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Design, Expression Blend, Silverlight, WPF, Windows Phone

Connect and Blend 3

Connect and Blend 3

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While Blend 3 has a number of stellar features that I am sure everyone reading this blog has heard about (buzz words include SketchFlow, behaviors, sample data support, Illustrator and Photoshop import, TFS support, and many more), we really devoted a significant amount of time to address issues that you reported via Connect, that we hope will help you be more productive inside Blend. Here is a compilation of my favorite top-10 feedback items we addressed (in random order). Thank you very much to all you Connect contributors, and we really hope to hear more from you.

a)       Numeric editors for Gradient Stops

Designers like to precisely control the positioning of gradient stops. Blend 3 adds this ability.

b)      Better handling of Layout properties in common operations like copy/paste

With Blend 3, we have made a good, sincere attempt to streamline the properties that we set in common operations like copy/paste and double-click to insert. We also try to generate a clean as XAML as possible.

c)       Consolidate the style and template editing menus

I could not find the Connect bug link for this one, sorry! While the concept of Styles and Templates offers enormous potential, it also make it challenging for a tool like Blend to offer access to them, and at the same time make us approachable to users who don’t care about the separation. While we did a pretty good job of trying to abstract away the concepts of styles and templates, and while a lot more can be done, Blend 3 makes it possible to access all styles in the context menu. No need to go the Object menu to edit the ItemContainerStyle of a ListBox.

d)      AlternateContentProperty

You can read about this in a previous post of mine here.

e)       Expand/Collapse state of projects across solutions

Each time you close and reopen a solution that contains multiple projects, we now remember the expansion states of each project in the solution. We also remember the set of documents you had open inside Blend so you can restart working where you left off immediately.

f)        Preserving XAML readability when trying to copy templates in WPF

This is a WPF only improvement we made to Blend 3. In WPF, Blend allows you to edit copies of controls’ templates by reverse engineering the XAML from the BAMLized resources. While this is great to have, it is also essentially lossy operation. As an example, any static resource references like Brushes get inlined (and consequently, the XAML becomes a little less user-friendly). Blend now allows custom control vendors to specify the original XAML file that should be used at design-time for template editing in the design-time assemblies (another post is required to show how you could take advantage of this if you were in the business of writing complex WPF controls and wanted to better enable designers). We also correctly copy the templates from the original Generic.xaml in many more cases when the original source is available.

g)      Typing in the split view XAML editor steals focus

There were many cases where the design surface would steal focus from the XAML editor that would make it very annoying to type in the XAML editor. All of those should now be fixed, and along with support for intellisense in the XAML editor and a highly performant, robust-to-errors/exceptions XAML parser, typing in the XAML editor should be a really enjoyable experience for you (though we also work pretty hard to keep your XAML typing skills usage to a bare minimumJ).

h)       Arrange-by (z-index) is not preserved across sessions

The order in which elements appear in XAML does not always play well with the cognitive understanding of who like to see elements that appears higher in z-order to appear higher in the object tree. While Blend 2 had the ability to switch the visualization order in the object tree, we made it hard for users who would have to set this every time they opened a solution. Not anymore!

i)         Keyboard shortcuts fine tuning

This is a pretty hard problem to solve without free-form keyboard customizability and presets for shortcuts (a feature that is missing from Blend 3). But we made a pretty sincere effort here. For example, you can now customize the mouse zoom/scroll behavior for the design surface to your liking.

j)         And finally… Blend – so bad

We totally fixed this! Hope you enjoy using Blend 3 J.

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