We’re excited to see that many of you have started creating XAML-based Metro style apps using Blend. Our top priority was to get this early version of the tooling out to you as soon as possible so that you could get a picture of how you will be able to use Blend to create your XAML-based Metro style apps. This first release of Blend for XAML has a few bugs, some stability issues and it maintains a quality level more consistent with a Preview than a Beta. We are hard at work making improvements and stabilizing the product so you will see significant improvement in the next publicly available release. Of course, I can’t tell you when that will be but keep the feedback coming on our discussion forums and by filing bugs, as it will help us make sure we shake out all of the issues.
In this post I’ll give you an inside view into some of the implementation details and prioritization considerations that we employed so we could light up support for Windows 8 Metro style apps using XAML in Blend.
Comparing Blend support for Metro style apps to other platforms
There are a few features that you may have gotten used to creating when creating SL, WPF and Windows Phone apps in Blend that are not available when creating Metro style apps. Rest assured that our goal is to provide the same level of rich functionality and visual authoring capabilities for Metro style apps as you currently have for Windows Phone, Silverlight and WPF applications, we just have not had the time to get there with this first version of authoring support for Metro style apps.
Core authoring capabilities
For this release, we focused on core authoring capabilities that are shared with the Visual Studio XAML designer including object creation, layout, property editing and rich design times for controls specific to Metro style apps. We then prioritized enabling authoring visual states and creating animations for your applications using Blend. We made sure that Visual Studio provided the richest support for editing your XAML and code-behind files and are providing only minimal support for using a text-based editor to edit these files in Blend for Metro style apps.
We are not including support for the features available in the Blend SDK for this release. The Blend SDK includes features like Behaviors, font embedding, PathListBox and Shapes. We understand that Behaviors are an important part of your workflow for creating applications in Blend and we are already working on adapting our interactivity features so that they are available from both native and managed projects, in a pure WinRT fashion.
Additional Features: Sample Data and Illustrator Import
A couple of other areas that you may have used previously are creating Sample Data using the Data Pane and Illustrator import. While we won’t have support for either of these features in this release, you can use a previous release of Blend side by side with Blend for Windows 8 to generate sample data or to create XAML for your vector assets from Illustrator. There will be a follow up post detailing the differences and the minor tweaks you will need to make the files compatible with your Metro style app.
For this release we focused on getting the tools for building production-quality Metro style apps in your hands. Of course a very important part of building a great user experience is the ability to rapidly prototype and iterate on the design of an application using SketchFlow. While we are not providing a version of SketchFlow specific to Metro style apps, our commitment to iterative design and rapid prototyping is unchanged.
Hopefully I’ve been able to provide you with a little more context about what is currently supported and reassured you of the Blend team’s commitment to visual authoring and enabling you to create great user experiences.
I am personally very excited to see how all the talented application designers out there will take the Metro style guidelines and maximize a touch-first interface to create useful, usable and visually compelling apps for Windows 8 using Blend!
Lead Program Manager