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I’ve been working on some stuff around templates lately and had my own opinions of some of the value of certain features of the Visual Studio template functionality.  What I’m speaking of here is when you choose File…New Project or on an existing project Add Item.  Both of those show you a list of templates.  When you select one most typically you get new files in your project.  It is one area of Visual Studio that is the simplest to extend and provide specific templates for your developers.

There is an option for template developers to specify what, if any, files are open by default once the template is added.  Using Silverlight as an example, when you create a new project you’ll see that the default MainPage.xaml file is opened for you in the designer.  I wanted to get a feeling of what developers thought of this functionality.  Help me with some research?

This is, of course, totally un-scientific and I just wanted to get a litmus test of what people thought of that functionality (opening files by default, not just the concept of templates). Thanks in advance for helping out!

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The feedback from the Silverlight 4 application themes released and the latest in process have been overwhelmingly toward the positive.  We appreciate the feedback and hopefully you appreciate the transparency in the process.  As a developer I want my fellow brethren to appreciate good design and use it whenever possible … even as a default if you don’t have designers on board.

In the initial release we had some issues getting the RIA Services ones out at the same time but we’ve got those finished now for Silverlight 4 Business Application Template. 

Download the refreshed Silverlight 4 themes (inlcuding RIA Services templates) here.

NOTE: If the page still says version 1.0, then refresh a while or wait a bit.  Seems our servers have been having a bit of caching issues lately.

At the link above you’ll find 3 files to download:

  • README_FIRST.txt – please read this :-) but basically I’m writing the same thing here.
  • SL4Themes-templates.zip – this includes a folder for Expression Blend and Visual Studio templates.  The VS folder also has a sub-folder for the RIA Services templates.
  • SL4Themes-rawassets.zip – this is another (optional) zip that includes the resource dictionaries for each template on their own without any Silverlight project.

We had an issue with the VSIX format (VSIX is the community installer format for Visual Studio to make deployment of things like templates a bit easier) and the RIA Services templates, so for now it is a manual copy process (see the README_FIRST file for location).  Thanks to Corrina, Tsitsi and Deepesh for their help in refreshing these templates!

ETA on the new template will be a few weeks.  I’ll post updates of the progress likely on my Twitter feed.

Hope this helps!


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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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‘Twas the week before MIX, when all through the tubes
Not a developer was sleeping, not even the noobs.

The laptops were paved removed of their glitz
In hopes that they soon will get some new bits.

A developer was coding, building an app
Trying to build the next greatest XAP

Battleship gray?! Now that’s obscene
Check our designers’ latest theme

Okay, so I’m not going to win any poetry awards.  Our UX design team for Silverlight has been thinking about app building a lot this past year, gathering valuable input from developers, designers and end-users about how people interact with applications, primarily line-of-business applications (<shudder>I hate that term</shudder>).  Hot off the press here is a preview of some of the things we’ve been thinking about from a XAML theme perspective.

First, I present to you codename Grayscale.  Some subtle twists on existing base themes but not detracting too much from the ‘traditional’.  (larger view here).

Grayscale Silverlight Theme

Up next is codename Windows Theme (yeah, original I know, gimme a break here I’m making these up).  Taking a cue from Windows 7 system design, this theme brings familiarity to the end-user. (larger view here).

Windows Silverlight Theme

And finally, Metro.  Taking a cue perhaps from Zune desktop (and device) software design, a clean but fun theme for any application (larger view here).

Metro Silverlight Theme
So there you have some preview of some Silverlight application themes we’ve been playing around with. I know the design team is enthusiastic about getting these in the hands of developers/designers.

What do you think?



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