Coffeehouse Thread

16 posts

You don't use Blend, do you?

Back to Forum: Coffeehouse
  • PopeDai

    As a developer on Expression Blend, I'm aware of how criminally under-utilized it is in the developer community. I'll grant that in the past this was because it was a) a separate product you had to pay for (and didn't offer much beyond what VS already provided), and b) was ostensibly marketed towards professional designers employed by IT departments and dev-houses. I can't speak for the latter, but designers in IT departments? Rarer than a Technicolor Dreamcoat in Steve Jobs' wardrobe!

    However, now that Blend is part of the VS SKU, that it now offers many features absent from VS (HTML+JS designer for Windows applications, XAML animation, etc), and that Channel 9 has some marvellous video series ( http://channel9.msdn.com/Series/Windows-Store-apps-for-Absolute-Beginners-with-JavaScript , http://channel9.msdn.com/events/BUILD/BUILD2011/TOOL-486T , and more besides) what's your excuse?

    That question was not rhetorical - so if you don't use Blend, and you're thinking of developing a Windows Store application, please give it a go and let us know (that rhymes, I'll add), and if you don't use it, also let us know.

  • Dr Herbie

    @PopeDai: I have used Blend now and again for WinPhone apps, but not much when I've been playing with Win8 apps.  

    I think it's the learning curve (it's very different from writing code in VS). If there was a 'Blend for Absolute Beginners' series that did nothing but blend (perhaps taking an existing Win8 templated app and enhancing it through Blend) then that would help, but it's often either small bits and pieces (like 'How to Add Animations in Blend') or used briefly as part of a wider context.  What I would like is a proper dedicated series on just Blend. If there is one already, then I've missed it.

    I'm not much of a designer (like most developers), but it would be nice to be able to add a dash of glitz to my apps.

    Herbie

  • Bas

    I use blend, but mostly for animations and visual state stuff.

    The learning curve is very high though. The various teeny tiny icons on buttons are often hard to make out, and the "advanced options" dots behind properties are far from intuitive. I agree with Dr Herbie that a series focussing on just Blend itself, for people who know XAML but are absolute Blend beginners, would be great.

    Another reason I don't use it as often is that it's criminally slow: it takes several seconds to start up and freezes for several more seconds as soon as I select a solution to open. Also, if I select any element, I have to wait a couple of seconds for the properties pane to figure out which element I selected, and update itself.

    These are reasons for me to think "It'll be quicker and easier if I just write the XAML manually" more often than not.

    When it comes to recording and testing state and animations though, it's ideal.

  • Ian2

    I also tend to look to Blend if I am doing anything with animations but by default I stick with the Visual Studio UI in conjunction with a little manual tweaking of XAML as needed.

    I like Blend but I don't have the level of comfort & familiarity that I have with VS.

    I also need to be reminded of it every now and again.

    Someone should do a series of videos that directly compares a number of typical use cases (1) hand coded, (2) In the VS designer (3) in Blend. 

    I would expect Blend to win me over and along the way I would learn something about how to use it for some common tasks that I probably currently do sub-optimally.

  • jh71283

    For me, the main problem when using blend is when using a third party control in silverlight.

    I've spent too long staring at "Invalid XAML" pages and "An exception occured..." to even bother firing blend up any more.

  • davewill

    @PopeDai:

    All the initial moaning that the Blend included with Visual Studio was not the full Blend turned me off to even looking at it.

  • figuerres

    like other have posted, if I need to work on a story board I use blend, also for some editing tasks like messing with getting the controls default style / template so that I can customize it.

    the real problem is that with what MS has done with Silverlight and wpf and windows I am now being asked to convert anything we did with Silverlight to html only and I see no new apps with wpf being made.

    the boss and our main client do not want to mess with windows 8 , windows phone or the windows 8 app store.   they have seen nothing that works for the business we do in any of the new stuff MS is pushing and no support for what we need in the MS offerings right now.

  • deanihansen

    I use Expression every day when developing Windows Phone and Windows Store apps. 
    Recently I started the blog www.blendrocks.com where I focus inside tricks and how to's on doing stuff in Blend. I hope the site will turn out as a learning portal in the end. 

    @Bas - I think the absolute beginners guide is a great idea and I'm working on a video series on this being released later this year.

    If anyone has suggestions or wishes for what you need guidance on using Expression Blend please let me know. I'm available on @deanihansen 

    I think Blend is a great product and it can highly increase your xaml productivity if you know how to use it. But I agree, going from Visual Studio, the learning curve can be a bit steep in the beginning. 

  • Harlequin

    In 13 years I've never used the Visual Studio design mode....even now. I use Blend 2012 almost every day, especially when starting a new Windows 8 or Windows Phone app.

    The only main issue for me is Mike Swanson's Illustrator to Xaml plugin doesn't work for Illustrator CS6, so when I need to go from vector to Xaml, I need to use Expression Design 4, then export to Xaml...which it doesn't do well. Thus Blend to the rescue, helping clean up the vectors from Design.

    Sadly enough, the best Blend tutorial person/MVP was Victor Gaudioso, and he passed away last year Sad

  • Deactivated User

    Comment removed at user's request.

  • Tokter

    Once I can use it for WPF 4.5 I will start to look into Blend.

  • wkempf

    , Tokter wrote

    Once I can use it for WPF 4.5 I will start to look into Blend.

    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30702

    I've not used this yet, and it's still a preview, but there you go.

    I've used Blend from time to time, but for all of the reasons others have mentioned I don't use it regularly. I want to change that, and maybe Blend for Visual Studio will finally allow that (mostly a cost issue), but I'll have to dedicate a lot of time in figuring out how to use it efficiently. Currently, I do most of my work directly in the XAML, and Blend is a poor tool for that method of work. My ideal tool would be as good as Visual Studio (OK, better) at editing XAML but with a designer as good as Blend.

  • exoteric

    Does Blend work with F# projects?

  • PopeDai

    , exoteric wrote

    Does Blend work with F# projects?

    Not in a user-friendly way, no. F# isn't really suited to UI development - a UI object is a stateful instance, manipulating this in a purely-functional language without side-effects is difficult. F# has side-effects but... my fingers don't want to type about it.

    You can certainly use Blend with F# projects if you isolate your UI code and can tolerate the C#/VB/C++ XAML options and do the binding yourself. There's also this tip for Blend for VS2010.

    As for everyone else: I'm passing your feedback to the team - you are being heard!

  • figuerres

    , PopeDai wrote

     

    As for everyone else: I'm passing your feedback to the team - you are being heard!

     

    OUTSTANDING!!!

    One of the main things about channel 9 is that we want the folks in MS to hear what we have to say!

    for one I wan to build apps that use wpf / xaml but our customers have zero need for windows 8.

    .net 4 and wpf need to keep being supported and actively developed for at least a decade.

    look at how long we have been building apps based on GDI / GDI+ and WPF/xaml need to be looked at in the same kind of lifecycle terms.   business customers want to have a "warm feeling" that a platform will be a safe bet with a VERY LONG life  and that the company that creates it will be on board for that whole time.

    recent moves by MS with Silverlight and WPF and WIndows phone etc... have created a lot of concern that MS is not going to keep up the support and help when we find problems or need new features.

    the Visual Studio team is really a good example of bad support, VS 2010 does not support "smart device projects"  and does not support older versions of the Sql Server Report Viewer control.

    this means that a developer may be forced to keep 2 and 3 versions of VS installed.  not good for the developer and makes it look like MS wants us to dump the older apps.

  • exoteric

    @PopeDai: It took some work but my current application has WPF back-end and front-end and 99% of the code is in F#, side-effecting or not. Only a user control proved too painful not to do in C#...or it was simply easier to do in a C# project.

    That said, I can certainly imagine starting up a C# project and prototyping XAML in Blend - and then taking that XAML into the F# application. Databinding works nicely from F# but you don't get a code-behind file with pre-declared names. Things like storyboarding is probably great to do in Blend.

Comments closed

Comments have been closed since this content was published more than 30 days ago, but if you'd like to continue the conversation, please create a new thread in our Forums, or Contact Us and let us know.