Expression Blend is NOT Visual Studio for Designers

Around the time that Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 were launched it appeared that Microsoft was clearly making the Visual Studio IDE the platform of choice for all developer tools.  Unfortunately (well this is yet to be seen) no one thought to tell the Expression team as it appears they have completely broken tradition with their user interface.  I haven’t actually gone and investigated to see whether they have in fact reused the VS shell but as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter whether they are using it or not as they seem to have broken all the conventions that the VS IDE brings to the table.

Just a couple of things I noticed in the first 30 seconds of working fighting Expression Blend:

  • Right-click seems to be a no-no, except where it’s allowed.  It would seem that there were are few Apple users on the Expression team that decided not to use the right mouse button.  For example right-clicking the tabs, which under VS gives you options such as Save, Close, Close All, Close All But This… Unfortunately this isn’t consistent as some objects do have a right-context menu.
  • The Window menu, which again under VS has a whole bunch of nice options, is again useless.  In particular if you want to Close All Documents
  • Lastly the windowing system in Expression Blend sux in comparison to the standard VS shell. In VS 2005 a lot of work went into allowing the user to pin/unpin, drag and rearrange the window layout to how they wanted to work.  In Expression Blend there is two default layouts, Design Workspace and Animation Workspace, and windows can be fixed or floating. 

I can understand why Microsoft has taken on a “designer” over “developer” approach to Expression Blend so as to attract designers across to working with WPF/Silverlight but I suspect that there are going to be just a few developers out there like me who spend just a few minutes cursing the lack of standard features in Expression Blend.  With only limited designer support in VS 2005 for WPF and Silverlight most developers will, at least initially, have to spend at least some of their time in Expression Blend.

Oh, and this post is courtesy of some time spent poking around Vincent Vergonjeanne’s BubbleFactory source code which he has kindly posted here at CodePlex.  Anyone interested in Silverlight should consider subscribing to the SilverlightOz mailing list, kindly hosted (in addition to the OzTFS mailing list) by Readify.

Leave a comment