Add Some “Sex Appeal” with Silverlight and JQuery


Most of you are hopefully aware of Jan’s “SmartTools” for SharePoint on codeplex: http://www.codeplex.com/smarttools/. However just in case you aren’t I highly recommend taking a look at them. Recently Jan uploaded new versions of these tools (http://weblogs.asp.net/jan/archive/2009/01/22/new-release-of-the-smarttools-for-sharepoint-project.aspx), and I have personally used some to spread ideas or awareness of what silverlight/jquery can do in SharePoint (along with a few tweaks of my own).

One thing that’s really nice about the silverlight chart controls (as an example) is how they can generate ‘sex appeal’ for that presentation or proposal you are working on. It’s one thing to see functionality, and potential, but when you see cool charts, graphs, and interactive elements it normally generates alot of good excitement, and since Jan’s done most of the work to give you some examples (thanks Jan ;)) you just need to install, do a bit of configuration and voila, you have some cool content features that you can actually use right away.

There are plenty of other great silverlight and jquery projects and extensions for SharePoint out there as well.

Some Other Silverlight posts or projects I recommend taking a gander at:

  1. http://www.codeplex.com/SL4SP (Silverlight Blueprint for SharePoint)
  2. http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/dd148643.aspx (Great article on using Silverlight WebPart’s and an exaple media player one.)
  3. http://www.triplewood.com/triplewood/html/SharePoint2007.aspx (SharePoint Silverlight Browser)

Some Other jQuery posts or projects I recommend taking a gander at:

  1. http://www.endusersharepoint.com/?p=1110 (Good intro and real solution for a SharePoint Issue using jQuery)
  2. http://httpcode.com/blogs/PermaLink,guid,c26d2d3f-f389-44d7-bd8f-2fae5c8a1415.aspx (Example of how to use it for a ‘select all’ functionality.
  3. http://www.codeplex.com/ShUIE (Inject JS and CSS fragments based on context of page.)

If you haven’t played with Silverlight or jQuery yet then hopefully this will help motivate you, or help you understand some ways it can be used (with minimal effort),
Richard Harbridge

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4 Comments on “Add Some “Sex Appeal” with Silverlight and JQuery”

  1. brudinie Says:

    Sex Appeal? I can’t think of a bigger turn off than a vendor-lock-in RIA browser plug-in (silverlight).
    Now, for anyone who dares to suggest silverlight as cross platform please let me correct them as I have been using the Moonlight plugin for linux for a long time now (even the current Moonlight 2 plugin).
    I’m sorry to say that its absolute pants! Half the sites that use silverlight do not render correctly.
    Do you really want to use a technology that ruins the experience for part of your audience?
    And for those of you who think it doesn’t matter because Microsoft operating systems are almost ubiquitous, this is probably going to change when Chrome OS comes out next year.

    Also, animated charts are a pain in the ass whether they be provided by Flash, Silverlight or even JS/SVG. The animation slows down the information and it also damages its integrity. For example, if I have a line graph and I animate it to grow each point from the base line to the actual value in the chart it gives people an impression of “growth”. See what happened here – I made the person looking at the graph think growth before they actually examined the data.
    A static SVG chart or even an image chart is way better in my opinion. They print more reliably and image charts can be copied and pasted reliably into pretty much any office application.

  2. rharbridge Says:

    Those are all good and valid points. I appreciate the feedback.

    While I agree that Silverlight 1 and 2 were lacking in cross platform capability the new release of Silverlight 3 improves that area significantly. Not to mention that with the current rate of release/improvement I would be surprised if Silverlight 4 or 5 is not out by the time of Chrome OS with even more cross OS support.

    That said, there are certainly things that can be done with silverlight (or WPF) that would be very difficult if not impossible with HTML, CSS, or JavaScript (from a development side it can take far less time to implement as well).

    Animated charts if implemented incorrectly can certainly be misleading, however if you implement an animated chart correctly it can improve data view/consumption. Think of zoom in/zoom out behaviour and how beneficial that could be. At the same time think beyond charting and into the application for video rendering, or layered/manipulatable images where you can break up the diagram to see more information or comparisons of data, people, stages in a process etc…

    Not disagreeing with your points (which I think are valid) just giving some food for thought to illustrate why a static image may not be sufficient when dealing with large, complex, or certain kinds of data/charts/graphs/content. Sometimes you need the extra functionality Silverlight or Flash provides. “Sex Appeal” or no, it certainly has a place and benefit if used correctly.

  3. brudinie Says:

    Silverlight 3 improves cross platform compatibility how?
    For a start the Linux version will always be at least 1.5 versions behind Silverlight – which is why Moonlight 2 is still in alpha.
    Next up, since the dotnet framework has been integrated into Silverlight it is a patent troll waiting to happen as soon as Novell and Microsoft brake off their we won’t sue you if you don’t sue us pact.
    Also, if the rate of versioning is as quick as you say its going to be as rapid as you think it will be, how the hell are Novell going to provide a linux plugin that matches the same features as the Microsoft version? Especially with their track record of being so far behind Microsoft.
    Yes there are things that can be done with Silverlight that probably can’t be done using W3C ratified technologies but do you really think its worth marginalising your audience???
    Another thing, you might be surprised at what you can actually accomplish using the W3C web technologies that are already out there. For vector animated graphs I suggest you check out:

    http://raphaeljs.com/

    Also as more decent browser vendors include more of the HTML5 spec the advantages of RIA plugins (including Flash and Silverlight) are sure to shrink.
    All the video advantages that you have mentioned with Silveright are already available with Firefox 3.5 (in fact you can do even more than Silveright with HTML5, including real time inspection of the video to produce motion tracking, facial recognision, etc…) – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tLBLVtIk3A&feature=player_embedded

    Using a zoom feature in an animated chart is again a perfect example of how data integrity can be damaged.
    I see this all the time where politicians want to mislead the electorate. One part shows a graph of knife crime zoomed in (starting chart from vertical axis of 1000 instead of a 0) so that the decrease in crime looks massive where as the other party shows the graph correctly from its base line so that the decrease in crime looks minute.

    You can probably tell from my rantings that I am very pro W3C and very anti proprietary browser plugin technology. This is because I have taken the time to learn W3C technologies and I can see that they are clearly thought out and work well across platforms and browsers (providing the browser sticks to W3C guidelines, unlike IE6 and IE7).

    The whole idea of the WWW is that is not owned by anyone and that information can be placed on it and accessed by anyone anytime. Clearly technologies like Silverlight do not support this ethos (I can’t use ITV player with Ubuntu). Before people start getting excited about Silverlight they need to consider what they already get from the internet as it is – would you rather have a world where its the Microsoft WWW or the Adobe WWW or the Google WWW?
    W3C standards are there to make sure the internet remains open and that it belongs to us!

    • rharbridge Says:

      First of all thank you for sharing all this information. Alot of this is very interesting to me.

      From a personal perspective I freely admit my knowledge of the open source community (especially linux) is not nearly at the level of what I know about Microsoft technologies (as that’s what I work with on a day to day basis, and one of the focus points of this blog).

      That being said I will do my best to try and provide some feedback to this well articulated comment.

      When I was talking about cross platform support I was referencing the browser compatibility but more importantly the out of browser compatibility updates. Here’s an excerpt from the silverlight site: http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/resources/faq/default.aspx

      # Out of Browser Capability. Silverlight 3 offers a new set of features for building light-weight, sandboxed companion experiences for the Web that run on the desktop. Silverlight out of browser allows websites to build even closer, persistent relationships with customers. It enables the application to be placed in a restricted store on the user’s machine; and then provide a link directly to it from the user’s desktop or start menu. This is all enabled within Silverlight 3 without any additional download of runtime or the need to write applications in a different way. An application can now be easily found on the user’s desktop or start menu, and launched with a single click. In addition, it can test if the network is connected, it can update itself, and can also have access to Isolated Storage. Taken together, these features represent a radical upgrade to the web experience:

      * Desktop shortcuts and start menu support – place an application on the desktop and be one click away from your customer.
      * Run outside of browser – no longer need the distraction of the browser chrome.
      * Safer, more secure, sandboxed – an application can be trusted without security warnings, keeping your customers safer.
      * Consumer friendly non-administrator install – applications are held in a cache and do not require any privileges to run.
      * Built in auto-update – an application will check for new versions on the server and update on launch.
      * Connectivity detection (in browser, out of browser) – can detect a loss of connection and then chose to cache users work until the reconnect.

      So one thing to note here when we talk about these apps is the business value of being able to take some of them offline and online. In a business environment certainly not everything is webbased. In fact if you look at global areas (non North America) the connection speeds and issues with browser based systems can be extensive. Again I also believe this will change over time (as I am totally for ‘online’ as the future of successful business) but the reality I am stressing here is looking beyond ‘users’ and thinking about intranets, and internal business work. (How many businesses are comfortable with open source right now?)

      The ‘clearly thought out and work well across platforms and browsers’ isn’t really a valid point in my opinion. IE8 is more standards compliant that many other browsers and obviously shows Microsoft’s dedication to supporting multiple OS/browsers. Next lets look at SharePoint 2010′s significant cross browser support, or Office 2008 on the Mac… it’s pretty clear at least for MS they are ‘clearly thought out and work well across platforms and browsers’. (Not saying others are not, as they most certainly are, just trying to take the ‘barb’ out of what was mentioned here.)

      Again trying to stress the audience focus for my blog, and that I work in a business mindset/world often.

      Your examples for why ‘information’ can be mis represented isn’t really accurate in my mind. Statistics, and data can always be ‘mislead’ it’s a personal decision and the technology has nothing really to do with it, and no real way to control the human behaviour behind it (IMO). Would love to hear more from you on this.

      Lastly in all defence to Microsoft they (google, sun, and adobe as well) are shifting more and more to open source/less sealed/proprietary technology. This is certainly due in part to the community support of standards, but also due to competitors who (again) may or may not be open source.

      I think (again personal opinion) that it’s up to the business analyst, consultant, manager, lead developer, etc to make the appropriate decision for what technology to use based on their needs and focus. If your staff have heavy open source experience then utilize that and pick a solution that works with that. If you are a MS Shop, moving towards being a MS shop, or have developers/admins/support who know Microsoft technologies then you will most likely go for Silverlight.

      It’s always up to the user, but it’s based on business need, focus, and return on investment (over time).


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