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23

Apr

SharePoint 2010 and Silverlight

SharePoint and Silverlight go together like rhubarb and custard, chicken and chilli, peanut butter and banana. Microsoft’s latest version of SharePoint introduces many exciting and cool new features that developers like me just love to rave on and on about for hours. If you’re unfortunate enough to get caught in a broken elevator with me then watch out!

One small enhancement in SharePoint 2010 makes it super simple to use Silverlight components on your SharePoint intranet or intranet site with almost zero configuration effort.

“Why would I want to do that?” I hear you ask. There are many reasons, but here’s a few:

  • Impact – Silverlight provides an easy way to add pizazz and high visibility to important information within your site. For example, KPIs for business processes, critical system or business status information.
  • Reusability – a Silverlight control can be used in a SharePoint web page, on your desktop PC and soon on your Windows Phone.
  • Functionality – because Silverlight uses a subset of the .Net framework it is possible to have extremely rich functionality and behaviour. Silverlight 4 adds support for external devices such as camera and microphones and printers.
  • Performance – Silverlight applications are small and fast. In these days of bloated web site and overloaded networks, high-speed web pages are more important than ever. Google recently announced that they will be using a website’s performance to influence its ranking in search results – slower sites will be moved down the list. And we know all too well how often users click on the second or third page of search results to find a website – almost never!  Slow performing, ugly intranets sites will turn off your employees and detract from the important messages you are trying to communicate.

So, this is all very interesting but as Jerry McGuire would say, “Show me the money!”

I’m by no means a gifted artiste. My design skills are, shall we say, rudimentary. Those who have seen my whiteboarded scribbles will testify to this.  I’m also not a very experienced Silverlight developer.

My total experience is limited to about 10 hours so far. However, in a few hours this morning I managed to create this:

This simple Silverlight application displays a Bing Maps control with overlaid points of interest (the blue dots). So, I did warn you I was not a gifted designer, but the point here is that in four hours of mucking around I have created a control that exposes information in a SharePoint list in a much more attractive and useful way. Consider the source data for this:

Which do you prefer?

Creating this map control was a lot of fun for me, but I’m a developer and I love working with code.  You may not be so inclined.  Luckily there are alternatives.  Below is a list of out of the box controls you can use, plus some that require some level of programming.

Infragistics

Infragistics provide many charting and data visualisation components, including a fully interactive pivot/drill down tool for OLAP data.

http://www.infragistics.com/dotnet/netadvantage/silverlight/data-visualization.aspx#Overview

Telerik

Telerik is a premium provider of widgets and tools for .NET. They have many useful and powerful Silverlight controls that can be used in SharePoint. The video below provides an overview of how to use their scheduler controls against a SharePoint calendar.

http://tv.telerik.com/silverlight/video/telerik-silverlight-controls-and-sharepoint

I have spent two years learning the ins and outs of SharePoint. At times this has been a testing process, but I’m now very comfortable with it. The prospect of relearning for SharePoint 2010 development was somewhat daunting. But I needn’t have worried. Visual Studio 2010 includes fantastic new tools for SharePoint and Silverlight development and the platform is close enough to 2007 to be an easy switch.

There has been incredible interest in SharePoint in the last few years and with 2010 this seems to have increased. We have already started several major SharePoint projects for customers and even our most junior developers are finding the experience quite rewarding!

Posted by: Peter Jones, Developer | 23 April 2010

Tags: Silverlight, SharePoint 2010


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