Silverlight Tutorial Part 4: Using Style Elements to Better Encapsulate Look and Feel

This is part four of eight tutorials that walk through how to build a simple client application using Silverlight 2.  These tutorials are intended to be read in-order, and help explain some of the core programming concepts of Silverlight. 

<Download Code> Click here to download a completed version of the Bing Images Search sample. </Download Code> 

<Download Code> Click here to download a completed version of the Digg Search sample. </Download Code>

Using Style Elements to Better Encapsulate Look and Feel

XAML supports a Style mechanism that allows us to encapsulate control property values as a reusable resource.  We can store these style declarations in separate files from our pages, and re-use them across multiple controls and pages in an application (as well as re-use them across multiple applications).  This is conceptually similar to using CSS with HTML when doing basic customization scenarios.

Note: In addition to defining basic property settings (Color, Font, Size, Margins, etc), styles in WPF and Silverlight can also be used to define and re-use Control Templates - which enable super rich skinning and adaptation of control structure (and support customization scenarios not possible with CSS in HTML today).  I discuss Control Templates in Part 7 of this series.

For our sample application we'll define our Style declarations within the App.xaml file of our project.  This will enable them to be reused across all pages and controls in the application:

Let's start by encapsulating styles for the <Border> control (and the <TextBlock> title contained within it) of our Digg page:

We can create two Style elements within our App.xaml file that encapsulate the <Border> and <TextBlock> settings we were previously declaring inline using the markup below:

Note how we are giving each Style a unique "Key" value above.  We can then update our <Border> and <TextBlock> controls to reference the Styles using these keys.  We'll be using a XAML feature called "markup extensions" to do this.  Markup extensions are used when there are non-literal values that we want to set (another example of where we'll use this feature is with databinding expressions).

When we update the other controls within our Page.xaml file to use styles as well, we are left with a file that looks like below:

Encapsulating the style settings this way allows developers to better focus on the behavior semantics of the application, and also enables us to re-use styles across other controls/pages we build.

Next Steps

Now that we've cleaned up the markup of our Page.xaml file using Style references, let's go one step further and customize the appearance of our Story data more.

To-do that let's jump to our next tutorial: Using the ListBox and Databinding to Display List Data.


  • Being a web developer I very much prefer CSS semantics for declaring and applying styles. Is that possible or considered?

  • Hi Mike,

    >>>>>>> Being a web developer I very much prefer CSS semantics for declaring and applying styles. Is that possible or considered?

    Right now we are using the WPF way of declaring styles. One of the reasons for this is that while CSS provides a good way to set flat style settings, it doesn't have a concept that supports things like Control Templates and DataTemplates (which require the ability to define structure on elements). If CSS in HTML 5 adds this, then we'll look at supporting CSS as well as a declarative way to persist style information.

    Hope this helps,


  • The more I read these tutorials, the more interested I become. I can't wait to play with Silverlight 2.0!

  • All I have to say is COOL, i have a feeling that its releasing today :)

  • Will external styles sheets be supported? E.G. Merged resource dictionaries with URIs?

  • That's pretty interesting. I'd have to say that i'm used to CSS as well, but it this seems very straight forward.

    But i do have a question. How do you know that the markup extension references for the style attribute are referencing those that we created in App.xaml? In most web pages you have an include statement to include the CSS sheet. Then you know where your styles are coming from. When i review the above screen shots, i don't see how the relation is being drawn. Maybe the code to make that relation is not visible in the screenshot?

  • Has anyone succeeded in completing section 4 using Silverlight 2 Beta 1? I managed to complete section 3 and was able to display Digg data in the DataGrid. However, now that I have applied the style settings as described here, I am getting Xaml parse errors, and I cannot, for the life of me see what the problem is. If anyone has reached this stage, could they post the contents of Page.Xaml and App.Xaml?

  • Hello there,

    when I'm using button style Style="{StaticResource ButtonStyle}" in button definition, the fatal error is happen. What I'm doing wrong, other style definition for Border or else are working fine.

  • Using latest silverlight for 2008
    Getting parse errors as well:

    Additional information: AG_E_INVALID_ARGUMENT [Line: 31 Position: 104]

    line 31:

    with test defined as

  • Having a problem I hope someone knows how to fix. If I put anything in App.xaml, whether or not it is called from Page.xaml, I get a white screen when I hit F5. If I take the data out of App.xaml, page appears as it should (From lesson 3). Here is the stuff I had added to App.xaml:

    xmlns:Data="clr-namespace:System.Windows.Controls;assembly=System.Windows.Controls.Data" (inside the Application Area)


  • OK. I'm making some progress. Key points to observe:

    1. Make sure that the search box is a TextBox and not a WatermarkedTextBox. The code shows the change but the text does not draw attention to it. Some may miss this (I did!)
    See here () for an explanation. Note, though, that style applied to a TextBox does work.

    2. Don't put the ShowGridLines property in the style. This will cause the design view of the page to disappear and throw an AG_E_INVALID_ARGUMENT parse exception at runtime.

    This should enable you to complete stage 4.

  • Sorry, that link is:

  • Hmm i just checked that link...and supposedly you can't set the Style on either TextBox nor the WatermarkedTextBox. However, after testing it appears that only the WatermarkedTextBox is affected by this so far.

  • For the example for silverlight 2 with Python they do not use a usercontrol as their App.xaml, they don't have a xaml element called Application. Where should we be putting our styles if we are using python?

    Todd Wilder

  • Also make sure you prepend all hex colors with a "#" in your style blocks in App.xaml.

  • "How do you know that the markup extension references for the style attribute are referencing those that we created in App.xaml?"

    Attended the AZGROUPS ASP.NET User Group Seminar yesterday, and found my answer :D Or rather i caught it this time, i'm sure i overlooked the detail in Scott's blog above.

    Page.xaml knows about App.xaml, because app is like Global.asx. It's a page that you use to store assets like in the example above as well has controling the users "session" (session start, etc). It's application wide, no need to reference it like for CSS includes and such :)

  • hi Scott,

    Thanks for posting these great tutorials, I'm following all of them and building my application step by step.

    I just realized that it would make sense if you define styles in App.xaml and let intellisense help you choose the right style in Page.xaml (I'm hoping this is supported in Silverlight 2 RTM) and I think Style="{StatisResource TopGrid}" syntax is too long, Style="TopGrid" would make more sense.

    Just a thought.

  • Seems like global style declarations along the following lines:

    That I've seen elsewhere on the web for styling XAML aren't working. (Hi to you too, XamlParseException!)

    Shame really, as you're just as likely to want to style things this way as by explicitly referencing every single style you want applied.

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