Derik Whittaker

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My Thoughts on Microsoft Expressions Blend

Lately I have been playing around with Microsoft Expression Blend.  Expression Blend is a product that allows for the creation of XAML based Windows client (not its only use, but what I am using it for).  You can find more information about it here at its product page.

I started using Expression Blend in hopes that I would have a better experience creating WPF forms.  I have, but it has been a little painful.  The first thing you will notice when you fire it up is its high contracts black theme.  You can change, this, but the other theme provided is a Gray theme.  I really wish there was a standard, light gray or even Office 2007 style theme available.

Once you get past the theme (it was hard, but I did) you will be thrown into a completely new UI experience from Microsoft.  To be honest, Blend is more like Photoshop, then like any other Microsoft tool I have ever seen or used.  If you are familiar with Photoshop, then Blend will be a little comforting, but if not, it will take a while to get used to.

Pros:

  • Layout
    The layout of the application is very much like Photoshop, so if you are familiar with Photoshop, picking up Blend should be pretty easy. 

  • Simplicity of use
    Since Blend is meant to be used by designers it is really simple to use and fairly intuitive as well.  The way the properties tool bar is laid out is simple and well organized.  I really like the Objects and Timeline panel (used for adding, removing, reorganizing UI controls).

  • Creation of Visual Studio projects
    When you create a new project in Blend it actually creates a VS 2005 project for you.  This allows you to be able to open the exact same project in both Blend and VS.

  • The ability to add UI Events in Blend
    The designer will also allow you to add click, mouse down, etc events to your different controls.  This is nice and make it so that you don't need to flip back and forth between VS and Blend all the time.

Cons:

  • Themes
    I spoke on this above, I really don't like the high contrast black/gray theme.

  • Lack of complete suite of UI controls
    For what ever reason, not all the UI controls that are available are in Blend.  For instance, I wanted to add a Status Bar but could not.  I had to open the project up in VS in order to add it.

  • Fact there are 2 tools to build XAML forms
    The fact that there is a nicer XAML editor outside my IDE really sucks.  It would be really nice for this to all be inside the IDE, or to at least provide the same functionality in the IDE.

 

All in all, Blend is a pretty nice product for XAML creation.  It kinda sucks that they current release of WPF for VS does not have this level of functionality, but oh well.  I will continue to use Blend for my XAML creation, maybe the Themes will grow on me :).

Till next time


Posted 08-05-2007 7:16 AM by Derik Whittaker

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Comments

sajid wrote re: My Thoughts on Microsoft Expressions Blend
on 01-23-2008 11:13 AM

Hi,

If I wanted to use Expression Blend for editing/creating GIF images for the web.  Would this be right?

please email me:

sajid.riaz@hotmail.co.uk

expressions blend wrote expressions blend
on 07-24-2008 4:10 PM

Pingback from  expressions blend

Dave Schinkel wrote re: My Thoughts on Microsoft Expressions Blend
on 03-23-2009 3:49 PM

Common man, old grey and Office style?  If Microsoft did that no graphic designer would adopt a product like this when there is Dreamweaver and other products out there that sorry to say but graphic designers like becuse of its slickness. (yea I know Dreamweaver sucks but it's reality, they like it).

As long as the black is readable (there are sites out there with horrible black and text that you cannot read) then it's fine.

This is why you don't belong in Expression blend.  It's for the artistic minded.

In face I'm a developer and I hate the dull old grey & blue windows looking theme.  I don't enjoy programming in an environment which makes me think like we're still in 1999...sorry but not my cup of tea.  We need more saavy developers out there coding OOP.  We are too hunched down with nerd glasses still.

>>>If you are familiar with Photoshop, then Blend will be a little comforting

yea, then that is a good thing.  Graphic designers like Photoshop.  Again, this is for designers, not developers man!

Dave Schinkel wrote re: My Thoughts on Microsoft Expressions Blend
on 03-23-2009 4:01 PM

I definitely like my VS and would never give that up.  But for graphic designers, this thing is supposed to be "cool", black, and whatever.

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