• Price When Reviewed: 255 . 359

  • Pros: Support for Silverlight 1.0; storyboard and animation enhancements; split view and XAML editor improvements; font embedding; Visual Studio integration.

  • Cons: Silverlight 1.0 projects can’t access a lot of the new features; Windows only; new .NET 3D objects not fully implemented.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 6 out of 10We rate this 6 out of 10We rate this 6 out of 10We rate this 6 out of 10We rate this 6 out of 10 We rate this 6 out of 10

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When you work on the artboard, you’re actually writing XAML code that describes the page and its elements. A key enhancement in Blend 2 is the ability to view an open document in Design view and XAML view simultaneously. This split view is useful, not only for quick tweaks to the page layout, but also for learning to use XAML.

In Design view, you have a further choice of whether to use the Design workspace or the Animation workspace, depending on which part of the workflow you’re concentrating on. Each is customizable and fully scalable. Choosing the Animation workspace expands the Objects and Timeline panel and shifts the focus to the Interaction panel. Blend uses keyframe-based animation and, like Flash, uses interpolation to create a smooth visual transition.

To build animation into a Blend project, you create a storyboard, within which you set keyframes on a timeline to mark property changes. Version 2 has new ways to adjust the behaviour of storyboards, such as changing the repeat behaviour or reversing them.

It also introduces a Storyboard picker, which lets you choose which animation cycle you want to work on. You can also use the new key spline graphical editor to modify the easing behaviour between existing keyframes. Blend 2 has new tools for animating individual vertices (points and tangents) on a line. You can also convert between line and bézier segments, and add vertices to an existing animated path. All these enhancements add up to more elegant animated content.

Any WPF projects created in Blend 2 can be saved as a reusable asset called a Resource – this could be a gradient or other property setting that could be applied to another object, or an image that could be used as a visual brush resource. This means that you can reuse and apply consistent graphic elements throughout your project; unfortunately this facility is not supported in Silverlight 1.0 projects.