Silverlight 5 Beta – available now!

On 13th April at the MIX11 conference, Scott Guthrie announced the immediate availability of the Silverlight 5 Beta.

The Beta is a major step towards the final release of Silverlight 5 later this year and includes many of the features we already announced at the Silverlight Firestarter last December. Visual Studio and Expression Blend support for Silverlight 5 is also available for download.

You can download the Beta and Tools here.

Silverlight 5 makes further advances in media, application development and user experiences, adding over 40 new features and 100s of new APIs. You can get the Beta, tools and more at

Pete Brown also has 7 new video tutorials covering the Beta on his blog.

Here’s a summary of the features already announced for Silverlight 5:

Premium Media Experiences

Silverlight 5 offers improved media support and rich UI capabilities:

  • Hardware Decode and presentation of H.264 improve performance for lower-power devices to render high-definition video using GPU support.
  • “TrickPlay” allows video to be played at different speeds and supports fast-forward and rewind. At up to twice the speed, audio pitch correction allows users to watch videos while preserving a normal audio pitch.
  • Improved power awareness prevents the screen saver from being shown while watching video and allows the computer to sleep when video is not active.
  • Remote-control support allows users to control media playback.
  • Digital rights management advancements allow seamless switching between DRM media sources.
  • Realtime Sound enables low-latency audio playback where split-second playback timing is required.

Application Development and User Experience

Silverlight 5 enhances developer productivity and end user experience for applications:

  • Text improvements make it possible to build high quality, rich text layouts:
    • Multicolumn text and linked text container allow text to flow around other elements and between multiple controls independent of placement of the controls.
    • Tracking/leading set more precisely how far apart each character is for extra creative control.
    • Text clarity is improved with Pixel Snapping.
    • OpenType support has been enhanced.
  • Support for Postscript vector printing enables users to create reports and documents, including the ability to create a virtual print view different from what is shown on the screen.
  • Applications can now work the way users expect with added support for double-click and Combobox type ahead.
  • Model View ViewModel (MVVM) and Databinding enhancements allow more work to be done more easily via XAML:
    • XAML Debugging support now allows breakpoints to be set on a binding, so you can step through binding failures.
    • Implicit DataTemplates allow templates to be created across an application to support a particular type by default.
    • Ancestor RelativeSource allows, for example, a DataTemplate to bind to a property on the control that contains it.
    • Binding in style setters allows bindings to be used within styles to reference other properties.
    • The DataContextChanged event is being introduced.
    • Markup extensions allow code to be run at XAML parse time for both properties and event handlers, enabling cutting-edge MVVM support.
    • Networking and Windows Communication Foundation-based enhancements:
    • Reduced network latency by using a background thread for networking.
    • WS-Trust support: message security — encrypted at the Windows Communication Foundation level; Security Assertion Markup Language authentication token.
    • Silverlight 5 performance improvements include:
    • XAML parser improvements that speed up startup and runtime performance.
    • Support for 64-bit operating systems.
    • Multicore JIT (Just In Time) Compiler optimization.
    • Text layout performance..
  • Graphics improvements
    • Silverlight 5 now has a built-in XNA 3D graphics API to enables you to build rich, GPU accelerated visualizations and rich user experiences. This includes a new 3D drawing surface control as well as immediate mode GPU access, shaders and effects.
    • Hardware acceleration is enabled in windowless mode with Internet Explorer 9.
    • The graphics stack has been rearchitected bringing improvements from Windows Phone 7 such as independent animations.
  • The Pivot viewer control enables a visual way to rapidly sort through large collections of graphical data, for example a catalog of movies represented by images of dvd covers, using intuitive transitions to show the effects of filters on the result set.
  • Silverlight 5 enables trusted applications to run in the browser for the first time. These features, when enabled via a group policy registry key and an application certificate, mean users won’t need to leave the browser to perform complex tasks:
    • Host HTML content as a Web browser control within the Silverlight application. HTML pages, such as help content or e-mail, can be integrated within the application.
    • Read and write files to the user’s My Documents folder, making it easier to find media files or create local copies of reports.
    • Launch Microsoft Office and other desktop programs. Users can open Microsoft Outlook and create an e-mail message, or send a report to Word utilizing the power of Office.
    • Access devices and other system capabilities by calling into application COM components. Users can access a USB security card reader or a bar-code scanner.
    • Enjoy full keyboard support in full screen, which enables richer kiosk and media viewing applications.
    • Call existing unmanaged code directly from within Silverlight with PInvoke.
  • Existing trusted application capabilities are further extended.
    • Existing unmanaged code can be called directly from within Silverlight with PInvoke.
    • Child Window support allows multiple independent windows to be launched from the application.
    • File System access is extended beyond MyDocuments to the entire file system.
  • Tools improvements include:
    • Microsoft Visual Studio profiling support including CPU, memory, thread contention.
    • Visual Studio Team Test support.

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