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Understanding layout

From: Silverlight 5 Essential Training

Video: Understanding layout

The prime goal of modern UI is a simplification and reduction of screen elements. While that is nice for the consumer, it often means a complex mess of elements for the designer and programmer to sort out. A real world Silverlight UI will have many sophisticated parts and contain overlapping regions. These layers might have translucent areas and differing opacity levels. They may have dozens of subareas that are animated onto the screen as UI state changes. There can be embedded images and video and so much more. This makes a lot of work for the Silverlight rendering engine.

Understanding layout

The prime goal of modern UI is a simplification and reduction of screen elements. While that is nice for the consumer, it often means a complex mess of elements for the designer and programmer to sort out. A real world Silverlight UI will have many sophisticated parts and contain overlapping regions. These layers might have translucent areas and differing opacity levels. They may have dozens of subareas that are animated onto the screen as UI state changes. There can be embedded images and video and so much more. This makes a lot of work for the Silverlight rendering engine.

Microsoft has spent time and money ensuring that Silverlight is fast as well as beautiful. It features different caching mechanisms and it can make use of optimizations like GPU acceleration. Details about the caching system are beyond the scope of this course. You can find more information on the Internet including some articles on my blog at blog.xamlwonderland.com. It seems obvious with all the complexity that Silverlight needs a framework to facilitate placing elements on the screen. This is called layout and it means what the name implies, controlling the location and sizes of a section of the screen.

A great layout system will prove resilient to changes in browser size and font settings and it will also remember spatial positioning between related elements. Let's talk about sizing for a moment. Each child element is responsible for determining its height and width. Most of the time in Silverlight, the size is set to Auto size. The element can adjust its size whenever its content changes. Imagine a text box for a minute. What is the optimal width? Doesn't the answer depend somewhat on the text content of the control? A Silverlight page is usually composed of scores of child elements.

They can't all go in the root element, so they typically are placed in layout panels. While the child is responsible for its size, the panel is responsible for the child's position on the screen. Each panel specializes in one form of layout. You can see in the bottom of the slide a few examples of these layouts. Silverlight user controls can only hold one child element. Therefore, the UserControl is known as a ContentControl. There are other elements in Silverlight that are optimized for holding a single content, too. Examples are a button and checkbox.

Since user controls and content elements only hold a single child, there must be other elements that can hold many children. In Silverlight, these multi-child elements consist of Panels and Items Controls. Panels are responsible for layout and have no UI of their own. Item Controls are more sophisticated and can also contain children. These are controls however, not panels and can have sophisticated UI templates applied to dramatically change their appearance. Silverlight ships with a handful of built-in panels. In the Core assembly lives the StackPanel which is good at stacking elements, the Grid which excels at dividing the screen into rows and columns, the Canvas which arranges its children by absolute coordinates.

There's also a special panel for arranging items in a listbox called the VirtualizingStackPanel. The Silverlight Toolkit also provides two essential panels. That would be the WrapPanel and the DockPanel. Details regarding these panels are available in other movies in this title. The Panel base class is provided as a base class for all the layout containers which makes it possible to create your own custom panels. Since the rest of this chapter elaborates on the built-in panels, I thought in this movie I would show you an example of a custom panel. To do that, I need to switch to Visual Studio.

I'm inside Visual Studio and I've opened a project called CustomPanel. It has a MainPage.xaml and it has a custom class called DiamondPanel.cs. Let's look at the code in DiamondPanel. DiamondPanel derives from the Panel base class. The panels are responsible for arranging the children on the screen. So there is a method in this class called ArrangeOverride and a method called MeasureOverride. The MeasureOverride method is responsible for asking each child for its desired size, while the ArrangeOverride method is responsible for arranging the children on the screen.

In my case, this DiamondPanel will arrange them in a diagonal row. Let me show you what I mean. Go to MainPage.xaml, scroll down to this section, line 30, and you can see that I have instantiated an instance of DiamondStackPanel and ask for the DesiredElementDimension to be 90 pixels, so each of these child elements will be optimized to 90 pixels in width and height. As you can see, I have six elements in there, let me show you them down here. It consists of a Grid containing a TextBlock and I have a button at the top of the window here.

When I click on this, the code will add another child. I'll press F5 to run the application and then click on the child and you'll see that it's arranging each child in a diagonal fashion. What this shows is that you can create your own custom panel and that Silverlight provides an extremely flexible layout system that can be configured in endless permutations, one of which is sure to be the layout you are looking for.

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This video is part of

Image for Silverlight 5 Essential Training
Silverlight 5 Essential Training

106 video lessons · 5457 viewers

Walt Ritscher
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 41s
    1. Welcome
      53s
    2. Using the exercise files
      48s
  2. 35m 0s
    1. Overview of Silverlight
      3m 29s
    2. Setting up a developer computer
      2m 46s
    3. Installing the Silverlight Toolkit
      2m 21s
    4. Exploring the toolkit samples
      2m 35s
    5. Using Visual Studio 2010 to create a Silverlight project
      5m 10s
    6. Using Expression Blend to create a Silverlight project
      3m 13s
    7. Getting to know the Visual Studio interface
      8m 15s
    8. Working in the Expression Blend interface
      7m 11s
  3. 29m 46s
    1. Understanding the Visual Studio project structure
      3m 38s
    2. Creating a Silverlight page
      3m 17s
    3. Compiling your first application
      5m 0s
    4. Using other assemblies in an application
      5m 45s
    5. Deploying a Silverlight application
      3m 43s
    6. Understanding the startup process for an application
      3m 13s
    7. Understanding how users get Silverlight on their computers
      5m 10s
  4. 16m 59s
    1. Exploring the relationship between XAML and .NET
      3m 57s
    2. Using C#
      7m 16s
    3. Exploring the code-behind file
      5m 46s
  5. 43m 22s
    1. Working with XAML elements and Property attributes
      4m 56s
    2. Investigating XAML namespaces
      7m 31s
    3. Converting XAML properties with TypeConverters
      5m 1s
    4. Working with Property elements
      4m 24s
    5. Assigning runtime data with XAML markup extensions
      4m 21s
    6. Digging into the dependency property system
      6m 12s
    7. Creating a custom dependency property
      4m 42s
    8. Understanding attached properties
      6m 15s
  6. 9m 35s
    1. Debugging your code
      5m 17s
    2. Special Silverlight debugging techniques
      4m 18s
  7. 36m 0s
    1. Understanding layout
      4m 55s
    2. Using DockPanel and WrapPanel
      4m 2s
    3. Exploring sophisticated layouts with the Grid
      6m 40s
    4. Absolute positioning with the Canvas panel
      5m 20s
    5. Scrolling content with the ScrollViewer
      3m 28s
    6. Adjusting content alignment, margins, and sizing
      5m 6s
    7. Using the TabControl
      2m 17s
    8. Manipulating elements with transforms
      4m 12s
  8. 20m 32s
    1. Painting the user interface (UI) with SolidColorBrush
      6m 7s
    2. Getting colorful with gradient brushes
      3m 15s
    3. Decorating elements with ImageBrush
      4m 56s
    4. Creating effects with VideoBrush
      6m 14s
  9. 25m 42s
    1. Understanding routed events
      3m 12s
    2. Wiring up event handlers in Silverlight
      6m 4s
    3. Understanding event bubbling
      4m 39s
    4. Exploring mouse events
      7m 43s
    5. Exploring keyboard events
      4m 4s
  10. 32m 31s
    1. Displaying text on the screen
      3m 24s
    2. Gathering text input from the user
      5m 30s
    3. Showing complex text with RichTextBox
      6m 7s
    4. Understanding text overflow and text linking
      3m 14s
    5. Searching content with the AutoComplete type-ahead control
      6m 45s
    6. Using and embedding Silverlight fonts
      7m 31s
  11. 26m 47s
    1. Understanding content controls
      5m 7s
    2. Understanding button controls
      6m 16s
    3. Using the BusyIndicator
      4m 40s
    4. Showing tooltips
      4m 34s
    5. Changing content size with ViewBox
      1m 39s
    6. Exploring more controls
      4m 31s
  12. 55m 36s
    1. Connecting elements with binding
      9m 54s
    2. Using business data in a binding
      9m 21s
    3. Listing data with ItemsControls
      6m 39s
    4. Digging into the DataGrid
      8m 28s
    5. Using the DataForm
      3m 49s
    6. Storing data on the client
      7m 10s
    7. Debugging XAML bindings
      5m 41s
    8. Charting data
      4m 34s
  13. 24m 36s
    1. Creating an Out-of-Browser (OOB) application
      6m 16s
    2. Controlling aspects of an OOB application
      2m 49s
    3. Alerting the user with notification windows
      7m 13s
    4. Hosting HTML content in Silverlight applications
      8m 18s
  14. 30m 2s
    1. Exploring Silverlight trust levels
      3m 51s
    2. Creating an elevated trust application
      5m 57s
    3. Reaping the benefits of XAP signing
      6m 5s
    4. Making cross-domain calls
      5m 1s
    5. Getting started with COM Interop using the Speech API
      4m 21s
    6. Using COM Interop to interact with Microsoft Office
      4m 47s
  15. 16m 33s
    1. Showing child windows
      3m 48s
    2. Using a child window as a dialog window
      5m 7s
    3. Creating native windows
      2m 53s
    4. Maximizing a window with full screen mode
      4m 45s
  16. 13m 20s
    1. Dynamically loading UI content with user controls
      4m 46s
    2. Using the Navigation Framework
      8m 34s
  17. 9m 28s
    1. Using resource files
      3m 53s
    2. Using images in an application
      5m 35s
  18. 16m 32s
    1. Playing audio
      4m 27s
    2. Playing sound effects
      5m 4s
    3. Viewing video content with MediaElement
      4m 58s
    4. Changing video playback speed with TrickPlay
      2m 3s
  19. 14m 40s
    1. Capturing video with a web camera
      4m 16s
    2. Working with a microphone
      3m 47s
    3. Creating print output
      6m 37s
  20. 22m 35s
    1. Understanding Silverlight animations
      4m 35s
    2. Creating animations
      7m 52s
    3. Controlling animations
      4m 18s
    4. Simulating physics with animation easings
      5m 50s
  21. 27m 47s
    1. Placing XAML resources within a FrameworkElement
      6m 47s
    2. Centralizing settings in styles
      4m 8s
    3. Creating an alternate control UI with ControlTemplates
      6m 29s
    4. Dressing up your data with DataTemplates
      4m 33s
    5. Explaining the VisualStateManager: a simple way to manage control states
      5m 50s
  22. 10m 55s
    1. Handling global errors in a Silverlight application
      5m 46s
    2. Showing an application loading screen
      5m 9s
  23. 10m 48s
    1. Integrating with XNA
      7m 40s
    2. Exploring data analysis with PivotViewer
      3m 8s
  24. 1m 6s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 6s

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