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How well do you Blend? A guest post from Mike Taulty

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How well do you Blend? A guest post from Mike Taulty

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Mike Taulty

I was at a recent user group meeting in London attended by Silverlight developers and others interested in the platform and a straw poll provided an interesting bit of insight. The poll question was:

“Who uses Expression Blend?”

The response was a very low number of the attendees. It didn’t come as a huge surprise to me as I had a fair idea that a lot of Silverlight developers stayed away from the dark, grey chrome of Blend with all of its pop out panels;


Preferring to spend their time in the blue and white world of Visual Studio ( with all of its pop out panels – believe me, there’s a lot more than there are in Blend Smile );


Now, I’m no designer but I’ve been working with Expression Blend since before it first shipped when it was known as “Sparkle” and I tend to make the wrong assumption that most people are more or less like me and work with both Visual Studio and Blend open on the same project at the same time.

Visual Studio 2010 made a huge leap forward in terms of an IDE for Silverlight development coming with improvements in the designer, properties editor, debugger, data sources integration and lots of other places.

However, Blend still has a lot of tricks up its sleeve that Visual Studio just doesn��t quite match and especially in the areas of;

· Control templates

· Data templates

· Resources

· Sample data

· Styles

· Resources

· Actions, Triggers, Behaviors

· Animations

but my straw poll survey suggests that this might not be enticing developers to dip their toe in the world of Blend and I’m curious to figure out why that might be.

Of course, Blend’s a paid-for product and so it might be licensing issues that are keeping you away from working with it although it is part of the “Visual Studio Premium/Ultimate with MSDN” subscriptions.

If it is licensing that’s stopping you from looking at Blend then I can only encourage you to download a trial and see if it’s a tool that would pay its way if you were to buy it. By the way – if you’re doing Windows Phone 7 development then this isn’t an issue because Blend is free for phone development and is installed with the phone tools.

If it’s not licensing and you’re doing Silverlight or WPF development then what’s keeping you from Blend? I came up with a few ideas and thought that I’d put them into a handy-poll to see if I can check the pulse around Blend usage. Which best fits for you?

If your answer fits somewhere between 3 and 5 then there’s some great learning materials out there to help you with Blend – I’d especially recommend;

· Expression Blend Online Training

· Toolbox Tutorials

and I’ve been writing a few blog posts recently which might provide a bit of piecemeal help as well as you’re working with Blend.

Thanks a lot if you complete the poll – it’ll be really useful to know whether you do or don’t “Blend” and what your thinking is around that.

Follow Mike on Twitter @mtaulty.

  • I like hand-crafting the XAML myself - I have a thing abott XML!

  • For WP7 I use blend but for VS 2010, I don't have a license so I hand crank the XAML.

  • I find Blend slower (from a application performance point of view) than Visual Studio, especially when editing XAML as text. I also miss things like that it doesn't support, like solution folders and extensions - especially ones that allow you to "Collapse All Projects". There's TFS integration, but no Team Explorer. I'd quite like a theme that doesn't try and look "designery", it just looks like Visual Studio - normal scrollbars and tabs etc.

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