With the release of Windows 8 Customer Preview came the release Visual Studio 11 Beta. This beta release van with a new version of Expression Blend. To get it, just download the Visual Studio 11 Beta and install the Ultimate, Premium of Professional version. If you don’t have installed or don’t want to install Windows 8, you can install Visual Studio on Windows 7 now. It runs side by side with any previous installation of that.
There is one downside of running the Beta on Windows 7: you can’t develop WinRT applications. The file->new Project windows is even completely empty in this release. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work on Silverlight projects. You’ll just have to create them with Visual Studio for now, and than open them in Blend.
Unfortunately Windows Phone or WPF development seems not to be possible with this release, but please correct me if I’m wrong…
I’ve made a small list of changes when using Expression Blend for Visual Studio on Windows 7 when working on Silverlight projects.
The toolbar has only a few minor changes. The basics are the same, but there are a few controls that are removed or added to it.
The various panes look pretty much the same as in previous version of blend. There are a few rounded ‘corners’ removed. The changes are very minor, but somehow the UI feels different.
A new feature is the possibility to change the sorting of the properties in ‘Properties’ pane. You can now arrange them by ‘Category’, ‘Name’ or ‘Source’. If you’re used to “designing” ;) XAML applications in Visual Studio 2010 this feature might be familiar. Category is what was the way Expression Blend used to sort the properties and still is the default. Arranging by Name does what it says, sorting by name. The last option is also very useful. Arranging by Source groups properties that have their value set together, which makes it very easy to find these.
One other small change is that ‘View XAML’ is renamed to ‘View Code’ in various context menus.
A similar feature is added to the ‘advanced-options-peg’, the little square behind the properties. You can now jump directly to the XAML to where the value is defined.
At some point I noticed one of the pegs to be blue, instead of white, green or yellow. The tooltip revealed it was set with an ‘ambient’ value. You can’t do anything with it at this point, but I assume it indicates the value is set by some other resource. In this case by the Style.
Editing of grids is changed a little to. It has become a lot easier to add, move and changes columns and row of a grid. Just hover and click in the designer to change the settings of the column or row. When moving rows or columns around, the contents move along…
Well, that’s about that at this point. There aren’t that many changes in the Silverlight scenario, but at least there’s some improvement. A couple of features came over from visuals studio, a couple are entirely new. I guess most of the new features are focused at Metro and running Expression Blend on Windows 8. Let’s hope improvement will continue and more features will become available with future releases…