Microsoft on Monday announced the second early release of its new design tool known by the code name Acrylic.
Acrylic, a professional illustration, painting and graphic-design product, is targeted at de-signers working in print, Web, video, and interactive media. Up until now, Microsoft Corp. has not fielded a product in this space, which is dominated by Adobe Systems Inc. Acrylic is 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.
"Acrylic relates to Windows Vista, and it is a technology for the creation of rich applications and user interfaces," said Forest Key, group product manager for the technology. Acrylic also relates to the Windows Presentation Foundation, formerly code-named Avalon, and "gives developers capabilities to build compelling applications. There is a need for tools to target XAML [Microsofts Extensible Application Markup Language] for presentation of compelling applications. Acrylic is a design tool to target XAML."
The new build, available for download from the Microsoft.com Web site, is the second CTP (Community Technology Preview) release of the Acrylic technology. Although Microsoft originally labeled the bits it made available in June of this year as "Beta 1," that build was not of beta quality and was actually a CTP build, said Key.
The new build features improvements in performance and stability based on user feedback, he said. Key said new features include simplified insertion of elements into PowerPoint and other Microsoft Office applications, improved pixel painting performance and document specifications for new documents, Microsoft said.
CTPs are releases of code that Microsoft is making available in between full-fledged beta builds. CTPs are typically not supported by Microsoft, but are aimed at developers who want to be on the bleeding edge.
Key said there have been 200,000 downloads of the Acrylic CTP since it was released in June. Acrylic runs under Windows XP SP2, but will ultimately target Windows Vista when it is available. Applications built using the early build of the tool can be used to build commercial applications as it is covered under Microsofts "Go Live" license.
Microsoft officials pre-announced delivery plans for Acrylic at the companys annual FAM (Financial Analyst Meeting) in late July.
Eric Rudder, senior vice president of server and tools, told FAM attendees of Microsofts plans to create a tool suite for designers.
"Were doing a new suite for designers; were going to call that Microsoft Expressions Studio. Well have some very cool tools that combine the best of Vector, some very cool tools for animation, and I think when people see the types of Web applications that people are going to be able to create on Longhorn and with WinFX technologies on Windows XP, I think people are going to be super excited about that, and thats all upside for us today because we dont really play there," Rudder said.