Microsoft readies design tool previews
Reaching out to graphical application designers, Microsoft on Tuesday is posting community technology previews (CTPs) of two tools from its Expression series.
The company anticipates that its Expression line can provide functionality similar to Adobe Photoshop and Corel's CorelDraw, but with a Windows-centric focus. Being offered for the first time as a CTP is Microsoft Expression Interactive Designer , which had been known as Sparkle. The company also is releasing a fourth CTP of Microsoft Expression Graphic Designer , which had been code-named Acrylic.
"Interactive Designer is a tool for professional designers to design the look and behavior of an application's user interface," including the way it looks as well as its behavior, said Forest Key, director of developer marketing for the Microsoft Developer Division.
Built for Microsoft's WinFX managed code framework, the tool supports 2-D and 3-D graphics and animation as well as providing control of layouts. XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) code is generated to describe the application's interfaces. Windows Presentation Foundation, which is due in the Vista version of Windows later this year, is the graphic engine that will run applications built with Expression Interactive Designer.
Expression Graphic Designer is a general-purpose tool for graphic design of a user interface. The new CTP exports XAML.
Graphics Designer is focused purely on graphics while Interactive Designer is geared toward designing interactions of the user interface, such as what happens when a user clicks on a button, according to Key. Data display also is designated.
Expression can integrate with Microsoft's Visual Studio development platform, enabling developers and designers to work together, Key said.
Microsoft will have its work cut out for it in positioning its Expression tools as a competitor to Adobe's offerings, according to Kerry Bodine, senior analyst at Forrester Research.
"The Expression tools are going to directly compete with Adobe's Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash. It's going to be a tough road for Microsoft because Adobe's products are the established tools in the design community," Bodine said in an e-mail.
"But the Expression tools combine many of the features of Adobe's products and go beyond this functionality by connecting the work of designers and programmers," said Bodine . "Microsoft is taking a bigger look at the development process and the role that designers play, and the Expression tools are a great first step towards leveraging the skills of both designers and programmers."
Microsoft is not yet saying when it will have a general release of its Expression technology. Also part of the Expression family is Microsoft Expression Web Designer, for designing Web applications. It was code-named Quartz.
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