Is The Blend 3 Trial Worth The Download?
If you’ve spoken with me at any time over the last year at a technical conference or User Group you’ll know that I can’t go more than a few minutes without mentioning Microsoft Expression Blend.
I was first introduced to WPF in 2006 and I was stunned by the results. I couldn’t wait to try it myself, but at the time all I saw was XAML, and frankly I had no desire to develop business apps in markup. Fortunately, in 2007 I saw Blend 1.0 and the flood gates opened: I had to have it, and I soon did. Since then I have become a Blend evangelist. It is my mission to preach the rich chocolaty goodness of Blend to all the people of the land.
OK, that may seem overkill, but in all honesty I cannot see developing WPF or Silverlight apps without Blend. If I had to code strictly in XAML I would still be a Windows Forms developer. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people have done meaningful work without Blend, but I would never be one of them.
Is the Blend 3 trial worth the download?
Naturally, Blend is my current topic of choice for presentations, and I get plenty of questions about Blend from fellow developers. This morning I received a question that I thought deserved sharing:
Are the blend 3 features worth the trouble of installing the trial version? Or wait for the official release?
This is a great question! The requestor is currently using Blend 2 and wants to know if the updates from Blend 2 to Blend 3 are so awesome that they must have them now, or can they wait until GA.
My answer is, in typically non-committal fashion, “it depends.”
If you are dabbling with Blend and WPF or Silverlight 2, then you do not need to rush out and try Blend 3. Don’t get me wrong, you could still benefit from it, but I wouldn’t consider it urgent. You can wait for the RTM.
[NOTE: If you are working on Silverlight 2, be sure to read all the warning labels before moving to Silverlight 3: you can’t go backwards once you install the Silverlight Tools for VS 2008. In your case, you need to wait for VS2010, which is supposed to allow both environments.]
If you are a dedicated WPF or Silverlight developer/designer, by which I mean the bulk of your projects fall into one of these two categories, then by all means you should be using Blend 3 already. You can install Blend 3 alongside Blend 2 with no ill effects.
My Favorite Features
I spend a great deal of my time in Blend, and now even more so with Blend 3. Here are the list of features I use the most in Blend 3:
- Vastly improved Data tab (including SampleDataSource and easier databinding)
- VSM for WPF (mostly built in, still need to add a reference to WpfToolkit.dll)
- Artboard integration is finally usable – you can actually click on
the element you want to use
- The BreadCrumb makes working with Templates a lot easier
- Code Editor – now you can edit C# inside Blend, including Intellisense. I don’t advocate it for serious coding, but simple changes and events are quite feasible
There are probably more, but these are the ones that seem to most enhance my daily experience. There are, of course, some bigger fish to fry that I have yet to really take advantage of like Behaviors and SketchFlow.
If you are in a position to do so, I would try Blend 3. Trial downloads of Expression Studio 3 are available for 60 days, and pre-order purchasing is currently available.
I’ll be writing more about these features in future posts. I’d like to add some Video Tutorial too, so feel free to leave requests in the comments below.