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Silverlight Overview

Microsoft Silverlight will reach end of support after October 2021. Learn more.

Microsoft Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform implementation of the .NET Framework for building and delivering the next generation of media experiences and rich interactive applications (RIA) for the Web. You can also create Silverlight applications that run outside of the browser on your desktop. Finally, you use the Silverlight framework to create applications for Windows Phone. Silverlight uses the Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) to ease UI development (e.g. controls, animations, graphics, layout, etc.) while using managed code or dynamic languages for application logic.

This topic contains the following sections.

  • What Is Silverlight?
  • What Features Are in Silverlight?
  • Running Silverlight Applications
  • Creating Silverlight Applications
  • In This Section
  • Related Topics

What Is Silverlight?

Silverlight enables you to create a state-of-the-art application that has the following features:

  • It is a cross-browser, cross-platform technology. It runs in all popular Web browsers, including Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and on Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X.

  • It enables you to create Windows Phone applications. To learn more about creating Windows Phone applications with Silverlight, see Windows Phone Development.

  • It is supported by a small download that installs in seconds.

  • It streams video and audio. It scales video quality to everything from mobile devices to desktop browsers to 720p HDTV video modes.

  • It includes compelling graphics that users can manipulate—drag, turn, and zoom—directly in the browser.

  • It reads data and updates the display, but it doesn't interrupt the user by refreshing the whole page.

  • The application can run in the Web browser or you can configure it so users can run it on their computer (out-of-browser). In addition, you can use your knowledge of the Silverlight framework to create Windows Phone applications.

Silverlight application with rich graphics and user interaction

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You can create Silverlight applications in a variety of ways. You can use Silverlight markup to create media and graphics, and manipulate them with dynamic languages and managed code. Silverlight also enables you to use professional-quality tools like Visual Studio for coding and Microsoft Expression Blend for layout and graphic design.

What Features Are in Silverlight?

Silverlight combines multiple technologies into a single development platform that enables you to select the right tools and the right programming language for your needs. Silverlight offers the following features:

  • WPF and XAML. Silverlight includes a subset of the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) technology, which greatly extends the elements in the browser for creating UI. Silverlight lets you create immersive graphics, animation, media, and other rich client features, extending browser-based UI beyond what is available with HTML alone. XAML provides a declarative markup syntax for creating elements. For more information, see Layout, Input, and Printing, Graphics, Animation, and Media, and Controls.

  • Extensions to JavaScript. Silverlight provides extensions to the universal browser scripting language that provide control over the browser UI, including the ability to work with WPF elements. For more information, see JavaScript API for Silverlight.

  • Cross-browser, cross-platform support. Silverlight runs the same on all popular browsers (and on popular platforms). You can design and develop your application without having to worry about which browser or platform your users have. For more information, see Supported Operating Systems and Browsers.

  • Integration with existing applications. Silverlight integrates seamlessly with your existing JavaScript and ASP.NET AJAX code to complement functionality you have already created. For more information, see Integrating Silverlight with a Web Page.

  • Access to the .NET Framework programming model. You can create Silverlight applications using dynamic languages such as IronPython as well as languages such as C# and Visual Basic. For more information, see Managed API for Silverlight

  • Tools Support. You can use development tools, such as Visual Studio and Expression Blend, to quickly create Silverlight applications. For more information, see Silverlight Designer for Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend.

  • Networking support. Silverlight includes support for HTTP over TCP. You can connect to WCF, SOAP, or ASP.NET AJAX services and receive XML, JSON, or RSS data. For more information, see Networking and Web Services. In addition, you can build multicast clients with Silverlight. For more information, see Working with Multicast.

  • LINQ. Silverlight includes language-integrated query (LINQ), which enables you to program data access using intuitive native syntax and strongly typed objects in .NET Framework languages. For more information, see XML Data.

For more details on Silverlight features, see Silverlight Architecture.

Running Silverlight Applications

To run a Silverlight web application, users require a small plug-in in their browser. The plug-in is free. If users do not already have the plug-in, they are automatically prompted to install it. The download and installation take seconds and require no interaction from the user except permission to install.

Silverlight makes sure that you can run your applications in all modern browsers, without having to create browser-specific code. Silverlight applications can run in the browser or outside the browser. For more information, see Out-of-Browser Support.

Creating Silverlight Applications

You can create Silverlight applications using any .NET Framework-supported language (including Visual Basic, C#, and JavaScript). Visual Studio and Expression Blend provide support for developing Silverlight applications. You can create Web pages that use both HTML and WPF elements with Silverlight. Like HTML, XAML enables you to create UI for your Web-based application with declarative syntax, with the difference that XAML provides significantly more powerful elements. For more information, see Getting Started with Silverlight.

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