Book Review: Beginning Silverlight 4 in C#

An introduction for C# developers to the Silverlight 4 environment in Visual Studio 2010

I have to admit that I was a Silverlight holdout for the first three iterations. While I initially saw Silverlight as a Flash replacement more respectful toward application development practitioners, I didn't spend a lot of time with it due to its limited OS support. However, with the release of Silverlight 4, the platform has reached a major milestone in my mind. Namely, Silverlight is no longer a Microsoft experiment but rather an aggressively supported platform that extends beyond the desktop. Indeed, Silverlight is the application development platform for Windows Phone 7, and rumors abound that Silverlight might be available on non-Microsoft phones in the future.
It's within this context that I earnestly read Robert Lair's Beginning Silverlight 4 in C#. Although it doesn't demonstrate any Windows Phone 7 examples or delve into deeper Silverlight issues, the book does an excellent job of introducing C# developers to the Silverlight environment within Visual Studio 2010. (Apress published a sister book titled Pro Silverlight 4 in C# that delves more deeply into Silverlight.)
After the acclimating introduction, Beginning Silverlight 4 in C# dives into Silverlight layout management, controls, and data binding. The open-source Silverlight 4 Toolkit is introduced in Chapter 6, followed by chapters on networking, the navigation framework, isolated storage, system integration, and device support (i.e., accessing webcams and microphones within a Silverlight application). Chapter 11 introduces Microsoft's Expression Blend XAML-generating GUI tool and shows how to use it for styling Silverlight interfaces. Expression Blend-assisted animations and transformations are covered in a follow-up chapter. A chapter on creating Silverlight custom controls walks readers through the construction and compilation of an example CoolDownButton control. Chapter 15: Printing in Silverlight is a brief but very useful chapter that covers the printing API. Finally, the book concludes with a chapter on deploying Silverlight applications, touching on assembly caching, full-screen pinning (a new Silverlight 4 feature "where developers can elect to keep their application in full screen, even when it loses focus"), running Silverlight apps outside the browser, and more.
While the book hits mostly home runs, there are a couple foul balls. First, the multimedia coverage is weak. I was hoping to learn more about doing cool things with embedded audio and video along with the types of formats and the optimized encoded settings for each. Also, to keep the book as digestible as possible, most discussions are demonstrated with a single example, leaving experimentation up to the reader. Lastly, the book is a few dollars overpriced when compared to other introductory Microsoft technology titles of the same scope.
On the flip side, the author steps readers through the examples with copious amounts of code interspersed with screen captures. And for those who held off on learning Silverlight, no worries—the author assumes no prior Silverlight experience, so newcomers won't feel at any disadvantage while learning what the latest iteration of Silverlight has to offer.

Rating: 3/5 stars
Price: $39.99

Mike Riley ([email protected]) is an advanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and new development trends. He is also a contributing editor for DevProConnections. Follow Mike on Twitter @mriley.

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