Jul 16, 2009

Blend 3 improvements

I am trying to put Blend 3 through its paces and here are a few random improvements I have found.

I will keep updating this post as I find more

Attribute Defaults

Setting an attribute to its default value (e.g. Setting HorizontalAlignment  to Stretch) will remove the value from the XAML. Previously you had to click on the Advanced Property options and chose reset it you wanted Blend to delete the auto generated XAML. Now, it seems, Blend it smart enough to not explicitly set the attribute.

Padding, Margin etc..

If you set a margin or padding value to all the same value in the Property Panel it will generate the short hand attribute syntax for you. So setting each margin to -10 in the Property panel will generate Margin=”-10” in the XAML. Again, it seems it is getting smarter about generating XAML.

Asset Library

Searching for assets in the library finally searches across multiple categories. The results are nicely displayed so you can see what was found in each category.  So now, for example, you can search for Surface Controls using the library without having to switch to the Custom Controls category first.

Design Time Height and Width

If you set a Width or Height property to Auto it will show you the design time value in parentheses after the word Auto. It will do something like Auto(756).

I find this extremely useful when designing items controls with custom data templates. You can see how much space it thinks it needs to take up to fit the content, while leaving your items control set to Auto.

Pack Syntax for Image Brushes

When you add an image to your project and make an ImageBrush resource from it. Blend with generate the proper pack syntax (component syntax) to reference the image.


Finally! The gods have spoken. When working with ItemsControls, you can now right click, select “Edit additional Templates” and select ItemContainerStyle. This was one of the most annoying quirks of Blend 2 for me. Previously you had to select the Items control and then go up to the Object menu and select “Edi additional styles, then select item container style. Now that is it in the context menu for ItemsControl it makes the work flow much more fluid.

Also, as a side note, I notice that the navigation in and out of the ItemContainerStyle seems to be improved. In Blend 2 there was strange behavior when you were editing ItemContainerStyle and moving back and fourth between the Style and the ControlTemplate. It doesn’t appear to be entirely fixed, but I am notice less of these weird issues were you are jumped around to the wrong object when trying to switch back and fourth.


Effect has been moved up to the the top level (above the expander) for the Appearance section. This is a nice touch, as I find myself using Effects often. Still, more times than not I use the search to filter the property list anyway, but having at the top level makes it faster.

That being said, I wish there was a way to customize which properties were shown. Being able to configure my own default property panel view would be great. Then I could put just the properties I use most often in the top panels and hide the other stuff in the expanders. For instance, in brushes panel I very rarely use the OpacityMask brush so I would it to save space, Likewise with the ZIndex in the Layout panel. Maybe in Blend 4?

Tools | Options

There a few new settings you can change under the Tools | Options menu.


You can now change the default unit of measure (between pixels and points). I can this being useful when working with Photoshop or Illustrator files and importing them in to Blend.


You can change the default behavior for MouseWheel zoom (between Just mouse wheel, Alt + MouseWheel, and Ctrl+ MouseWheel). I have been waiting for tihs so I can make Blend behave the same as Illustrator in this regard.

Effect Rendering

You can turn on and off the rendering of effects (not sure why you would want to this, except maybe to increase performance?) The other sneaky setting here is the zoom threshold level. Setting this causes effects to not be rendered beyond this threshold. This has tripped me up a few times already. When zooming way in on a button for instance, all of sudden my drop shadow effect disappears? Again, I suppose this feature is for performance reasons.


You can now set default annotations properties for your documents, and optionally show them on the Artboard. You can set the Author name and Author initials.


Finally there settings specific to SketchFlow documents. I haven’t dove too deeply into Skecthflow yet, but I will in the near future and have a new post strictly about SketchFlow.



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