Microsoft Demos Graphic Design Tool Suite

Developers get a look at the Expression Studio Suite, which includes "Acrylic" for graphic design, "Sparkle" for animation and "Quartz" for Web design.

LOS ANGELES—Microsoft Corp. Wednesday demonstrated its new toolset aimed at helping software graphic design experts and developers work better together.

During his keynote at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) here, Eric Rudder, senior vice president of the server and tools business at Microsoft, officially unveiled the Microsoft Expression Studio suite of tools for designers and developers. The suite consists of the "Acrylic" Graphic Designer tool, the "Sparkle" Interactive Designer tool for creating animation and other graphics, and the "Quartz" Web Designer tool, Rudder said.

The Expression Studio tools are tightly integrated with the Visual Studio toolset for developing applications. This enables designers and developers to work together more efficiently, said Joe Marini, a Microsoft program manager who helped demonstrate the Sparkle technology on stage at the PDC.

"Expression does a lot to let developers and designers work effectively together," said David Treadwell, a Microsoft corporate vice president in the .Net group. "I grew up as a developer, and I dont have any particular design skills," he said.

Brian Goldfarb, product manager for Acrylic, demonstrated some of the key features of the tool, such as line effects, built-in styles to add look and feel, and direct export to XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language). Acrylic is a hybrid tool that supports both vector and bit-map graphics.

Meanwhile, Sparkle and Visual Studio share the same project and build systems and support XAML as a foundational technology, Marini said.

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The combination of the Expression toolset and Visual Studio enables designers and developers to more effectively share in building their portions of applications, seamlessly trading off on their roles using the various tools that support their roles.

Mark Boulter, a Microsoft developer who helped demonstrate the Expression toolset, said following the demo, "Weve shown you how the next generation of tools work hand-in-hand to enable developers and designers to work together better than ever before. And it allows us as developers to focus on what were good at."

Up until now, Microsoft Corp. has not fielded tools in this space, which is dominated by Adobe Systems Inc. Acrylic and portions of the Expression Studio are based on the Creature House Expression product that Microsoft acquired in 2003, when Microsoft bought the developer of Expression, a Hong Kong-based company, Creature House Ltd.

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