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By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-12-04 Print this article Print

Ingebretsen said he thinks Microsoft has done a "great job" with the suite. "Both Blend and Design have native support for XAML, which is Microsofts lingua franca of next-generation UI—a format which is designed to give designers the richness they need for creating incredibly expressive and immersive experiences as well as give developers a powerful and modern object model," he said.
Meanwhile, Burton Groups Howard said he believes the most powerful impact of the Expression tools is the realization of Microsofts DSL (Domain-Specific Language) vision for user interface development. The tools are role-appropriate and produce artifacts that interoperate across the suite, he said. "Graphic designers and User Experience professionals can focus on graphic design and user experience without the overhead of a general-purpose IDE [integrated development environment] or the frustration of incompatible tools," Howard said.
Ingebretsen agreed, saying he believes the most salient piece of the new releases is the improved user interface. "Microsoft has rationalized the UI between Blend and Design and its very sleek," Ingebretsen said. "The changes to the experience go beyond visuals, though. Blend, in particular, has seen real refinement since the last public release. Its a lot more intuitive and, frankly, just feels a lot better." In particular, the real estate within the workspace is much easier to manage, Ingebretsen said, noting that Microsoft has added a new search/filter mechanism to aid in navigating the property editor. On the concept of Microsofts emerging competition with Adobe, Ingebretsen said, "Many designers who otherwise wouldnt, will use Expression because of the way it integrates their work into the development process. Thats a real step up against the competition." Indeed, despite the products being yet unreleased products, IdentityMine has had success with the Microsoft Expression tools, particularly Blend and Design, he said. "Our designers use Expression Design almost exclusively for UI work," Ingebretsen said. "There was a learning curve there, but its really enhanced our productivity." Howard said he thinks the tools and concepts in the new Microsoft Expression Studio suite will feel familiar to people who have worked with Adobe/Macromedia tools in the past. Yet, "Its unclear how willing people will be to shift allegiances from those entrenched tools, but initial feedback from professionals has been very positive," Howard said. Moreover, Howard noted that WPF/E is positioned head-on with Flash, although the technologies are slightly different. "WPF/E promises to integrate more easily with HTML than Flash does, but both require JavaScript as a bridge between the page and the embedded media object." However, early adopter Dawson said as far as he is concerned, the jury is still out on WPF/E. "Although we believe WPF is a great technology, it is yet to be seen whether WPF/E presents the same benefits," he said. "In theory, a common file format—XAML—is a great way to bridge the development for two platforms. But in practice, we suspect that the development and workflows will differ so much that the same file format is hard to be used as that much of an advantage." Besides, Dawson said, "WPF/E is not that great of a technology when you recognize you have to download a runtime. Why not just use Flash, if that is the case? Flash is a mature product with lots of reach." "[But] at the end of the day, WPF and WPF/E are two different technologies. Naming them similarly and using a similar subfile format is moot," Dawson said. The bottom line is the results, he said. "Our job is creating experiences and dreams for our clients," Dawson said. "Thats it. Everything else is in the details. So whatever tool makes that easier, we use." Key said Microsoft will discuss more about the Expression Studio suite at its Mix 07 conference in Las Vegas starting April 30. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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