SILVERLIGHT CONCEPTS in Visual Basic .NET

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grid.Children.Add(headerText); grid.Children.Add(usernameText); grid.Children.Add(usernameInput); grid.Children.Add(passwordText); grid.Children.Add(passwordInput); grid.Children.Add(loginButton); this.Content = canvas; canvas.Children.Add(grid); The C# code is more verbose and thus more difficult to read and maintain than the XAML. Both the C# code and the XAML files require a compilation step: C# for obvious reasons and XAML files since they have the code-behind and must be packaged as part of a XAP file. C# also requires a software developer to create the user interface, either by hand or by using a designer, as with Windows Forms. XAML provides a way to create user interfaces such as the login screen in a straightforward and (relatively) easy-to-maintain fashion. Markup is easier to read (at least in small doses complex user interfaces are a different story) and has far better tool support for creating and maintaining. XAML isn t just another markup language its strength lies in its ability to model object hierarchies and easily configure object states via attributes or child elements. Each element name (e.g., UserControl, Canvas, etc.) directly corresponds to a Silverlight object of the same name.
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The XAML Controls Structure
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Let s look more closely at the XAML. The root element is UserControl, a container for other controls. A UserControl on its own has no visual representation layout controls such as Canvas and Grid combined with standard controls such as text input boxes and buttons create the visual representation. User controls provide a way to compose controls into a reusable master control, not unlike user controls in ASP.NET. The next chapter will take a closer look at what goes into user controls in Silverlight. Silverlight has rich support for composing what is ultimately viewed onscreen. Many controls can contain arbitrary content, such as a ListBox containing Buttons as items or even other ListBoxes! This makes composing a custom user interface possible using nothing other than markup. Since XAML is a dialect of XML, elements describing content are nested in a tree hierarchy. From the perspective of XAML, this tree is known as a logical tree.
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Caution XAML is case sensitive. Since XAML is a dialect of XML, it possesses all of the characteristics of XML. Most importantly, all element names, property names, and so on, are case sensitive. Button is not the same as button. However, this does not necessarily apply to property values, which are handled by Silverlight s XAML parser.
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By reading this XAML code closely, you can see that it describes a UserControl that contains a Canvas that contains a Grid that contains the various visual elements of the login screen. You can view the logical tree of these elements in Visual Studio by right-clicking the design surface and choosing Document Outline or, alternately, going to the View menu and choosing Other Windows Document Outline. This displays a window showing the logical tree of elements describing what s currently on the
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design surface. Figure 2-3 shows the document outline for the login screen. This view of the logical tree is slightly different from a similar logical tree in Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), because the document outline focuses on what is explicitly found in the XAML. For example, if a ListBoxItem contains a Content attribute, the type-converted string is not shown. However, creating a Button as a child of a ListBoxItem will cause the Button to show up in the document outline.
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Figure 2-3. The document outline describing the login screen
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Note In Visual Studio 2010, if you mouse over one of the controls/elements within the document outline pane, you will see the corresponding user interface including all children controls. As an example, as shown in Figure 23, if you mouse over Grid, then you should see the login screen user interface displayed in the popup window.
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