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Building on the positive feedback of the previous Silverlight application themes released last month (Cosmopolitan, Accent Color, and Windows) the design team is working on another theme targeting business application developers.  We don’t yet have an ‘official’ name for this one yet (and to mitigate the confusion of internal code names again, I’ll spare you the code name), but I wanted to put up a preview.  We’re turning this theme around FAST and I wanted to throw it out here in an initial iteration for preview and comment.  This is the ‘dark’ version of the theme and there will be a light version as well.  This represents only the core control set, but like the others will include other SDK controls as well.

I think it is important to understand the goals as well here so that you don’t wonder hey, we need more pixel-shader-gradient-creating-twhirly-things-with-datatype-binding-and-cascading-selector-path-listboxes in themes!!!  In this effort we tasked the designers to build upon the platform of the previous themes and gave them these goals:

  • Should be ‘brandable’
  • Work with navigation-style Silverlight applications
  • Easily tweakable
  • Will be used most likely by developers with little customization
  • Professional, clean for customer-based line-of-business applications
  • Modern, expressive
  • Wicked cool

It’s hard to mix all of those requirements into something that will uniformly appeal to everyone.  Given that, here’s the iteration step we are at:

Silverlight Application Theme

(click the above image for a full resolution image to see some detail better)

What do you think?  We’re hoping to also be providing some font-alternatives (working through various licensing now) so that you could use different/new embeddable fonts. 

We are moving quickly on this time around and there is little time for change beyond this week.  If you feel strongly about something, share your feedback here ASAP…the designers are listening.  We can’t (and won’t) promise that what you suggest will be implemented (again, trying to please everyone here) but we do want to hear feedback from all sorts of folks who would consider using these professionally designed application themes and styles.

Leave your comments below!

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NOW OFFICIALLY RELEASED: DOWNLOAD HERE

A while back I posted a sneak peek preview of 3 new themes that we were working on for Silverlight 4 applications.  Our team wanted to do more than just the overall base theme and provide the themes for the core, SDK and some Silverlight Toolkit controls as well.  In addition, there was a lot of internal chatter about how cool these new themes were and a lot of teams wanting to adopt them as default, including WCF RIA Services.

While we finalize a better distribution plan for these templates (and some may show up as defaults soon), I wanted to provide a raw drop of the sample project we use to display the themes.  These projects have the Silverlight ResourceDictionary files for the themes and a few pages showing samples.  These are raw theme project files.  And without further adieu, I present the bits for you:

Grayscale Theme

This theme is a clean implementation that initially has a ‘greenscale’ approach to it, but modifying the brushes even slightly will give you some great color pallettes to work with.

Silverlight 4 Theme - Grayscale

Honestly, initially this one didn’t pop for me as much, but the fit-n-finish added here is really making me like this structure.  And the ability to change a single brush and have it replicate through other areas makes this clean template highly customizable.

Windows Theme

Want a theme for your application to look a bit more native?  Here’s a starter place for you. 

Silverlight 4 Theme - Windows

Cosmopolitan Theme (formerly Metro)

And finally the most popular requested, we’re calling Cosmopolitan.  This one has features that resemble the Zune and Windows Phone design language aspects of it in a modern, clean UI form.

Silverlight 4 Theme - Cosmopolitan

This theme also has a ToUpper and ToLower behavior files that you can apply to your XAML for text formatting.

How these raw projects are structured

As I mentioned, these are raw project structures…ripped from the designer’s desktop, zipped and presented here.  There may be dependencies that you don’t have and will need (i.e., Toolkit, etc.).  There may be residual test files in there.  Deal with it :-).  But at the basics the core themes are all structured as ResourceDictionary files in the Assets folder:

Theme project structure

As you can see in here the files should be relatively self-explanatory.   We tried to make it so that you can pick and choose what you’d like from them (as well as learn how to segment out these types of dictionary files).

In each project you will also see the themes represented in showing: core controls, sdk controls and toolkit controls.  Please make sure to appreciate all of them.  I didn’t post screenshots of all here.

The future deployment of these themes/templates

The idea is that we’ll clean these up in a more distributable manner.  We’ll likely create VSIX files (Visual Studio extension installers) so that you could then say File…New Silverlight Cosmopolitan Application and have these already in there.  This also allows us to put them in the Visual Studio Gallery where you can search/download directly to Visual Studio.  We also will likely put the resources on the Expression Gallery for download.  And as I mentioned before, it’s possible that future iterations of things like WCF RIA Services and such might use them as default.  You tell me: what is the best distribution method?  How would you expect to download/install/use these?

Summary

I love these new themes.  I think our design team did a great job here.  Tsitsi and Corrina are awesome and put a lot of work into refining these.  By the feedback that I’ve been getting in email and blog comments, these are exactly the type of things that you’ve been wanting.  Mostly from developers I’m hearing the thank you for helping me since I have no design skills!  This is great feedback that our team loves to hear.  I hope you find these valuable.

These raw project templates here are essentially the Silverlight Navigation Application template modified.  We’ll have the biz app ones a while later, but these should get you started.

Hope this helps!


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution By license.

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This has been one of the features that I’ve been excited about for a while since I heard we were changing it.  With the release of Silverlight 2 Beta 2 and the updated preview of Expression Blend 2.5 (June 2008), skinning and styling controls within Silverlight gets a bunch easier.

Sample skins from Corrina Barber

When Silverlight 2 Beta 1 was released there was the possibility of styling/skinning controls.  It wasn’t impossible, but perhaps a bit obfuscated to the eye for people with short attention spans like myself.  You can read more about those methods here and here.  WPF designers were probably laughing that Silverlight developers might have been struggling with skinning controls.  Why?  Because Blend for WPF supports a right-click “Edit Template” functionality for WPF…so where is it for Silverlight?  In the latest release of Blend 2.5 of course!

That’s right—simpler skinning.  At RIApalooza in fact I was asked about how one would know *what* elements could be skinned, etc.  Outside of the docs, and some spelunking, it wasn’t entirely intuitive.  But now, well, let’s take a look.  Let’s take a look at Blend 2.5 June 2008 preview and adding a ScrollBar to our design surface:

You may not realize it but the ScrollBar has a lot of elements that you can skin.  The thumb, the handles, the bar, every little detail…so now in Blend 2.5 we can right-click and choose to edit that:

When you do this you are prompted for some settings, one to name the style and the second of where to put it, either in the document resources or as an application resource that other controls may subscribe to:

After you do this, your objects and timelines explorer (on the left by default unless you’ve moved it) now changes to represent the layered elements of the control you are skinning now.  Note that the “up” arrow will get you out of this mode and back to your documents visual tree of elements.  Here’s what the base template for ScrollBar looks like:

You can continue to dig further.  For example with ScrollBar, if you wanted to modify the Thumb, simply select that in the visual object tree:

then right-click on the Thumb now on the design surface and choose to edit that template and now you’ll see that you can edit the Thumb’s template rather simply:

If I wanted to I can remove the three elements that make up the HortizontalThumb and make my Thumb an Image of myself (horrible design, but proving a point):

I chose ScrollBar in this post, but you can do this with any of the controls and the process is the same.  This now makes skinning a bit more within a closer reach to most.  The reach for developers might be a bit further if you have no design skills…but I’ll gladly send you my picture if you want to use it as your navigational Thumb for ScrollBar.

One other tip is that when you have an element on the design surface that has a template skin attached to it, Blend will help you get there even faster rather than having to right-click further.  At the top there is a breadcrumb like trail and if you are on an element that has a template there will be a “Template” link you can click directly on:

Hope this helps!