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SharePoint 2010 Development with Silverlight: Web Part Development

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Learn how to manually create Silverlight Web Parts that can host a Silverlight application in SharePoint, how to use the Silverlight Web Part extension to help you jump start your Silverlight Web Part projects, and how to connect web parts so you can show master-detail relationships, dashboards, and mash-ups.
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WEB PARTS ARE ONE of the most fundamental user interface components in SharePoint. Web parts enable developers to create visual components that can be configured by end users. This is core to the concepts of SharePoint as a composite application model in that you can compose applications from smaller building blocks, such as web parts. Out-of-the-box, Visual Studio supports creating web parts and Visual Web Parts. The difference between the two Visual Studio projects is that Visual Web Parts can be created using a visual designer, and the web part template is written using code only. In this chapter you learn how to leverage Visual Studio to create Silverlight Web Parts. These are web parts that use Silverlight as the user interface.

Silverlight Web Parts

In Chapter 4, "A First Look at Silverlight in SharePoint," you saw a couple of techniques for hosting Silverlight in SharePoint using the built-in Silverlight Web Part and using the Content Editor Web Part (CEWP). Both of these techniques required you to manually upload the Silverlight application's .xap file to SharePoint and then to manually create a web part to host the .xap file. Using this method to host Silverlight is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it is a totally manual process and as such is prone to user error. Doing this manually doesn't follow good application lifecycle management (ALM) practices such as using source control, testing, and deployment. To avoid all of these issues you want to also package all of your SharePoint applications into a SharePoint solution package, a .wsp file.

It is important to understand what is going on under the covers. First you will see how to manually build a Visual Studio project to package and deploy the Silverlight application. This process is not obvious and requires a number of steps. Because of this Microsoft has released a Silverlight Web Part extension project for Visual Studio that automates the process of creating a Silverlight Web Part. Later in the chapter you use this extension to build a Silverlight Web Part.

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