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Learn to Write XAML Applications Today with Xamlon

You don't have to wait for Longhorn to explore the benefits of Avalon, the runtime engine that underpins its presentation tier. Xamlon, the most mature third-party implementation of Avalon, lets you build XAML-based applications right now.


AML is an XML-based markup language that describes UI content and behavior. The concept is similar to the combination of HTML and JavaScript used in Web applications today, but far more ambitious. "Avalon" is the codename for the runtime that interprets XAML documents and turns them into interactive applications. You can download a 30-day beta of Xamlon, although you'll need to register to get a product key. Installing Xamlon via the MSI download is painless; you get the Xamlon engine, a suite of samples, a XAML viewer, and "XamlPad", a standalone XAML editor of questionable utility other than its ability to import SVG files.

If you have Visual Studio 2003 installed, the install also registers a "Visual Designer" plug-in, providing Xamlon project templates and automatic "class behind" generation when you add a XAML file to your project (see Figure 1 and Figure 2). Unfortunately, the plug-in only works with Visual Studio 2003; I tested this on both Visual Studio 2002 and a recent Visual Studio 2005 beta without success. With that said, there's more to Xamlon than its Visual Designer; so I'll show you how to wire up XAML documents from scratch. Doing that provides a better understanding of exactly what the designer does (and doesn't) do for you, and you'll also find it easier to debug the code the designer produces if you do decide to use it. In addition, designing manually gives you a chance to see what XAML's all about, even if you don't have Visual Studio installed at all.

Author's Note: Because this review is based on a beta release, the samples supplied with this article may not compile or run correctly with future versions. In addition, because the release against which they have been compiled is time-limited, you may need to download an evaluation copy of Xamlon to compile and/or run these samples.

Figure 1. Xamlon Project Templates in Visual Studio: The Xamlon installation adds new project types and templates to Visual Studio.
Figure 2. Xamlon Class-Behind Files: Similar to other project types, Xamlon's Visual Studio add-in automatically generates "class-behind" files to handle event wiring, resource loading, and other functions.

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