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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Announcing the New Webcast

by Don Burnett

Coming Soon to this Blog...


Conversation, "How-to's", special guests and what you really need to know about what's going on in the ever expanding .Net Designer Community..

There will be a bi-weekly pod-cast, with every month an alternating video-cast.

Friday, October 26, 2007


by Don Burnett

Over at the Universal Desktop Blog there is a whole bunch of talk about the newly released Vista Sales figures. I don't doubt these at all or find that they were "cherry picked" (as some commenters suggested). Office 2007 it's a big success. People find the new RIBBON and smart features easier to use. These figures are pretty amazing considering that Windows Server 2008 won't ship until early next year, when it's expected the enterprise folks will start heavy migrations to Vista in the office..

If you really want to see some great examples of more WPF enabled applications that are out there, I seriously suggest you take a look at the HI-RES version of the WPF Momentum Video.. It has quite a few WPF applications that you probably never knew about.. I talk about applications here as they are appropriate, but if you really want to get an idea of who's adopting WPF and why, this a is a great place to start. It's a big download but worth the bandwidth.

Or you can just watch it streamed here in Silverlight..

You also might find Tim Sneath's Slides on WPF very useful reading, as they point out some things about some of the great visualization applications in 3D that people are doing with WPF..

FREE WPF TRAINING AT MIX University- No Registration Required


Now if you just don't have the time to attend a class, Microsoft has put a very valuable resource online over at Mix University if you want to develop for WPF and it's FREE of Charge..

You can't beat this if you want to get your hands around developing for WPF, it's a great thing and should speed further adoption..

Here is an outline of the sessions (from the experts at Microsoft):

WPF Bootcamp

Keynote: Windows Presentation Foundation
Ian Ellison-Taylor

A Lap Around Windows Presentation Foundation
Rob Relyea

A Lap Around Microsoft Expression Blend
Pete Faraday

Building WPF Applications Part I
Ian Griffiths

Building WPF Applications Part II
Ian Griffiths

LAB: Building WPF Applications

LAB: Building WPF XAML Browser Applications

LAB: Interactive Fabrikam Catalog in Blend

Controls, Styles and Templates
Kevin Moore

LAB: Creating a Button with Expression Blend and Design

LAB: Creating a Glass Button in Blend

Data Binding with WPF
Beatriz de Oliveira Costa

WPF Partner Showcase
Tim Sneath

Documents, Text and the Reading Experience
Kevin Gjerstad

LAB: Using Data Binding in WPF

LAB: Reading Experience

Windows Forms Interoperability
Scott Morrison

Visual Studio Orcas Enhancements for WPF
Mark Wilson-Thomas, Mark Boulter

WPF Performance
Adam Smith

Animation and Media
Peter Blois

3D Graphics
David Teitlebaum, Kurt Berglund

LAB: Creating Rich 2D and 3D Content with Windows Presentation Foundation

LAB: 3D Graphics

Real World Experiences - Yahoo Messenger
Eric Burke

Real World Experiences - Scripps Healthcare
Adam Calderon

Real World Experiences - Vertigo Family Tree Explorer
Scott Stanfield

Real World Experiences - Dynamics Modeler
Jonathan Russ

Real World Experiences - North Face In-Store Explorer
Darren David

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Designing with Silverlight, in of course Silverlight...

by Don Burnett

Over at Design with Silverlight, the guys have been very busy creating some great design tutorials. What's really exciting about this site is they really do believe in Silverlight, right down to the website itself designed totally in Silverlight. There are not only great samples here but great code as well.



They have included a great Silverlight "VR" sample that is reminiscent of Apple's QuickTime VR that's pretty cool as well. Check out the photo gallery wall app when you are there, it's all cool samples and they show you how to use it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Meeting Place Time for Michigan Interactive Designers

by Don Burnett

We have an exciting meeting coming up for October, we will be doing a group project, with Electric Rain's StandOut.

MID October 2007 Meeting

Thursday October 25, 2007, from 7:00PM to 9:00PM at the Grand Traverse Pie Company Ann Arbor Location

Our next meeting will be held October 25, 2007. Time 7:00pm to 9:00pm at the Grand Traverse Pie Company. There is free parking in the front of the building. We will be discussing the following Topics. They have reserved the entire back room for our meeting space.

  • Electric Rain StandOut Presentation Solution- Creating design kits using Microsoft Expression Blend.
  • WPF in Action with Visual Studio 2008 beta 2 review
  • Usability Testing with's Morae
  • LINQ and Silverlight, XML
  • ASP.NET, AJAX, & Silverlight
  • Creating a Video Player in WPF and Silverlight

Monthly Happenings

We are at a new location with great WIFI, easy to reach by I-94 Expressway...

Group Project for the Meeting:

Making your own animated presentation template for StandOut, using Expression Blend/WPF..


Bring your Laptop with .NET 3.0 or 3.5 installed
Electric Rain Standout beta 2 (a free download)
Expression Design Trial or Full copy
Expression Blend Trial or Full Copy
PowerPoint 2007 OPTIONAL

There will be a tutorial, followed by an opportunity to create your own template. At the end of the night we will vote as a group on the best three and they will be given a prize. So here's your chance to show everyone your design goodness and learn Standout.

Meeting Location:

Grand Traverse Pie Company

Thursday October 25th, 2007

Meeting Time: 7pm - 9pm

291 N. Zeeb Road

Ann Arbor, MI 48103


  • 2007 October Meeting
  • Please arrive after 6:00 pm to assure good seating. We have the backroom seating area reserved..
  • Bring your laptop computer to use the free Wi-Fi.
  • Presentations will be available on Windows Vista's Meeting Space
  • Meet and caucus with other Designers and Developers


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cool WPF Twitter Messaging Application

by Don Burnett

Because of all of the time spent instant messaging, my favorite form of messaging is quickly becoming Twitter. All of my friends who I actually take time to correspond with are on it, and it has gotten a lot attention and there has been multiple clients for it. I think my favorite WPF twitter application is called Witty by Alan Le. I got to spend sometime with Alan at Mix 07 at the lunch table. He's very talented and an authority on WPF, he told us all about his experiences developing Vertigo's Family.Show Application, he is a developer with great insight and is very enjoyable to listen to..

Witty makes Twitter Wonderful..

Here's an example of the public timeline and the update function.. I recommend if you "TWEET" you check this one out.. If you don't know what a TWEET is, it's time you catch up! It's quickly become more than "jargon"..


If you wonder how this works you can look at the source code here... This is pretty much like the application I had started in Expression Blend a few months ago, but more supportable. So please check it out! Alan Le has done a wonderful job with the app, and it's a great example of WPF "R-I-A" coding. It's fast, and I like how it separates direct message replies.

Sure I could probably use something else, but I think it's cool looks smart and it is a Windows platform app and seems to be taking less of my system resources than other clients I have tried. I like Alan's work tremendously.

Tag.. Your It! ..More Goodness from Alan

If you have a data enabled WPF application, you might have a reason to create and TAG data in your application. Alan has not only created such a sample application but blogged about it and made the source code available for you to look at how it's done..

RichTextBox in WPF MIA?? No longer

To say that Alan Le is not a busy man is an understatement, in a really great article on his blog about Commands in WPF he has also released an enhanced RichTextBox based on the original WPF SDK sample and extended it nicely. It can be found here... If you are not subscribed to Alan's Blog you should be..

Saturday, October 20, 2007

3D Collaboration in WPF

by Don Burnett

Have you ever had to work on a project with companies many miles from you or possibly not in the same hemisphere? Well remote collaboration leads to some extremely challenging situations. During every part of a project you may need to view progress, do sign-offs, update things quickly. The Internet makes that easy but if you are an architect, and engineer, or even an interior designer. Have you ever wanted better control and more discrete reviews or a design project?

Enter InterKnowlogy with 3D Collaborator..


If you are working on a team project you might need to annotate parts or portions, make changes, and do team reviews of work. The folks at InterKnowlogy understood this problem and when they saw WPF knew that it was perfect for a real time 3D collaboration tool. One that understand 2D and 3D AutoCAD files and would let you examine each detail of a drawing and make comments link to each individual piece, with information.. The tool allows for approvals and quick review with both 2D and 3D models.


As you can see above you get to see the Drawing sheet with Exterior Perspectives. The drawing is in real time so the speed is instantaneous. You can also dive into the structure panel to isolate individual parts of the image. Each gets a properties panel where you can make notes, link to URLs, create identification parts.


Here is another example this time in real time 3D the rendered file can be moved around with perspective and individual elements of the drawing can be selected and annotated. This is a very quality product. The annotation capabilities are quite flexible, and this application allows you to annotate on the surface of those AutoCAD© DWF drawings. The annotations are persisted in a file system, a SQL server Database or SharePoint 2007. With it's annotation capability it allows the user to attach annotations in the form of documents, SharePoint discussions or URLs to the exact selected spot on the AutoCAD© DWF drawing. In the SharePoint 2007 version, the application leverages the collaborative environment and provides data in the context of the project not in the context of its storage. It is a feature rich application that allows users to drag and drop data into the context of the project. The WPF application then handles the display annotations of the underlying storage.

This is a great example of a Rich Client application that does some great things for approvals and can be used in about every step of a design project.

They have a demo available for download as well.. It's a one-click install.. This is a great application and if you are a 3D designer you need to check out this application, it can help you through both your design, engineering, and approval processes. It's a Rich Client Application in real time 2D and 3D. You won't find this kind of 3D integration on other so-called "R-I-A" platforms at the moment at least..

Friday, October 19, 2007

MORAE brings you More..

by Don Burnett

MoreaIcon Usability test and user experience research can very time consuming in any design and development environment. Morae by is software for usability testing and user experience research that helps you identify site and application design problems and share them with stakeholders.

Usability is such a big category these days, and even the government has gotten into the act with standards for this. If you are a developer either for platform applications or web applications you cannot afford to ignore this.

There are not many products that make this process easier to work through, when I say "usability" people confuse this "accessibility" which really isn't quite the same thing.. You need to find something that will be helpful at measuring these metrics. MORAE brings software that helps to automate this process in a good way.

What tools does Morae bring to the party?

You can instantly calculate and graph standard usability measurements, so you can focus on understanding results. This is important especially if you have a large project and the metrics come from a monumental set of data.

The graphing and visualization features are really very powerful. They allow your gathered data to be almost immediately understandable and meaningful. You can then take these to your team and help them to focus on areas of need of improvement.


But it's not all just graphing, the product comes with a video recorder option that lets you create custom studies, test cases, and record onscreen activity during test sessions. You can observe the interactivity also on other machines over a LAN, so you can keep the test environments separate, to keep the results as "scientific" as possible. The recorder option also allows notes and markers to be made during recordings, to mark events and user interactions and how the interface can respond.


This is a very well received application, with users such as the United States Air Force Academy and Stanford University. If you want to read more, they have a great white paper that you can read. I really recommend if you are interested in Usability that you check this program out, whether you develop for the web, platform applications this is a great place to start making your life easier and more productive for you team immediately.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

News of the Day


Over at Apple's news page they have announced an SDK for the iPhone and iPod Touch that will allow third parties to create native applications to be developed that will be installable on the two devices. The SDK should be available in February. These new applications will require some form of security or application signing for the applications to be installed in these devices.

Day of Dot Net This Saturday

The Day of Dot Net Event returns to Ann Arbor's Washtenaw Community College this Saturday.. It's a great even for developers. It's sponsored by the following .NET user groups.

Great Lakes Area .NET User Group
Ann Arbor .NET Developer Group
Northwest Ohio .NET User Group
Greater Lansing User Group .net
West Michigan .NET Users Group

This is a great event if you are an integrator or a developer, it's kind of disappointing there are no design tracks. That kind of tells me developers regionally haven't realized that they need to embrace the designer community more. I believe there should be more interaction between designers and developers. Last year I held out hope that they might see the light on this, but if the fact that there is no designer track this year, it probably means that the developers probably haven't "embraced" the designer community who is doing Windows UI development as well.

There is one introduction to Expression Blend, so at least there is a mention. It's sad to think that beyond design there is no User Experience or User Centered design track with the design stuff here. The guy doing the track is a C# MVP with Microsoft and is well known in the C# community.

If you are a developer you should be there, it's worth the time. If you are a UI designer, interaction designer, etc. I still suggest you attend our meetings. You will get great information on user centered UI development and Expression Studio, Expression Blend, etc.

DevCares Event for October (Friday the 19th, 2007 from 8:30am to 12:30pm) Southfield Microsoft office

Presented by: Microsoft DevCares Series

Visual Studio 2008 & LINQ

At the core of most applications developed is the data. Although programming languages have evolved over the years to include features that allow developers to easily utilize object-oriented programming techniques in order to represent complex models, accessing and integrating the information for these models into our applications remains a complex and daunting task. Traditionally, developers have used multiple tools for exploring, understanding, and accessing data, and yet another tool for writing code that integrates that data into the application.

With Visual Studio 2008 and the .NET Framework 3.5, a general purpose query facility is being introduced to alleviate the complexities of integrating data in our applications, known as language-integrated query, or LINQ. Join us for this event as we provide you with an overview of this exciting new technology, and show you how you can take advantage of it to reduce the complexities of data integration and improve your productivity.

Session 1: LINQ Overview

In this session, we’ll introduce LINQ, and provide an overview of its concepts and fundamentals, and how it can help developers increase productivity when working with data sources. The overview is followed by demonstrations of utilizing LINQ to connect with a variety of data sources using LINQ to Objects, including LINQ to Object, LINQ to File System, LINQ to Event Log, and LINQ to Flickr.

Session 2: LINQ to SQL and LINQ to Entities

In this session, we’ll show how to use LINQ to connect with our existing enterprise data architecture. We’ll explore the use of the object mapping tools available for LINQ, including LINQ to SQL, allowing us to work with Microsoft SQL Server databases, and LINQ to Entities, allowing us to query data exposed as objects through the ADO.NET Entity Framework across SQL Server and various third party data stores.

Session 3: LINQ to XML

In this session, we’ll explore how LINQ can be used to help integrate XML-based data in our applications. After covering the basics of XML construction, we’ll dive into XML Axes, Querying, Caching Namespaces, as well as some advanced topics including Extensibility and Load / Save Options.

Why you should attend:

I recommend this training session because the LINQ to XML session and LINQ to entities (which I have spoke about before with the Astoria CTP) is very important to data exchange and databinding with Silverlight.

New WPF book by Manning Publishing

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak at this book and I really recommend that you pre-order this book right away. The 20 or so chapters of this book is great.. It's the first book to focus on WPF with Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5's new features. The examples provided in the book is what makes this book great, from a simple calculator to a top of the line business application. It tells you everything you need to know about development. I highly recommend this book. Get it early.

Personal Note of Thanks:

This blog is getting a lot of attention. I would like to thank George Bolsch, who is helping to organize the User Experience track at ├średev 2007, for inviting me to speak at their conference in Sweden. This is Sweden's largest developer conference and it's well known and attended by many development folks all over the European continent. Sweden is famously known for it's design influence and it sounds like a great place to visit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Office Applications on the Web with Silverlight?

Silverlight is making the web glow at a rate we haven't seen before. If you are a .NET programmer you probably have already read my post about Netika's GOA Winforms for Silverlight that lets you port winforms windows platform application projects to Silverlight 1.1 on the web..

Well, the company has come through with a new DEMONSTRATION of the power of their product. They have put together an entire PowerPoint style application and launched it on the Web as a demonstration of the power of the company's Winforms for Silverlight.. If you have Silverlight 1.1 installed you can view the application by CLICKING HERE.


This is really amazing to look at and play with it proves you could create web based versions of standard "Office" type applications very easily with GOA-Winforms if you are a .NET programmer. This really shows how ahead of the game for "R-I-A" applications that Silverlight 1.1 for .NET is. This really shows how far the .NET programmer is ahead of the game for development over other so-called "R-I-A" platforms (gasping for air anyone?). Before anyone says it, yes they have a version of the application that outputs to Flash runtimes, but the reality of it, is the GOA Winforms product is aimed squarely at the .NET programmer using Visual Studio as their development enviornment.

I have to say this company and product continues to impress me. Go over and play with the demo, you will be amazed right down to the online "collaboration" menu on this demonstration application. If you are developing real applications with Visual Studio and need to port them to the Web GOA Winforms for Silverlight. This puts "R-I-A" development on a whole new level which isn't possible in other RIA platforms, because of the sheer maturity of the windows platform controls. I'd love to see moved to this format, because it's very possible they could do this and in my opinion it would put other so-called "photo" retouching type applications for the web to shame, just because of what can already be done here..

This is a great development tool, and it's all available now..

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Electric Rain StandOut Steps Up

by Don Burnett

Today Electric Rain introduced a public beta of their StandOut Presentation solution. StandOut lets you create very compelling and visually exciting presentations. Why am I talking about it here? Well it's a very new professional WPF application and it integrates with the Expression Studio line including Expression Blend. You can actually use Blend with it to produce presentation templates (Design Kits).

StandOut Presentation Solution consists of two software applications: StandOut Designer Edition. For business, StandOut Presenter Edition enables placement of messaging and content into design kits. The results you can achieve with this software is very cool. It allows you to mix design with content to deliver extremely high quality presentations. The user interface is first rate with a drag and drop design surface.

One of the most impressive features of the Designer is that it imports PowerPoint designs, so if you have a presentation in PowerPoint that you want to enhance it will import slides. You get the full power of WPF with this application and the quality of the output will put your presentations ahead of the game of anyone *JUST* using PowerPoint alone.

I will have a more in-depth walk through upcoming. The big advantage of this program is the change in the presentation design workflow, you can have a designer setup the presentation for you with the designer program. The presenter version doesn't even need to go back to design, to edit and change the presentation, if you have fluid changing information in your presentation this program can help you to make changes on the fly if necessary while keeping the integrity of the presentation.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

RIA Controversy -Continued

By Don Burnett

I just went over to the MS MossyBlog and read the latest comments over there, and while I agreed with Scott on the "RIA" terminology thing, I am not sure that I currently agree with the rest of what's happening over there exactly. While his points are very succinct and if I were Scott I'd probably be drawing the same conclusions. I know Ryan and I know he tries to keep everything as balanced as he possibly can especially with his current employer. I believe in both Ryan and Scott and love to read what both have to say. There is room for everyone here..

Here's where my opinion comes in:  I believe you can't look at press/commentary today and assume that information presented is without some point of view or agenda. If you look at cable news today you'll notice everyone has a different take on things whether it be CNN or Fox News.  I don't believe there is anything really wrong with, and having differing points of view actually gives us an opportunity to make up our own minds on things.. I really like reading Ryan Stewart's work. He is very insightful, and opinionated just like me and everyone else.

At the end of the day, we all are trying to do the same things, sometimes through a different company or a different technology, we can all learn from each other and work together and because of product competition we all as "consumers" end up with better products and technologies.

My point of bringing up the RIA definition thing in my columns here and elsewhere is not to "score points" for Microsoft or Adobe for that matter, but just to make the point that neither company really "own" the terms and both have appropriated usage and changed the meanings to fit their own strategies. I also pointed out that these strategies are very different. I believe Microsoft has been using "Rich Interactive Applications" since the days of MPC and more recently to talk about their "Software and Services Strategy". While, some years ago a Macromedia guy (most know him as the father of Cold Fusion), used the term and changed it to reflect "Internet" based rich applications. I pointed out the difference between the Microsoft term (which has been around since the original days of the Commodore-Amiga Multimedia computer and the ORIGINAL Apple Macintosh) and the Adobe term, really are different takes. Adobe's has been embraced to reflect the company's "Internet" focus.

But neither company "invented" the term "R-I-A", in it's original meaning "Rich Interactive Applications". I also stated that people still say "R-I-A" around the world and mean "Interactive" not "Internet" . Both terms have been defined and they are both valid. One really isn't an UPDATE of the other. They are different and since they are both still valid and used differently by different people, we should all understand that (the point of it in the first place)..

I have used Adobe products over the years after I moved from the Amiga platform, and I have always loved some of their products, but they don't always adapt well. I would say the same with Microsoft. There is never a "One size fits all" for everyone. Trying to use Photoshop or Flash to prototype the UI for a "Windows Platform App" for instance (especially a non-Internet  enabled one) has never worked out well for me.. But I can sure layout a photograph or a diagram with either. It's all about what you use things for and some are better than others. A current example of this is what I hear about Thermo and Blend from the Interaction Design community who rarely does anything but define how a design should work. They aren't happy with the current crop of products because they can't create and enforce their design rules in the products. They are still stuck in products like Visio for their work and can't move forward and be part of the new work flow as easily. My point here is we all have a long way to go.

As for Ryan and Scott, I'd love to get them both together in a Game of Guitar Hero II, I hear they both play a mean game of it :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rich Interactive Applications (Or why Scott is right!)

by Don Burnett

Over on Scott Barnes' Blog he talks about why he uses the terminology "Rich Interactive Applications" versus "Rich Internet Applications" when using the term RIA. It's really not a slight at anyone who may have coined the term "RIA", but interactive rich applications have been around forever and before the Internet even.. We used to call these multimedia applications and they started out on floppies, migrated to CDs and DVDs and now have evolved to the global network. Ask the folks who used to use HyperCard, or the folks who used educational authoring systems...

Rich Interactive Applications also represents a diversified solution, rather than just the Internet as as delivery medium. This includes mobile, and many different delivery mediums. One of the things that Microsoft realized with the Expression Studio product line is they wanted a way to consistently allow graphical assets to be able to transfer seamlessly across mediums, wether it be the Web, Windows Platform Applications, and whatever medium might be next. That's why they created XAML and it's such a good way to work between multiple delivery mediums (not just the Internet). So they were trying to solve a bigger problem how to transfer art between mediums while leaving the integrity of the design intact. I believe the solution carries through this workflow (process), and does it in a way that allows the design to retain the integrity, even after it's been handed to the developer to do the code behind the application. This is beyond the vision of Rich Internet Applications. Which as Scott correctly identifies is a "misnomer".
Rich Interactive Applications represent a wider view including non-Internet delivery mediums, though it does encompass most of the goals of "Rich Internet Applications" .. They both have similar but different goals. Rich Interactive Applications have a wider more progressive view on supporting the current delivery methods (Internet, CD/DVD/Mobile) but being able to transition to new mediums that we haven't thought of or planned for yet. Web/Internet delivery is only one medium in the entire solution that has to be addressed and scaled to. Microsoft with the Expression Studio product line has delivered on this ability and support for multiple mediums with the same assets.

I believe "Rich Internet Applications" and "Rich Interactive Applications" are indeed two very different visions, encompassing some similar goals but not the same goals. Rich Interactive Applications cast a wider net to support different mediums (not just the Internet). We need to understand the differences and even the differences in the tools, to understand better how they support their underlying goals. I think a lot of "R-I-A" bloggers are missing this because they don't remember the world pre-Internet and assume no medium might ever replace it, which through the history of civilization has proved false. We have used many mediums over the years. The Internet is today, but we don't know what the future might hold. Microsoft's solution scales to other platforms and things that go "beyond internet" and outside of that space. Not only with Expression products like Blend have the re-invented the "workflow" and given a solution that leaves the integrity of the design intact on multiple delivery mediums.
What do you think we want to hear from you if you use Blend, how has it improved your ability to target different delivery mediums (platforms) with a design? How did it change your workflow?

Monday, October 1, 2007

More UX@UM Content

by Don Burnett

If you missed the UX@UM day presentations, or are one of the many people anxious to get at the content. We have been able to upload about half of the content (the other half is coming, there is just a lot of it, and most of what is left includes video tutorials, so it's just a matter of getting it all uploaded and online. If you'd like to look at the presentations and some of the other content, you can check it out on my Windows Live SkyDrive..

Click on the drive here to access the content..