Expression Blend Release Candidate Ships
Microsoft this week began shipping the release candidate for Expression Blend, its new design tool for building Windows user interfaces using the .NET Framework 3.0’s Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF).
WPF is the graphical subsystem for Windows going forward -- it comes as part of Vista but there are also versions for Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003. It is programmed using XAML (pronounced “zam ul”).
Expression Blend is built on WPF and can natively consume XAML files, according to statements on Microsoft’s site. XAML is short for eXtensible Application Markup Language, which is the XML dialect Microsoft uses for programming user interfaces in the .NET Framework 3.0 -- and thus in Vista.
Blend is the second of three new Expression design tools that Microsoft has under work as part of its forthcoming Expression Studio.
The company began shipping Expression Web, a tool for Web designers, in December. A third tool, Expression Designer, a professional illustration and graphic design tool aimed at letting designers build elements for both Web and desktop application user interfaces, is currently in beta test.
Microsoft says Blend and Designer, as well as another tool named Expression Media, which is designed to provide media asset management capabilities, will ship in the second quarter.
Portions of Expression Blend require use of Visual Studio 2005 or Visual Studio 2005 Express edition -- either the Visual Basic or C# edition. Express edition, which is free, is available here.
The release candidate of Expression Blend is available for download here.
Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.