So Many Tools – So Little Time!

A very patient reader wrote in a couple months ago asking when to use Expression Web and when to use Silverlight. Others have written asking about the difference between Expression Web and Expression Blend, or between Silverlight 1.0 and Silverlight 1.1, and still others about whether Silverlight will replace (pick one or more: HTML, ASP.NET, AJAX, WPF….) let alone non-Microsoft products.

I will not attempt to answer all of this in full today, but I didn't want to delay an answer one more day, so here is a quick overview; and future blog entries will dive deeper (as will videos, and so forth).

First, to differentiate 1.0 and future versions, my latest personal word on that can be seen here. I believe the folks who are finalizing the features and timing of the beta for the next generation of Silverlight are very aware of how very much the community needs this information and they are "dancing as fast as they can" (see footnote 1)

The Expression Tools are a set of design time tools for creating content. There's a quite good overview on the Expression Home Page. Here's the incredibly simplified breakdown:

Tool Purpose
Web Design tool to create standards-based web sites
Blend Designer tool to create XAML for WPF and Silverlight (Developers are using it in 1.0 because the design surface doesn't quite work yet, though some of us are hand-tooling XAML)
Design Illustration and graphic design tool (creates elements for web and desktop)
Media Asset management tool to catalog and organize your digital assets (and that either leaves you drooling or cold depending what you do for a living)
Encoder Encode video, add markers, generate (if you want) starter code for a Silverlight viewer. This is the tool that most Silverlight Developers will use most often even when the design surface is fully functional within Visual Studio. Here's a quote from the site "Delivering a Web-ready Silverlight experience is easy. Import QuickTime®, AVI, MPEG, WMV, and additional media formats into Expression Encoder, fine-tune your VC-1 settings, and choose your favorite Silverlight template"

The design surface is built into Visual Studio, but doesn't work well with Silverlight 1.0, though it will work well with subsequent versions.

Personally, I now do all my Silverlight (1.0) coding in Visual Studio 2008 (I'm using Beta 2) and eagerly anticipating the release of the final version. You'll want to be sure to download the template for 1.0 to make life easier, and we have a video on how to do this.

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About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty is an independent consultant and programmer with three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects. He is the author of 2 dozen books and multiple Pluralsight courses, and has been a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP, Microsoft MVP and Telerik MVP.
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