Among the raft of announcements at the recent Microsoft PDC conference are the new visual tools that would be used by developers and authors for Windows Presentation Foundation. They include a new version of an existing screen painting product, plus new visual tools for building UI controls and layout.
At this point, the product family, named Expression, only have code names evoking images of Pixie Dust. One of the tools is now available for Community Preview, while the others are to come later. Although he couldn’t pin down exact release dates, according to Wayne Smith, senior European product manager for Expression tools, the goal is to get them out on the street around the time when Vista itself is released.
The tools include Acrylic Graphic Designer, a new version of a vector and bit mapped graphics design tool that Microsoft first acquired in 2003. Used by authors to paint screens and use special visual effects, Acrylic obviously provides support for the Vista WinFX programming APIs, while adding a few bells and whistles such as the ability to remove ghosting effects when digital camera photos are stitched together. This tool is now available in Community Technology Preview.
The next tool in the family, for now dubbed Sparkle Interactive Designer, is the visual user interface tool for Vista. It will provide the ability to create user interfaces with animations, 3D graphics, and mixed media. It also provides the tools to build the Vista widgets that will become the modern day successors to the Visual Basic and Active X Controls of Windows generations past.
Rounding out the family will be the code-named Quartz, which handles the layouts of web pages. It can accept XAML files from Acrylic and Sparkle to build rich web pages using the native Windows Presentation Foundation formats. And it will support the AJAX style of more generic rich web clients that is becoming a popular alternative to the numerous proprietary schemes being hatched by Microsoft, Macromedia, and IBM-backed Laszlo, among others.