Silverlight Tools: Silverlight IDEs

7/25/2010 5:10:06 PM
With Flash, the name refers to the browser plug-in (and the associated file format) and for the mighty editor or IDE that allows creation of these rich Internet applications (RIAs). So, it was just a matter of time until Microsoft would release a similar tool that tried to bridge the gap between designers and developers and appeals to both groups.

Microsoft Expression Blend is also part of the Microsoft Expression Studio. The first version targeted WPF developers and did not offer anything for Silverlight developers (or WPF/E developers, as they were called then). However, Expression Blend for Silverlight 2 changes that. (Up-to-date links to a trial version of that software will be available at

When you set up a new project, one of the options is to create a Silverlight JavaScript application (see Figure 1). If you look closely at the project structure in Figure 2, you will see that it looks quite similar to the project based on the Silverlight Visual Studio template.

Figure 1. Creating a Silverlight JavaScript application within Blend for Silverlight 2

Figure 2. Microsoft Expression Blend for Silverlight 2 (March 2008 Preview; your mileage may vary)

Expression Blend 2 is somewhat integrated with Visual Studio. Double-clicking on a JavaScript file in the project explorer opens it in Notepad (the Windows editor), but when working with event handlers , you can set how Visual Studio 2008 handles them, as Figure 3 shows. Alternatively, Expression Blend 2 can also provide the skeleton code for event handlers in the clipboard so that you can use them in any other arbitrary application. It is possible that future versions of Expression Blend 2 will facilitate integrating external applications.

Figure 3. Visual Studio 2008 can take over event handling code for Silverlight applications


Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition may also be used as an event handler code editor.

Although Expression Blend 2 is still far from perfect (Adobe Flash has had several years to raise the bar), it is currently the best choice for Silverlight developers in search of some visual help for developing their applications, especially from a design perspective.

Now it's time to dive more deeply into Silverlight, and how you create rich user experiences with WPF and XAML, the subject we explore in Part 2.

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