Introducing XAML

You can’t really do it any other way: we must understand XAML before going on (at least, its basic features). In this post, we’ll start looking at XAML and at how we can use it to define the UI of our Silverlight user controls. So, the big question: what is XAML? To me, XAML (which, btw, means Extensible Application Markup Language) is a declarative language which you can use to define and initialize objects. Notice that XAML isn’t Silverlight specific. If my memory is correct, it was introduced with .NET 3.0 and its new frameworks (WPF and WF). In Silverlight, we’ll be using it to define the looks of our UIs. As we’ll see, it really saves us lots of code.

Ok, since this is a an intro post, we’ll start simple. In this post,we’ll talk about how we can create objects and set its properties. Here’s a simple XAML snippet:

<Button xmlns=""
    x:Name="bt" Content="Say hi" Click="bt_Click" />

XAML is an XML language. That also means that XAML is case sensitive. Notice that we’re talking about element and attribute names here. Values are a special case: sometimes they are case sensitive; others,they aren’t (more about this in future posts). The previous example already introduces two important concepts: it shows us how to declare an element in XAML  and how to set its one of its properties.

Btw, the previous code is equivalent to the following C# code:

var bt = new Button();
bt.Content = "Say hi";
bt.Click += (s, args) => { };

Ok, there’s a slight difference between both snippets: in the XAML snippet, we’re saying that the Click event will be handled by a method named bt_Click, while on the C# example, we’re using a Lambda expression.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we had to use a couple of namespaces when we wrote the XAML. The default namespace ( is hardcoded to several CLR namespaces (notice that I haven’t found the list, but I assumed this behavior because that was what happened with WPF 1.0). The other namespace (the XAML one that is associated to prefix x) is used for defining some directives which are interpreted by the XAML parser (notice that the directives really look like attributes, but they are, in fact, directives). In the previous XAML snippet, the x:Name directive ends up creating a new Button object named bt (in a future post, we’ll see how this is done).

The x:class directive is another XAML directive that is used often when you need to associate a XAML file to a class defined in a code-behind file (oh yes, Silverlight does support code-behind files too 🙂 ).

We’ve just started scratching XAML. As we’ll see in future posts, there are several interesting things we can do. For now, the main thing to keep in mind is that all that you can do through XAML, you can also do from C# code (though, as I’ve discovered recently, XAML code might be more performant than writing C# code – at least, when you think about rendering). And that’s it for now. In the next post, we’ll talk about the options we have for setting the properties of an object. Stay tuned for more on Silverlight.


~ by Luis Abreu on November 16, 2009.

One Response to “Introducing XAML”

  1. I am really looking forward to this series having just recently started learning Silverlight myself.

    Keep up the good work.

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