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Avalonia Beta 1

Published
Sunday, 18 February 2018
Category
Release
Author
Steven Kirk

We’re pleased to announce that Beta 1 of Avalonia is now available.

Avalonia is a cross platform .NET UI framework inspired by WPF, with XAML, data binding, lookless controls and much more. Avalonia is the only way to bring XAML-based applications to Windows, Mac and Linux.

We've decided that we're now at a stage where we're happy to come out of Alpha and call our current state Beta! People are already creating awesome applications with Avalonia, such as Avalon Studio - an Avalonia-based IDE for C# and C++ and Core2D - a data-driven 2D diagram editor, and this represents the first step towards getting the framework production-ready.

The easiest way to get started with Avalonia is to install our Visual Studio plugin and use the templates we provide there or use our .NET core templates. Check out our samples for some examples of how to get started writing an application.

There have been a few architectural changes in this release that we hope will aid us moving forward:

  • We are now on the .NET Standard 2.0 platform
  • We're now using Portable.Xaml as our XAML parser
  • We've removed support for Cairo and GTK2 - you should now use the Skia and GTK3 or MonoMac backends for non-windows platforms
  • We're now using ReactiveUI 8 rather than shipping our own fork
  • We've created the avaloniaui.net site which, although very bare-bones at the moment, we hope to grow into a decent source of documentation

So here's some of the major features in this release:

Deferred Rendering

We were previously rendering the entire window each time something changed, which was obviously rather inefficient. #827 added a DeferredRenderer which renders to a low-level scenegraph on the UI thread which is then rendered to the window on a separate render thread.

This greatly improves our rendering performance - particularly when animations are involved - and also gives us proper hit-testing of controls.

The old renderer is still available as the ImmediateRenderer class for those folks who want to render everything every frame.

Monomac-based Backend

#1005 introduced a new Monomac-based backend for Mac OSX platforms. The main issue with GTK2/GTK3 backends used previously was the huge set of binaries (~60MB) that needs to be shipped with your app. Another problem with those binaries is that it's complicated to package them into your app bundle. Our new backend also makes use of Cocoa window dialogs, which makes your app to look more native.

Relative Source Syntax Sugar

#1209 introduced shorthand for binding to other controls relative to the control being bound. In WPF, this is achieved by using the RelativeSource syntax on a {Binding}, as a (slightly contrived example) this is how you would bind a TextBlock's text to the Tag property on a parent control:

<Border Tag="Hello World">
  <TextBlock Text="{Binding Text, RelativeSource={RelativeSource Mode=FindAncestor, AncestorType={x:Type Border} AncestorLevel=1}}"/>
</Border>

Now Avalonia has new syntax to achieve this without the verbosity:

<Border Tag="Hello World">
  <TextBlock Text="{Binding $parent.Text}"/>
</Border>

$parent isn't the only syntax this feature adds, here are some more things you can do:

Shorthand Implementation
$self Mode = Self
$parent Mode = FindAncestor; AncestorLevel = 1
$parent[Level] Mode = FindAncestor; AncestorLevel = Level +1
$parent[ns:Type] Mode = FindAncestor; AncestorType = ns:Type
$parent[ns:Type; Level] Mode = FindAncestor; AncestorType = ns:Type; AncestorLevel = Level + 1

Drawings

Drawing is a convenient way to create vector icons, used by WPF. The Visual Studio Image Library provides many icons as Drawings, and there are other tools that can produce them. They are much more lightweight compared to Shape controls since they are not part of the visual tree.

1117 added support for Drawings to Avalonia, though our standard image control still can't display them - in the meantime while we add support for that, drawings can be displayed in a DrawingPresenter control.

New Previewer with .NET Core support in Visual Studio extension

#1105 introduced a new previewer architecture which should allow us to make designers for non-windows platforms. The previous previewer used win32 API voodoo to reparent the window of the application into the designer. It also used some external executable that would initialize various things via reflection. The whole thing was tied to win32 and full .NET framework, it also made several assumptions about your app. The new previewer architecture instead uses a TCP transport protocol which communicates between the application and the designer in a platform-independent manner. It still has an option to embed the HWND which is used by our Visual Studio extension, but the default one will transfer rendered bitmap data via TCP. Speaking of which, the entire infrastructure for remote widgets is exposed in our public API via RemoteServer and RemoteWidget classes.

The AvaloniaVS extension has already been updated to use this new protocol, and hopefully now designers for other IDEs will be coming soon!

StaticResource and DynamicResource

#1130 added Control.Resources, StaticResource and DynamicResource.

The new features are designed to follow WPF/UWP as closely as possible - previously, resources could only be contained in <Style>s and we used {StyleResource} to access these resources. Now each control has its own Resources dictionary and {StaticResource} and {DynamicResource} are used to access them. {StyleResource} has now be removed, so you will need to update all uses of that markup extension to {DynamicResource}.

Bind Commands to Methods

Ever get annoyed that you have to create an ICommand to bind a button command, and wish you could just point your binding to a method? Since #1179 you can!

public class ViewModel
{
    public void ButtonClicked()
    {
        Console.WriteLine("Hooray!");
    }
}
<Button Command="{Binding ButtonClicked}"/>

Calendar Control

#1244 ported the Silverlight Calendar control to Avalonia, for all your calendaring needs.

WPF integration

We've added a seamless integration with WPF: you can embed Avalonia controls in your WPF application without creating extra native windows and with full layout integration which is allowed by the fact that WPF's and Avalonia's layout systems are almost the same. See the demo here.

Various Other Features

Here's a curated list of the other interesting features that were introduced in this release. To see everything included in the Beta 1 release, see the milestone.

  • #894 Buttons are disabled when there is a null in the binding chain for Command
  • #1085 Added FindAncestor binding mode.
  • #1086 Upgrade ReactiveUI to the v8 alpha
  • #1128 Add a IsPressed property to Button
  • #1133 ToolTip: IsOpen, Placement, Offset
  • #1145 Switched to .NET Standard 2.0
  • #1146 Added ShowTaskbarIcon implementation
  • #1150 Screen implementation
  • #1174 Removed GTK2 and Cairo support
  • #1175 Added Orientation and IsIndeterminate properties to ProgressBar
  • #1253 Add Vertical orientation option for PageSlide animations
  • #1265 Implemented three states on ToggleButton, CheckBox and RadioButton
  • #1273 Added AppBuilder methods for logging
  • #1079 Portablexaml

Breaking changes in this release

We are also now tracking breaking changes at our wiki page.

BuildAvaloniaApp and previewer.

You now need BuildAvaloniaApp static method in the class with your entry point (typically in Program.cs or App.xaml.cs) which should be called from Main:

        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            BuildAvaloniaApp().Start<MainWindow>();
        }

        public static AppBuilder BuildAvaloniaApp()
            => AppBuilder.Configure<App>()
                .UsePlatformDetect()
.LogToDebug();

Previewer won't be able to work without it.

DataContextChanging and DataContextChanged

They were replaced by OnDataContextBeginUpdate and OnDataContextEndUpdate

Static and Type markup extensions

They were replaced by standard x:Static and x:Type, add xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml" to the root of your XAML file.

StyleResource

StyleResource has been replaced by StaticResource and DynamicResource as in other XAML frameworks. StaticResource and DynamicResource in Avalonia search both Control.Resources and Style.Resources.

Mouse device

MouseDevice is no longer available from the global context, you need to obtain one from TopLevel (Window, Popup, etc). Call GetVisualRoot() in your control and cast it to IInputRoot.

var pos = (_control.GetVisualRoot() as IInputRoot)?.MouseDevice?.Position ?? default(Point);

Getting started

Follow instructions here.

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