• 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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Blend ships with an asset library of all the controls and media containers that you can use on the artboard (the most commonly used controls appear in the Toolbox), but there are far more controls and control styles available
in a WPF project than one based on Silverlight 1.0. This will expand when the next version of Blend supports Silverlight 2.0, but it’s worth remembering if you want to use a specific effect or element.

Any media files that you have added to your project will also be listed in the Asset Library for easy access. These can be added by drag-and-drop from the desktop to the artboard or Project panel – a welcome new feature in Blend 2.

In WPF applications – but again not in Silverlight 1.0 – you can also import and change 3D objects using the .OBJ format. It was already possible to add lights and change camera position and surface materials, but Blend 2 also supports a new range of 3D objects, because of enhancements to the .NET 3.5 framework.

However, these are not included in the Asset Library, and must be added to the project directly into the XAML code or by using Visual Studio 2008.

Microsoft is aiming Blend 2 at designers, but there is still a strong focus on the programmer’s role. You can work with code-behind files or custom control files in Blend to add a range of interactive options to WPF projects via the storyboard route, but to add this kind of control in Silverlight 1.0, you need to edit the supporting JavaScript files that Blend creates as part of the output files.

There’s an built-in JavaScript editor for this, or you can use Visual Studio 2008, which offers enhanced integration with Blend 2. This includes synchronized file changes – when you modify a Silverlight site project in Expression Blend 2 and Visual Studio at the same time, any changes that you make in Visual Studio are immediately applied in Expression Blend.

This obviously has advantages for a designer and programmer partnership, but it does highlight that Blend is not yet a pure design solution.