7 super cool Silverlight apps to try out

From exploring the universe to catching up on Facebook

Well Wisher

You're going to see a lot more Silverlight apps this year – and they won't all be running on Windows Phone.

Microsoft announced a near-final fourth version of its multimedia web technology Silverlight at its MIX conference in Las Vegas this week.

The corporation was keen to talk up Silverlight's rate of adoption and noted that installations are approaching 60 per cent of all "internet devices" worldwide.

Silverlight powers many casual games, with plenty solitaires and puzzles waiting for you. You can even indulge in a little 8-bit nostalgia, with a Silverlight version of the ZX Spectrum classic Manic Miner. It's still as difficult as it ever was, but the graphics are a lot better!

Manic miner

MANIC MINER: Get a dose of 80s nostalgia with the Silverlight version of the 8-bit classic

Or you can use Silverlight to send a virtual bouquet to a friend, picking the flowers from WellWisher.com.

Also entertaining are the Deep Zoom collections; you can zoom in at high speed – and high resolution. Often there are puzzles and hidden images or videos the deeper you zoom in.

One of the best Silverlight deep zooms is the Hard Rock Café's Memorabilia site . Made up of high resolution images of instruments and clothes, you can zoom right down to individual guitar picks. If rock's not your thing, then how about the moon? Try the Deep Moon site, set up to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.

Hard rock

MEMORABILIA: Even the Beatles get Deep Zoomed in the Hard Rock Café's fascinating Memorabilia site

You can explore your own photos in a whole new way by converting them into a 3D world; Microsoft's Photosynth viewer is a Silverlight front end (although the hard work is done in the cloud).


PHOTOSYNTH: Silverlight walks like an Egyptian in the National Geographic's Photosynth of one of the pyramids

Check out the many neat Photosynths on the new Silverlight version of Bing Maps, which overlays huge amounts of information on the map – from nearby Twitter tweets to Flickr geotagged pictures positioned in 3D space (in Seattle and San Francisco).

Enable the new World Wide Telescope view, drop into a street view, and look up. As you pan above the horizon, the stars and constellations are drawn in, just as you'd see them if you were outside (and it was dark!). You can pick a date and time to see them as they'd have been (or will be) or explore all the collections made for the original World Wide Telescope without leaving Bing Maps.

Bing maps

BING MAPS: Silverlight tools add the sky above to its street view with Microsoft's World Wide Telescope

Silverlight apps don't have to be in the browser. Silverlight 4 applications can run in their own window on your PC or Mac, with access to the file system and to devices like your webcam.

Microsoft's sample Silverlight Facebook client is a well-designed and easy way to see what your Facebook friends have been up to. You'll also soon be able to use Silverlight to sell on eBay with the Simple Lister; use your webcam to grab the barcode from what you want to sell and the app will look it up and fill out most of the eBay forms for you .

Silverlight started as a video plugin and it still does it superbly – even better with the hardware-accelerated HD video with Silverlight 4.

If you watched the Winter Olympics online, you probably watched in Silverlight. In the US, instead of waiting for a DVD to turn up in the post from Netflix you can stream movies straight to your PC.

Microsoft Research's prototype voice voice recognition service MAVIS lets you search videos from the Microsoft Channel 9 site (and Microsoft's 2009 Professional Developer Conference); it uses a Silverlight video player because it can jump straight to 90 minutes through a two hour video to play the section with the word you've searched for – with virtually no buffering.

There are a couple of hundred more apps on the Silverlight Showcase which is (of course) a Silverlight application itself.

Article continues below