Big Screen Blog

Media Center, Windows Phone7 + Silverlight Goodness..

Visual Studio 2008 thoughts (with a Media Center + Siverlight perspective).

with one comment

I’ve been playing with the full release of Visual Studio 2008 for about a week now. This included the Visual Studio 2008 Team system Trial + and a couple of the ‘Express’ Versions for good measure. (VB + Web).

The new Media Center SDK v5.3 released JIT (a couple of days prior to VS2008 launch) – also provides some new templates for MCPL developers using VS2008. (although read this important note if you don’t have a VS2005 product also installed).

Unfortunately my MSDN Pro subscription expired just 2 weeks shy of the VS2008 suite release – so I’ve missed out on a free upgrade 8( – and am sorting out my new license right now. … (My previous subscription was on the VS2003/2005 +MSDN2YR special offer available in Nov 2005 – and I don’t think MS intended that any of us would get VS2008 as well).

Since I’m not doing large team development – the most viable version for me is the Pro version (not Team Versions which I downloaded) – however the trial download of this edition isn’t yet available (if you are not on MSDN Pro).

Unfortunately – the majority of projects I’m working on don’t allow me to fully utilize the new goodness provided in .NET 3.5 – (but hopefully the common folk will get issued these new frameworks in good time) – but thanks to the ability to work with multiple .NET Frameworks in VS2008 – I’ve been able to do 2.0 development just fine …

In terms of the new IDE – I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve seen so far. While the actual UX is a small evolution on VS2005 – like with most things MS – the enhanced extensibility platform provided by VS2008 is where a lot of the revolution is going to happen (btw – none of this is available with the free Express Editions).  As you’d expect the internal Intellisense system (both markup and code) has been made leaner and meaner (and is even better at prompting you with appropriate coding constructs then before – and stuff like the new 3.5 LINQ is superbly handled).


Some VS2008 highlights for me :

Better Intellisense, Editors and Customization : The new XAML Editing/Design tools are pretty nice – as is the Intellisense support for things like c#, vb, javascript and XML. These features are invaluable – and just get better with each release. (and on the odd occasion I need to use other IDE’s – I find it hard to do without these things).


Extensibility!  The "Visual Studio 2008 SDK" now has 2 flavours/modes ; "integrated" (for those extending the existing VS2008 environment) – and "isolated" (for those wanting to build entirely new IDE’s which utilize the infrastructure provided by VS2008 and combine it with custom editors etc).  The new enhancements in this area are simply awesome – and will hopefully allow some great 3rd party dev tools + environments to be made.

In terms of Media Center development – there could be some really useful tools made here.

For example – some custom tools that I wrote to help with MediaCenter development both inside VS2005 (via DevExpress Inc. DXCore) + and outside (via Windows Form Apps) are picture below.



This tool I made (with around 50 lines of code I think) "MCML Helper" – (see docked toolwindow on right of screenshot) auto scans my MCML document and creates a quick pick list of the <UI> sections (a base building block in MCML). I wrote this as my MCML files started getting really large (or segmented into several includes) – and it became pretty time consuming locating to appropriate MCML code when small changes needed to be made. (its similar to the Drop Down list in your code editor – and when you double click on a node – it will move your cursor to the starting element of the appropriate block).



This tool is an external Winforms Application – designed specifically for resizing images (at locked aspect) – and determining the 9Grid coordinates in MCML.  The results are then output as MCML code for direct pasting into your project.

I’d love to have a stab at putting these natively inside VS2008 with the new extensibility features.  The other new tools in the Media Center SDK 5.3 (like Animation Explorer) would also work a treat inside the Visual Studio IDE. (if only we could host MCPLPad too)

The Media Center Developement community is of course screaming for a Visual Editor for MCML as well – and this is a definitely possibility with the extensibility platform. (and a lot of what is needed is provided out of the box).


Silverlight Support (well almost)…   I’ve seen lots of stuff about the Silverlight 1.1 support – and this will be awesome when 1.1 is actually released and out there – but Silverlight 1.0 support is sadly lacking/non-existent (apart from some better javascript and WPF flavour XAML editing support). Maybe I just have completely missed how VS2008 is supposed to be used for SL 1.0 – but probably the best way still to develop this stuff is with Expression Web+Blend2 (although you might want a VS flavour for some backend ASP.NET).

There still doesn’t seem to be any true Silverlight IDE’s out there at all (ie. visual editing with UI Designer with click through creation of javascript event handlers and pluginHost Intellisense, SL 1.0 Schemas when editing etcetc – all the nice stuff we see for the .NET languages). With Expression – there’s ALWAYS something vital missing in each product so no single product can do the job (ie. no Intellisense for XAML or Code in Blend etc) – so hopefully someone is gonna get cracking with the VS2008 SDK and make something really usable in this area.

For example – currently when I do Silverlight Sidebar Gadget developement  – it’s truely scarey just how many different IDE’s/Design Tools need to be simultaneously loaded to achieve my end result (can’t imagine doing this without my 3 monitors, quad core cpu and lots of gb’s) – and I hope one day to just settle down inside 1 or 2 apps (and spend less time switching/converting output between each environment)…

and also…

One problem for me with VS2008 was when using VS2008 Team System for editing my website (ASP.NET Backend Code) – the UI just kept continuously crashing on me (with not responding etc).

Part of the problem seemed to be with it trying to sync files at random times (that weren’t needed or updated on the server) – right in the middle of me editing some code (and the IDE would just freeze up for seconds at a time – and sometimes not return at all). Although hitting the ‘escape’ key could cancel the current file being transferred – there was no ‘cancel all’ button – so you had to hit escape/confirm multiple times each time this sync kicked in. It’s possible that I just don’t have the right settings enabled for my ASP.NET project (although I did spend some time looking) – and theres some way for it to behave better.  I do actually have a ADSL2+ (8mb) connection – so would hate to think how slow an experience it might have been on ADSL1.


The VS2008 Express version (Web) seemed to handle things a little better with this (maybe due partially to the much more lightweight IDE and it trying to do ‘less’ smarts) – so in some respects offers a better experience depending on what your needs are.


Anyhow – I’m looking forward to getting hold of my proper licensed VS2008 ‘Pro’ edition ASAP – and hopefully will be the right balance between Express (lightweight – but no extensibility etc) –  and Team (heavyweight – gives you everything including the kitchen sink)..


Written by mobilewares

November 27, 2007 at 12:55 am

One Response

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  1. no spam

    March 15, 2009 at 2:02 pm

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