I’ve been so caught up in what I’ve been working on that I’ve not really stopped to post much about my experiences with this newly released preview of the Expression Blend series.

Blend 3 has a whole lot of new shiny features.  From the ability to see where the gradient stops are right ON the object itself as well as the ability to move them actively on that object, to the 3-axis 2.5D manipulation of objects for Silveright 3 – this new release to Blend is definitely one that’ll set someone off balance for a while to get used to the newer product.

There are 2 new features that I’d like to dedicate this post to.  The ability to have blend directly consume Photoshop and Illustrator files.

I’ll start with photoshop and its importability.  In some cases, I’ll pop into Photoshop for its flexibility and quickly design an interface or graphic.  Blend still has a quirk where paths are being manipulated that drives me to having a litter of kittens, so I’ll sometimes do my pathing in photoshop or illustrator, depending on what else I’ll be doing with the comp.

Well I recently had a project where I did just that – for Something Spacial.  I created the comp in photoshop and decided to use the blend Import tool for Photoshop Documents (PSD) and though it was nice to get a head-start in laying everything out in blend – it still didn’t give enough of one.  I ended up needing to create many of my pathed elements new because they didn’t quite import retaining the integrety of the object into blend.  My gradients were missing, the paths were disjointed, and did I mention my gradients?

There was a lot of work put in and I think I would have spent less time had I just created it all from scratch.  I do like that they’ve added the feature, but I think that the story of most software releases with new features applies – the first release isn’t always the best release.  I’ll be optimistic and say that they’ve gotten quite a great feature started, and I can’t wait for the next itteration or two where the full features are realized and implemented as well as honed to near perfection.

The illustrator file import tool I haven’t had as much real-time experience with and part of it is that I’ve been reluctant.  I already have a really nice plugin created that can export my illustrator files, maintaining full integrety of the object, and directly porting it into xaml.  It works well, a little messy on the XAML side, so I’ve had to clean that up a bit, but otherwise, everything maintained full design integrity.  So why risk it by using the import tool?

Once I get the latest SDK pack for Silverlight 3 installed, I’ll blog about the illustrator import.

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