How Does Silverlight Work

Your browser may display a message that reads: “To view this content, please install Microsoft Silverlight.” You don’t have to install Silverlight, but if you do, you can play videos, enhanced multimedia graphics and interactive applications in your browser. Java and Flash plug-ins allow you to perform those tasks as well.


A visit to the Silverlight Showcase website reveals almost a dozen categories containing examples of what Silverlight can do. Click “Casual Games,” to view a list of games, such as “3D Tennis” and “Asteroid Lander.” Other examples show Silverlight’s ability to produce business applications, gadgets, photo galleries, streaming media and interactive websites. The page’s “Samples” button takes you to a page containing free Silverlight code samples.

Installation and Support

When your browser asks you to install the plug-in, select “Click Now to Install” and follow the on-screen instructions. Once installed, you will not find a “Silverlight” button in your browser. Silverlight runs automatically when your browser encounters Silverlight content. If problems occur, Microsoft’s Silverlight Solution Center website can assist you. The site also has resources and developer tools that programmers may find useful.


Microsoft’s Visual Studio development environment contains a “Silverlight” template that helps developers get started. After creating a new Silverlight project, Visual Studio adds several pre-built template files to the project’s work area. Developers are free to drag controls onto an empty Web page to create the interface you see when viewing a Silverlight Web application. These controls can consist of standard HTML objects, such as buttons, or specialized Silverlight controls like the MediaElement. This control allows developers to place rectangular regions on Silverlight pages that display audio or video content.

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Silverlight works in Windows XP, Vista, 7 and the Windows Phone. Silverlight is a cross platform technology, so it displays content on Macs as well as PCs. It also has the ability to run alongside Java, Flash and other multimedia plug-ins. You can download Silverlight applications if you would rather run them locally without connecting to the Internet. Although some Silverlight applications cost money, several free ones are available on the Web.