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Pablo Fernicola (and others) - An hour with the Avalon Team

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Karsten Januszewski, developer evangelist, took us over to meet with the Avalon team. Pablo Fernicola, group program manager (guy who runs the Avalon team), Arik Cohen, lead program manager, and Rob Relyea, lead program manager on the XAML team, talk about the four-year development of Avalon, which is the future way you'll program Windows applications.

The really sexy demos start at 33:30, by the way. Don't miss those! Nathan Dunlap is the designer on those and his blog is here.

For more information on Avalon, please visit the Avalon Developer Center.

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  • ZeoZeo Channel 9 :)
    Wow! Very Very COOL...Any Idea if the 2nd application shown has been posted as a sample somewhere? I'd love to get a hold of that...look over the code and then create my own app using SQL server 2005.
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    http://www.erain.com/products/zam3d/examples/

    check this out. this is what they're using. i got this from Nathan Dunlap's blog.

    Oh man, i can't wait to release full apps with avalon. we're not far away from the futuristic ui we've been seeing the movies for so long now.
  • Deactivated UserDeactivated User

    Comment removed at user's request.

  • Sven GrootSven Groot Don't worry... I'm a doctor.
    Very cool indeed. I have a feeling in my little toe that we're going to see some utterly horrible UIs when this comes out (can somebody say 'the new Wordart'?), but we'll undoubtably get some really cool ones too. Just think what people like Jamie can do with stuff like this!
  • eddwoeddwo Wheres my head at?
    The Avalon APIs have not been finalised, there were quite a lot of changes between the November CTP and the March CTP, and there are likely to be more changes before the Beta is released.

    XAML has been more static, but a changes have been made in the compact syntax.

    To start viewing and creating Xaml and Avalon code you need the March CTP.
    This includes a version of .Net 2.0, the Avalon libraries and runtime, and the WinFX SDK which includes documentation, a build environment, and templates for the February Visual Studio 2005 CTP or the February Express editions.

    You need XP SP2 or Server 2003 to install the CTP.

    Download and install a chosen express edition from here:
    http://lab.msdn.microsoft.com/vs2005/downloads/

    Download the CTP from here:
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=85ab132b-f1aa-4422-b053-272d79863013&displaylang=en

    Either burn the ISO to a CD or mount it using an appropriate Virtual CD tool. This is a free one from Microsoft
    http://download.microsoft.com/download/7/b/6/7b6abd84-7841-4978-96f5-bd58df02efa2/winxpvirtualcdcontrolpanel_21.exe

    Install Avalon, Indigo and the WinFX SDK from the CD

    Have Fun!
  • Bruno SilvaBruno Silva Me.Location = Location.​FromString("​Channel9")
    Can anyone tell me where to get the source of this litle app? i'd like to know how to do the borderless window in Avalon with the transparency. Thanks
  • scobleizerscobleizer I'm the video guy
    I'll make sure the Avalon team answers this question (about source). I want it too!
  • scobleizerscobleizer I'm the video guy
    Here's another cool Avalon blog. Filipe Fortes.
  • Having already grown to love the declarative programming model from extensive use of Marc Clifton's MyXaml implementation. It is very reassuring to see the enthusiasm displayed by the Avalon developers for XAML matches my own. I look forward to seeing and hearing more from the team.

    The Avalon controls also look like a large step forward from the current WinForms implementations we all struggle with. I certainly could have used the new Grid control on one of my recent projects.

    The Avalon Graphics engine looks fantastic. (Although I'm not looking forward to the increased development costs of having to have professional graphic designers work on my projects. Hopefully there will be a lot of stock graphics provided by Microsoft)

    Looking forward to playing with the new CTP
  • NetRyderNetRyder Tech Junkie
    I loved the 3D ListBox. We're definitely going to see a lot of creativity in UI design when LH ships. =)
  • moofishmoofish Living in Scotland, UK
    It might require some cashing but I would like to see a button named "Hit Me" and then , when clicked, all of the albums on the PC would fly past in succession with a second or two of the first or most popular songs from them.

    That would be great!
  • I think you're missing the point Beer28.  This was done without tools.  When v1 rolls around they will have tools and most people wont directly type the xaml.
  • What I want to know is:

    How does Avalon relate to Windows Forms 2.0?  Does it?

    From what I understand, when I fire up Visual Studio 2005 (after beta 2 or RTM), the visual Designer mode will feature Windows Forms 2.0 controls.  But those aren't Avalon controls.

    So, will VS 2005 support Avalon controls in the designer?  Is Avalon and the rest of WinFX planned to be released along with .NET 2.0 and VS 2005, or after?

    Will Avalon apps require users to install a redistributable package in addition to the .NET Framework 2.0?  Or will .NET 2.0 support Avalon out of the box (so to speak)?


    Avalon (especially paired with tools like ZAM 3D) has me very excited.  But I'm a little concerned about:

    1) When does Microsoft expect developers to start writing Avalon applications instead of Windows Forms apps.  When VS 2005 comes out?  When Longhorn comes out?  When Orcas comes out?

    2) Will Avalon be a second-class citizen in Visual Studio 2005?

    3) How many prerequisites are Avalon apps going to have for the end-user on XP/2003 (I'm making the assumption that none will be needed on Longhorn).

  • irascianirascian Irascible Ian
    Beer28 wrote:
    I'd challenge Scoble's comment about it being easier with xaml than with other tools.



    You might want to check out the CTP of ZAM 3D

    http://www.erain.com/products/zam3d/ 
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    Beer28:
    I've been using Avalon extensively since before the November CTP. I gotta admit - it really IS easy to do stuff that you would have to spend HOURS doing in C++ or DirectX. When to get a bit deep into Avalon, it just boggles the mind - the sheer flexibility is like DHTML in many senses - you can kick and beat your own idea into any existing control's infrastructure. This is what many people (including me) have been dreaming of for YEARS.

    BHPaddock:
    Avalon relates to WinFormsss 2.0 and it doesn't. Avalon is OPTIONAL. From what I know, Microsoft still wants everyone to write apps in WinForms and resort to Avalon only when a situation calls for it. Otherwise it will be a waste. Say, you have a business app that has no need for hot UI, you make it all in WinForms, then for that cool graphical chart, you put in an Avalon form and integrate it with your WinForms project. It's like another type of Form in your ADD ITEM dialog.

    Avalon "controls" as you put it (please read the PILLARS of Longhorn at http://msdn.microsoft.com/longhorn/ - in 'understanding longhorn') are mostly used in Avalon forms themselves. There are very few hints as to what the DESIGNER for Avalon forms will look like. Right now, it's all done in classic notepad style. I did see a sample by Chris Anderson I think which had this small app which loaded WinForm controls in avalon and Avalon in WinForms. So interoperability between the two is given (and frankly, not having that would be stupid!)

    Microsoft expects developers to start writing (live apps) in XAML when the Avalon and Message Bus (Indigo) RTM's come out for XP and .NET Server - mostly BEFORE Longhorn as I know it.

    Another thing is that Avalon is now supposed to be the DESIGNER'S domain (I don't mean the IDE Designer, I mean the PERSON --- see my recent blog entry about Avalon @ www.nukeation.net) and Developer's really don't need to mess with it. It essentially helps you work on your code while the designer creates the cool UIs.

    Avalon will NOT be a second-class citizen. Definetely not. It's gonna be hot. It's currently a very underestimated technology - and mostly because not enough is known about it by everyone - but if you dig a bit deeper, maybe even interest a designer to explain some concepts to you - you just find yourself staring at the screen with your mind throwing you white hot flashes of pain as you imagine the sheer endless possibilities of things you can do with Avalon. Just writing this I am thinking of the big UI sample I'm soon gonna be making. Smiley

    If you've done highly experimental or weird coding in HTML and Stylesheets you'll find it more comfortable in XAML. The prospect of just changing the URL/path of your Stylesheet changes the ENTIRE LOOK of your app. If you're unfamiliar with such super-life-changing-stylesheets, a good synonymous idea/concept can be heard about in the recent .NET ROCKS (www.dotnetrocks) with Scott Hanselman and Rory Blyth. It's near the end where they discuss the XHTML Zen Garden and CSS.

    Avalon will require .NET 2.0 to be installed as well as it's own runtime - the framework only contains API, the Avalon runtime or whatever it will be called, will be the actual rendering engine.

    On a XP/2003 box, all you need will be the Avalon runtime and .NET 2.0 to be installed. That's all the prerequisites you would need.

    Bottom line is, just wait till this goes BETA. Then see what people will do with Avalon - anyone who is not convinced then will surely be. Smiley
  • nukeation wrote:

    Bottom line is, just wait till this goes BETA. Then see what people will do with Avalon - anyone who is not convinced then will surely be.


    Thanks for the response, although I still have questions.

    My biggest concern remains Avalon integration with VS 2005.  Is Avalon going to ship with VS 2005, or be an add-on?  Right now it looks like the latter.

    That's what I meant by "second-class citizen."  I'd rather have Avalon in VS 2005 from the get-go.  Unfortunately, my understanding is that it won't be ready in time.  Will we see a VS 2006 update?  Or will Avalon remain an add-on like it is in the current CTPs?
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    It will be an add-on. It won't be shipped with VS, and you're as much aware of orcas as I am. It will just "fit" into VS when you install the Avalon / WinFX SDK.

    The timeline for VS2005 and Avalon/WinFX are really different. They just cant coincide. But Avalon fits in nicely afterwards.

    Also, point to be noted, you can use just plain old NOTEPAd for Avalon/XAML. VS is just a good tool because of the intellisense. Like all .NET apps, you can use any run-of-the-mill text editor to code your software.

    Feel free to post any other questions - I'm going into full-time Avalon evangelism anyways. Might as well start here. Smiley
  • Andre Da CostaAndre Da Costa Created with PhotoDraw 2000 V2
    MediaMania kinda reminds me Nero Ultra Edition 6.
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    BrandonFurtwangler wrote:
    I think you're missing the point Beer28.  This was done without tools.  When v1 rolls around they will have tools and most people wont directly type the xaml.


    I disagree to a degree with that comment. Yes, this is done without SOME XAML TOOLS. The actual desiging of the graphics takes place in Vector tools like CorelDRAW and Illustrator, the 3D stuff in 3D Studio MAX or Lightwave or MAYA. Then 3rd Party tools will be used to convert it to XAML, and then spliced with your own XAML files.

    Also, it will be like DHTML designing - you can do a lot visually in the designer (if MS does ship a designer - which has not been seen yet) - but some of the cooler things you HAVE to go into code and manually write the markup.
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    scobleizer wrote:
    I'll make sure the Avalon team answers this question (about source). I want it too!


    Doesn't the source come as a sample app with Zam3D? They're showing the same thing on their site. Or are they showing it coz MS did a demo of it? hmmm.

    Btw, if anyone wants to just SEE what this kind of code would look like, check out Nathan Dunlap's FLIPPIN' CD BUTTON blog post at:
    http://www.designerslove.net/2005/03/flippin-cd-button.html

    The sample there is really cool - and DONE BY HAND - yes, totally manually. Zam3D came after that.
  • Actually, how to integrate the program which grep the data from Amazon and the interface builded by Avalon?   Any Example for this on the web?
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    Jacky.Chan wrote:
    Actually, how to integrate the program which grep the data from Amazon and the interface builded by Avalon?   Any Example for this on the web?


    Amazon has a publicly available Web Service. You can find it on their site. You can consume that web service and bind the data to the avalon objects. Since the "CD"s shown in the demo are ListBox objects, the data-binding is very easy.
  • nukeation wrote:
    Jacky.Chan wrote:Actually, how to integrate the program which grep the data from Amazon and the interface builded by Avalon?   Any Example for this on the web?


    Amazon has a publicly available Web Service. You can find it on their site. You can consume that web service and bind the data to the avalon objects. Since the "CD"s shown in the demo are ListBox objects, the data-binding is very easy.


    Avalon can help designer and developer to sepearte their work.  In this demo, how developers integrate programming logic into the interface?
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    Jacky.Chan wrote:


    Avalon can help designer and developer to sepearte their work.  In this demo, how developers integrate programming logic into the interface?


    Well, I haven't seen the source code yet, but in general, this works somewhat like ASP.net code-behind. You assign ID's and Methods to be executed in the XAML file, while you write the actual code in VB.net or C# in the .vb or .cs file. You can find out more in the INSIDE AVALON column by Chris Anderson at http://msdn.microsoft.com/longhorn/avalon/ or if you want more in-depth code, you can check out my upcoming series of articles on Avalon at www.nukeation.net
  • Wayne TaylorKryptos Backup People!
    This rocks! I've not played around with XAML yet, I'm downloading now, to play.

    How long does the app in the demo take to build?

  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    Kryptos wrote:
    This rocks! I've not played around with XAML yet, I'm downloading now, to play.

    How long does the app in the demo take to build?



    If you start from scratch, it's probably 8 or 10 hours work. If you take ready-to-use 3D models, then around 3 or 4 hours.

    Some things in Avalon can be a bit daunting at first. But once you get the hang of it, it's VERY easy.
  • NeoTOMNeoTOM OMG WTF REDESIGN
    To quote Ogre:
    NERRRRRRRDS!!!
  • Whatever happened to having consistent user interfaces? Isnt that a lesson back from Windows 3.1, to get a nice consistent look and feel instead of everybody writing their own MS-DOS menus and screens?

    Well this is going to be just like the MS-DOS days... now with Avalon everyone s going to write their own wack-job UI's. No app will look the same, no menus will be in the same place, the scrollbars will all be "styled". Yippee!

    And then some years after that, avalon will be "upgraded" to a new system that promotoes consistent user interfaces, and we will come full circle
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    Heh. Oh, I'm sure we're gonna see a LOT of terrible UI's. Like when Vb4 came out and all accounting apps had RED backgrounds!

    The thing is, the people have spoken - they want cool UIs. This is the gateway to the "future" we see in movies. Custom UI's is the way.

    The biggest thing Microsoft and evangelists alike will be saying when Avalon has mass-adoption is - YOU DONT HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING IN AVALON!

    Personally, once they "unleash Avalon", I dont see the generation of consistent UIs coming back. Not until we have armageddon and we evolve back to having a Win 1.0 world. Tongue Out
  • Good observations.

    Any application or content built with Avalon by default looks like other Windows applications (matching the themes on XP or Longhorn).

    However, what will applications look like 3, 5, 10 years from now?  The user experience will not remain static.  Avalon provides the platform that will carry applications and content into the future, removing the roadblocks from today's platform.

    Avalon provides an unique platform, enabling folks with great ideas (at Microsoft or anywhere else) to experiment, innovate, and develop new interaction paradigms.

    We do desire and expect consistency in user interaction, but we expect that this consistency will evolve over time, and we want to ensure that we provide in Avalon the functionality that enables and fosters this evolution.

    -Pablo

  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer

    so, you don't HAVE to create your own super-hi-tech cool UI, but if you WANT TO, there aren't the limits of Windows Forms and such anymore - it gives you free reign over your ideas and the road to materializing them.

    PS. If anyone from the Avalon team is listening, WE NEED BLEND MODES! BLEND MODES! BLEND MODES! PLEASE! And in VECTOR - not just bitmaps! Thanks. Smiley

  • Pablo Fernicola wrote:

    We do desire and expect consistency in user interaction, but we expect that this consistency will evolve over time, and we want to ensure that we provide in Avalon the functionality that enables and fosters this evolution.
    -Pablo



    What about consistent experience with these cool translucent windows etc? It looked like in the video that you could show the XP desktop through the translucent Avalon app. Now what if you had Media Player behind the Avalon window? Will the visual experience be the same regardless of whether Media Player is using overlays or not? I could imagine that if WMP is using overlays, the WMP would go black when the Avalon window is dragged top of it but the background of the desktop would still remain visible. In Longhorn that probably wouldn't be the case.

    I'd be very interested to hear about how the Media Integration Layer works under the covers, is there going to be any major differences there whether you are on XP / Longhorn?

    Regarding the user interaction, I hope the different marketing focused Flash websites aren't the example of what to come. As I understand the separation of underlying control code from the visual representation is there to help avoid that too. If MS has very much of the basic Avalon controls with good interaction experience already built, others will just need to tweak that and creation of controls having similar function but different interaction experience may be avoided. At the least it would be nice if MS provided a good set of the basic pot/slider controls, and perhaps some mouse gesture based controls, instead of everyone developing their own (as we have seen) with different feel to them (some very bad). Examples of these different feeling basic controls are very common in certain professional applications as they all need the pots and sliders. That could be avoided by providing good enough control bases for starters and some ways to easily glue/inherit/override interaction related functions like mouse panning, gesture recognition etc.

  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    androidi wrote:
    Regarding the user interaction, I hope the different marketing focused Flash websites aren't the example of what to come. As I understand the separation of underlying control code from the visual representation is there to help avoid that too. If MS has very much of the basic Avalon controls with good interaction experience already built, others will just need to tweak that and creation of controls having similar function but different interaction experience may be avoided. At the least it would be nice if MS provided a good set of the basic pot/slider controls, and perhaps some mouse gesture based controls, instead of everyone developing their own (as we have seen) with different feel to them (some very bad). Examples of these different feeling basic controls are very common in certain professional applications as they all need the pots and sliders. That could be avoided by providing good enough control bases for starters and some ways to easily glue/inherit/override interaction related functions like mouse panning, gesture recognition etc.


    If you read the WinFX SDK documentation, there are basic button, selection, menu, scrollbars/slider, and text controls/components which can be easily modified/inherited. When it comes to inheriting and modifying such things XAML really abstracts the implementation. It's similar to ASP.net.

    For info on these controls/components, see this URL:
    http://winfx.msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/wcp_conceptual/winfx/port_tech_components.asp?frame=true

    If you've seen the Avalon episode of The .NET Show where Pablo Fernicola was interviewed, in the latter half Nathan Dunlap - the designer in the Avalon team - shows how easy it so mod components. I'm sure with Avalon, Microsoft will take inheritance to new levels.
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    Another point to be noted: when it comes to actual business (or other) apps (unlike Flash based solutions), many people won't make super UI's with Avalon as not every project has a budget, expertise, time, or requirement for it.

    So, outside of the hobbyist/non-profit sector, there won't be too many super UI's. And if there are: most will be nice enough. Who wants to pay for weird UI, right?
  • Avalon is cool, but I think it will took a few years in order to see some cools apps around here.
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    adol wrote:
    Avalon is cool, but I think it will took a few years in order to see some cools apps around here.


    I'd say more like later this year. Just wait till Beta 1 of Longhorn comes. I'd say the PDC will produce the energy needed to bring out the cool apps.
  • Sorry if this is a bit off-topic, I was curious as to what notebook that Rob was using to do the demo? Make/model? Reason I ask is that I'm in the market for a new notebook.

    Cheers,
    Sean

  • I am almost positive it's a fairly new Toshiba Satellite.  I have an older model, and would be curious how Avalon will work on my computer.  Well, I have a 2.4 Ghz P4 Toshiba with 768 MB of RAM, no Virtual memory (by choice), and a Mac OS theme on my desktop.  Oh, and VS 6.0, 2003, and 2005 Beta 1 (I think).  I'd really be interested in this stuff...and really like the hardware acceleration (rather than software rendering) because I know even my dinky laptop's graphics card (Dx9.0 compatible, so my fingers are crossed) goes a lot quicker with all of nVidia's hardware accleration features. 

    I've really been delving a lot more into UI stuff lately.  This is a great block on that stuff IMHO (as well as a ton more): http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/

    Oh, and be sure to check out Apple's website for some excellent UI - they really have that down pat.
  • Please also read this post by Nate Dunlap from http://www.designerslove.net/ ------------------
    Channel 9 video with MediaMania
    The Avalon demo team at MS created a demo called MediaMania that we showed at Flash In The Can in Toronto. If you want to see my "flippin CD Case" button used in a fairly gratuitous way, check out the video at:

    http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=58634

    I've seen a few posts going around with concern about the "gratuitious" nature of some of the things we have shown. Believe me, as a designer, I want the world to be a much more simple and beautiful place, and cluttering UI design with random visual crap is not my intention.

    What I love about Avalon is the technology doesnt actually get in the way from implementing "beautiful solutions". What does get in the way though is the lack of knowledge that you can actually implement those solutions.

    So when you see me jamming "flipping cd buttons" into weird places in a demo app that just doesnt make sense, please look beyond the gratuitous and recognize the implications for what you can actually do with the platform.

    I dont see a cool cd case button when I see that demo. I see proof that I can create interactive animated 3D content that can be used for both icons and full scale application UI.
    posted by Nate Dunlap
  • npkatznpkatz gone fishin'

    At various times while coding the demo, you guys mentioned "we clearly don't expect you to type this XML in by hand."  My response is, why the heck not?  Sure, it'll be nice to have a nifty drag & drop IDE for XAML but until it comes, lots of developers, especially those of us that have been comfortable with XML, XSLT, and Schema for years have no problem with this.

    I spent 3 months last summer coding Macromedia Flex by hand because the IDE wasn't ready yet.  When it first came out, it was a piece of crap so I'm damn glad I invested the time at creating webapps with their raw XML model.  I intend to do the same with XAML and encourage anyone comfortable with declarative programming to do the same.

    Cheers!
    Norm

  • Add to that the fact that I (and some others) have done OpenGL programming (transposition, scaling, rotation, color gradients) by hand already.  So, yes, coding by hand is definitely a lot easier in XAML, I'd say.
  • nukeationnukeation Programmer AND Designer
    No matter what Microsoft says and half of it is either for marketing reasons or for not scaring away the weakhearted "so called developers" who really can't do much without a Visual Designer. No matter how good a Visual Designer they come up with for XAML/Avalon, there are things that simply just can't be done without jumping into code.

    So, anyone preparing for Avalon will need to get used to that fact - it's all hardcore coding here - at least when you want to make something really cool. If you want those same old UI, you can drag&drop.

    I've said it before (like a million times!) and I'll say it again, it's just like DHTML - you can use FrontPage or Dreamweaver or Visual Studio, but when you want to push the envelope in your designs, you gotta code it by hand.

    Dax
  • MollyfudMollyfud Progress: Greatest RDBM on 3rd Rock from the Sun

    THis might be a boring response (especially with the cool stuff that was shown in the video) but as a database app type guy, would love to see what Avalon (and xaml) will do for building forms and browsers and the like. I would have thought (and could be way off the mark) that this would be the bread and butter.

    I am not sure I am looking at this right (Avalon/Xaml being somewhat a replacement (for want of a better phrase) for winforms and controls (perhaps a better way of describing it is a new way to define the winform/controls)). One thing (and its minor) that I would like to see, is better data binding with controls having labels that come from the label of the databinding. I.E. the classic is to have a textbox that is binded to a dataset/db field that gets the label from the dataset label.

    HTH
    molly

  • smillersmiller Shawn Miller
    At one time I saw a video of an Avalon demo where the presenter quickly created a complex animated background similar to the background found in Windows Media Center.  Does anyone know where that video is at?
  • Ok.... so can I download MediaMania?

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