Author: Brennon Williams
Aimed at: Intermediate .net programmer
Pros: Attractive presentation, practical approach
Cons: Will date quickly once Silverlight 5 released
Reviewed by: Ian Elliot
Expression Blend is a tool that lots of programmers would find a useful addition to Visual Studio but they tend to be worried about the fact that it's "designers' territory". This book should help you find out what Blend is all about and it could even be useful to the non-programming designer.
Chapter 1 makes an odd start to the book. It explains why you can trust the future of WPF and Silverlight. It is the first time that Microsoft's indecision concerning what is happening to application development in Windows 8 has made it into a book. Perhaps it will be the only mention within a book because in a very short time Microsoft should be announcing its intentions at the Build 2011 conference. Whatever the future holds there is still life in both Silverlight and Expression Blend - if only because of Windows Phone 7.
The first thing to say is that this book is in full color and the it looks good. The color does help you see what is going on in Blend but most of the time it isn't really needed. Chapter 2 starts off with the odd topic of changing the Expression Blend interface. It also serves as a tour of the interface and features on offer. The real work starts with chapter 3 with a simple introduction to using Blend to work with a Button. The presentation is very "step-by-step" and many readers will find the detail more than is needed - but if you like the step-by-step approach you wont be disappointed. There is also a good amount of discussion surrounding the step-by-steps to give you some idea of what you are doing. Overall it works.
Chapter 4 is a tour of the standard UI components - border, checkbox, etc.. and chapter 5 is all about how you use layout panels to group and organise the components into something that works. If you already know your WPF/Silverlight components and layout panels then there is nothing new for you other than how to work with them via Blend.
Chapter 6 deals with a more Blend specific topic - how to work with styles and templates n blend. Chapter 7 does the same for parts - a much underused model of component design - and Chapter 8 completes the set with states. These three chapters are the core of the book and if you are a programmer they explain the difference between coding and using Blend to do the same job - which it does in an easier and more sophisticated way.
Chapter 9 moves on to consider the design process and how to make good use of SketchFlow - a tool I personally have never managed to get on with. Chapter 10 is more "hard core" and deals with the horrifying topic of data - sample data, data templates and binding. Chapter 11 moves back to less technical topics with a look at animations and transitions and then Chapter 12 covers shapes paths and effects.
The book rounds off with skins, themes and resource dictionaries, advanced controls and a final chapter on Windows Phone 7.
If you are a hard line programmer who knows a lot about WPF/Silverlight you can most likely skip this book - it isn't very deep and it doesn't go into very much coding. It is more technical than the usual "design stuff using Blend" book, however, and this might put some off. It is very suitable for the intermediate WPF/Silverlight programmer who is prepared to put a little effort into learning not just the ideas but how to put them into practice using Blend.
The only problem with this book is that it is likely to be out of data soon because of the release of Silverlight 5 and Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango). However this isn't a big problem as the book is a good guide to the general principles.