In-Depth

Zooming in on XAML

Jim Allchin, group VP of Microsoft's Platforms Group, previewed Avalon, the graphics subsystem behind Longhorn's new presentation technologies, at the Professional Developer Conference (PDC) last October. There has been a lot of interest in "Aero," the new task-based (or iterative) user interface that is based on Avalon.

Also of interest is the Extensible Application Mark-up Language (XAML), a scripting language based on XML that allows Longhorn developers to build and manage UI apps. XAML allows developers to control the layout of app interfaces, including text, graphics, buttons and the entire collection of .NET user interface controls.

And people do not want to wait to start working with it, said Ron DeSerranno, CEO and founder of Vancouver, B.C.-based Mobiform Software Ltd. Mobiform has developed a Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) rendering engine that uses .NET as its script or code-behind language. According to DeSerranno, the similarities between XAML and Mobiform's current product offering led the company to create a XAML rendering engine for non-Longhorn OSs, which uses C#. The firm recently unveiled an Internet Explorer-style XAML Browser that animates, prints and executes XAML documents from the Web or local hard drive. It has also built a XAML .NET User Control that can animate, print and execute XAML.

DeSerranno believes that XML-based technologies, such as SVG and XAML, are bound to replace traditional document types like PDF, HTML and Flash.

"XAML is poised to re-invent our perception of the Internet and desktop software as we know it," he said.

Mobiform hosts ZAML.com, a Web site it hopes to build into a repository of code samples, articles, links and editorials on XAML. The firm also serves as the moderator for the XAML Developers Newsgroup, a central meeting place and knowledge base for the XAML dev community.

Adobe Systems, one of Microsoft's largest ISVs, demonstrated an XAML-based app at the PDC that added an export model to After Effects, one of the company's authoring tools used for animation, motion graphics, and compositing in high-end films and games. "Basically, we were showing off what you could do with the new graphics architecture in Longhorn," said Greg Gilley, VP of engineering at Adobe.

Not surprisingly, Adobe is watching Microsoft closely these days, particularly the evolution of Longhorn's graphics technologies. "It's very interesting stuff," Gilley added. "So far, so good."

Please see the following related stories:
"Longhorn roundup" by John K. Waters
"The long and short of Longhorn" by John K. Waters

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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