Longhorn WinHEC Build: What's New?

As I'm sure most people know by now, we've made an updated build of Windows "Longhorn" (build 4074) available. My colleague Mike Taulty pointed to a webcast from Dave Massy that highlights the progress that's been made since the bits we handed out at the PDC. Of course many people (myself included) hate webcasts: they're just too slow and it's hard to pick out the salient points. So I've taken the liberty of posting the notes I took whilst watching this webcast, to give you the choice between watching or skim-reading...

This week we've released a Longhorn Community Technical Preview - the first update to the Longhorn bits distributed to PDC attendees. The updated bits were distributed to WinHEC attendees and are also available to MSDN subscribers. There are 32-bit and 64-bit (both Itanium and 64-bit extensions) images in both debug and retail versions. The SDK has been updated, and a DDK has also been released.

Longhorn has not yet reached beta; this is an interim release that will demonstrate progress, but also regressions. An updated version of Visual Studio is not included, but MSBuild (the new build tool) is included as part of the operating system. It's also imporant to note that this build is not recommended for use as a primary machine for work, since it's not yet stable and hasn't been through the standard security audit. A progress report on the four major pillars of Longhorn:

Base operating system services. Ongoing work in stability, performance and infrastructure, but no specific feature enhancements to draw attention to in this release.

Provides developers an integrated communications infrastructure - secure and reliable for inter- or even intra-machine communications. No new bits in this release, but expecting significant changes in a future release.

Not just a storage engine, but also making it easy to find related data quickly. Improvements in stability and performance; infrastructural work will be made available soon.

Brand new presentation subsystem. Stability and performance improvements checked in, plus a number of new features checked in that were talked about at the PDC, as well as incremental changes to existing features:

  • Annotations Framework: User can add annotations to content, which will travel with content and be reflowed even if the window changes. Samples included in the SDK.
  • Controls: Label control added, as well as theming work. Styles can be overridden.
  • Layout: Grid element added - allows more precise positioning (of rows and columns) than available with a GridLayout panel. Great for dialog boxes.
  • Data: Can bind directly between element properties. For example, a slider could directly adjust the colour of another object without additional plumbing code.
  • Namespace: Has changed from MSAvalon to System.Windows. This was widely trailed at the PDC, and is obviously a breaking change for any existing code.
  • 3D Platform Support: Today adding 3D features requires DirectX, but we're trying to bring this within easy reach of the Avalon developer. Full support for printing and accessibility. Could be useful for a 3D graph, or a different form of navigation for an application.

Some useful resources: