Monday, March 19, 2012

Visual Studio 11 vs. Expression Blend 4

I have seen several comments regarding the similarities between Visual Studio 11 and Expression Blend 4. 

Personally, I have spent very little time inside of Expression Blend since Microsoft released Silverlight support for Visual Studio.

In any case, I decided to open up Expression Blend 4 for myself to see what differences were present (if any).

The first thing I noticed upon opening a new project was that Expression Blend 4 (while similar) does not look THE SAME as Visual Studio 11.

While Expression Blend 4 is not nearly as colorful as Visual Studio 2010 or any of the other Expression Studio 4 products, it still applies selective use of color

Below is a screenshot from Expression Web 4:

Notice that though the IDE uses black and white, several elements continue to use color throughout the User Interface.

Below are some screenshots from Expression Blend:

So as you can see from the screenshots, Expression Blend is far more extreme in removing the use of color, but it continues to intersperse color throughout the IDE.

Some of the notable points where it continues to use color are the following:

  1. New project icons continue to use color
  2. The content pane and the icons surrounding the content pane continue to use color
  3. The toolbox items also continue to use color
  4. Some of the tool panes also continue to intersperse color through the use of various icons
Overall, though both Expression Web and Expression Blend cannot be deemed as "pretty IDEs", they certainly can be considered functional and usable.  Working with them seems reasonably comfortable and natural, so Ido not feel like I am straining my eyes just to distinguish content.

Of course, as you can tell, this is a very different tack than what was used with Visual Studio 11.  Instead, of using some color well placed throughout the IDE, they have followed a much more extreme approach of removing nearly all of the color in the IDE!  (

Even the new project and item templates no longer have color in Visual Studio 11!!

So, if Microsoft chooses to follow the path that they followed with the Expression Studio suite, I would be OK with that, but the current state of the IDE just seems far, far too extreme to me.

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