarounds. Also, it smoothly animates out in an improved way, improving the visual attractiveness of apps.

Simply bind to or set the IsIndeterminate property to get the visual effect. There is no need to visually collapse this implementation.

For some history and other information,

Bug fixes and feature improvements

We’ve addressed customer-requested issues and improvements, most in the LongListSelector and transitions space.

VB.NET Samples

Now that Visual Basic support is available for Windows Phone, we are pleased to now offer the same sample project we ship with the toolkit, now in VB.NET.

To use VB.NET with Windows Phone apps, you also need this easy download.

A 1 minute click-through of new features in the sample app

Here’s a quick video of the emulator running the samples project included with the source download.

In the video, you see:

  • The tilt effect in use on the main page
  • The LongListSelector, which has received a number of improvements and bug fixes
  • The performance progress bar, including a quick demonstration where the blue progress bar (the PerformanceProgressBar in the toolkit) competes against the red standard ProgressBar with the user interface thread blocked. Also, the blue performance progress bar automatically fades out, yielding a smooth UX polish for your apps.
  • The tilt effect page, where you see a button, checkbox, and hyperlinkbutton being touched, responding with the tilt effect underneath.

Earlier phone toolkit features

As always, there are other useful features for app developers built into the toolkit, including:

  • AutoCompleteBox
  • ContextMenu
  • DatePicker & TimePicker
  • Gestures
  • ListPicker
  • LongListSelector
  • ToggleSwitch
  • Transitions
  • WrapPanel

Addressing touch responsiveness and list scrolling

One thing that we’re still trying to find the best solution to is list scrolling. The LongListSelector (LLS) control was designed to help address some of these issues, but we know that we aren’t there yet.

I’ve had conversations with a number of developers both at Microsoft, within the product teams, and with the community out there, to try and compile a list of issues, asks and possible solutions.

We know, for instance, that there are issues with the use of the TouchPanel component that the gesture service is built on, and we want to find a good solution for that.

At this time, LongListScroller is the best recommendation for most apps that need to do grouping, where the standard virtualizing ListBox is not enough.

A more active CodePlex site

Another administrative note, we’re trying to keep the CodePlex site at http://silverlight.codeplex.com/ a little more up-to-date than in the past. You’ll notice that work items should be responded too, and we’re going to keep porting bugs between our Microsoft systems and the external site.

One experiment that we’re doing with the phone toolkit is that we are offering many bug fixes as they happen as opposed to at release time; in fact, since the November 2010 Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit release, we’ve checked in multiple updates to the source to address customer feedback, marketplace ingestion issues, and transition bugs.

You can view the latest source code and related check-ins at http://silverlight.codeplex.com/SourceControl/list/changesets 

Let us know what you think of this more transparent way of working. Hope this helps. (Download link)

Jeff Wilcox is a Principal Software Engineer at Microsoft on the Azure team.

Jeff holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Michigan.

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