What you might have missed at Mix09

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The first and foremost thing that you missed if you didn’t attend Mix09 was the opportunity to hang out with Barry, Bruce and myself.  If you were at Mix09 and didn’t come over and say hello, I can only assume it had something to do with the unnatural resemblance Barry shares with Dr. Evil.

For me, the two big things at Mix were Expression Blend improvements (preview) and Silverlight 3 beta.  If you are interested in something other than those two products check out both keynotes and all of the session videos on the Mix09 site.  For a nice non-technical change of pace I strongly recommend watching the Day 2 keynote around minute 32 for a great example of UX design.  Deborah Adler explains how she set out to change the design of prescription bottles after her grandmother mistakenly took her husbands medication instead of her own.

Expression Blend 3 Preview

Expression Blend took some really big steps to become a more mature product for both developers and designers.  For a good overview of what’s new in blend check out Douglas Olsen and Christian Schormann in their ‘The Future of Expression Blend’ session.

SketchFlow

Not actually available in the preview. Sketchflow is an amazingly simple way to sketch out some rough UI designs and publish them in a manner that allows you to actually navigate around your app (no code required, but XAML is actually produced) and also provides a mechanism for stakeholders to leave feedback on each of your designs.  Hard to do this functionality justice, so be sure to checkout Christian Schormann’s blog, his presentation at Mix09 or the Day 1 keynote presentation (About minute 97), this had a lot of buzz during the week.

A Better IDE

Blend 3 also went a long way to make the integration of developers and designers much smoother.  Developers get Code-Behind Support and TFS Functionality (designers should find this helpful as well hopefully).  Designers get SketchFlow and the ability to import files from Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.  Blend can parse these files and replicate the gradients, shapes, layers, etc and create Xaml.  A demo of the Adobe support can be found in the Keynote Day 1 (again around the 97 minute mark) and the ‘Integrating Microsoft Expression Blend with Adobe Creative Suite‘ session.  Designers (and those of us that pretend to be) will also enjoy the new simple Sample Data panel to generate sample data, or read it from an xml file.  This gives you a very simple way to see your Xaml in the designer exactly how you would see in the actual application.  There is a sample in the Keynote Day 1 (minute 97, it was an exciting point of the keynote).

Silverlight 3

There was a beta release of Silverlight 3 made available at Mix this year as well as a new drop of the Silverlight Toolkit. Shawn Burke has a great breakdown of the Toolkit drop and the work they did to make it work with Silverlight 2 and 3.  Silverlight 3 has made many changes that will make working in Silverlight a lot less painful, bringing it more in line with WPF.  Checkout the ‘What’s New In Microsoft Silverlight 3’ session video for a great overview of all the features.  The big features that I found interesting were Out Of Browser Support (video), which Bruce explains isn’t really out out of browser, but is still a great feature for giving your Silverlight app that WPF application feel.  You can couple out of browser with the new Offline support (video) and really turn your Silverlight application into an almost fully fledged desktop application that can run across several different operating systems. 

Application Navigation Framework is great way to get some built-in navigation between pages, I’m really loving this feature.  Tim Heuer shows you how to do some URI routing with the deep-linking that is available with this framework as well.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of info out on the internet about this feature, but you can create a new Silverlight Navigation Project and the stubs it creates will explain everything you need to know.

The other features that will probably be of interest to you include Perspective 3D for easy, yet stunning, 3D transforms, the Blur Effect, Element-to-Element Binding (yay! It’s about time), Merged Resource Dictionaries, and Style Inheritance.

Mix09 showed us that in the next few months as Silverlight 3 and Expression Blend 3 get released, the designer-developer workflow gets easier, and you no longer have any excuses to avoid using Silverlight in your personal or business applications.  If you haven’t even looked at Silverlight yet, get cracking.  If you want to try SL3 and still deploy SL2 apps, check out this article by Jeff Wilcox.