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XAML Tidbits Previewed in Microsoft's Avalon

Development for Microsoft's next-generation Windows Server continues. The company issued a technical preview of its Avalon user interface for developers.

Comprised of a display engine and managed code, Avalon unifies documents, graphics and applications on the Windows platform, blending them for a more seamless user experience.

The layer's engine provides one runtime engine application, graphics, video, audio and documents through a browser. The framework of Avalon offers controls for shapes, documents, images, video, animation, 3D, and panels, which programmers may use to assemble content.

The community preview features several new perks for the control palette.

These include a view box to let users design layouts for the lowest resolution to be rendered to take advantage of high resolution graphics software; tab control for expanding screen real estate; a toggle button control to render Boolean values inductively; storyboards to synchronize multiple animations; text animation; 3D enhancements; and grid control.

New data binding services provide support for asynchronous data binding, update validation, and better styling. Avalon is based on the XML-based markup language XAML, representing user interface for Windows applications.

Microsoft said on its Web site that the community preview has not been as battle tested as a true beta. The software currently runs on Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Windows Server 2003.

According to a Microsoft spokesperson, the company's goal with the community preview is to involve customers in the development of its products, essentially making them an extension of the product team.

"We've had success with this through the Visual Studio and SQL Server CTPs, and wanted to extend this customer involvement as core developer components of Longhorn become available," a spokesperson told internetnews.com via e-mail.

Microsoft plans to release the first public beta of Avalon in the first half of 2005. But community previews for Windows components are increasingly becoming a normal process for Microsoft, as its next-generation operating system evolves and becomes more complex.

Avalon, along with the Indigo messaging broker, Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005, are expected to be a core components of Longhorn, the Redmond, Wash., software company's next-generation operating system.

Various pieces of Longhorn will appear over the next several months, with the finished product expected in the latter half of 2006.