As you may know Expression Blend 4 has shipped!

It is still part of Expression Studio, which now comes in 2 “flavors”:

  • Expression Studio 4 Ultimate
    • Expression Blend
    • SketchFlow
    • Expression Web + SuperPreview
    • Expression Encoder
    • Expression Design
  • Expression Studio 4 Web Professional
    • Expression Web + SuperPreview
    • Expression Encoder
    • Expression Design

So the version you want for Silverlight is Expression Studio 4 Ultimate (because you can’t buy Expression Blend alone).

Expression Blend is an awesome tool but might be difficult to approach at first, specially for people coming from Visual Studio… this tool target designers so it can takes time for a developer to get comfortable enough.

Good news is the availability of a free “Blend Fundamentals Training” which contains plenty of resources to help you master Expression Blend in 5 days:


Also don’t forget the .toolbox:
This Microsoft website contains courses and tutorials to help you learn UI Design for Silverlight with Expression Blend.

I have been doing many demos of Blend SketchFlow, but never tried the process to go from sketch to real screens when prototyping is finished.
After MIX09, my first understanding was that one of the goals of SketchFlow was being able to easily switch from prototype to “real” app. But I was wrong and I found that many people are.

Maybe the confusion comes from what is written on the site:

“Traditional prototypes are generally redundant after the concept phase and discarded. SketchFlow enables you to leverage all the previous conceptual work, every asset and component created is reusable in your production project – nothing goes to waste.”

I think many people (like me) incorrectly understood that we could simply switch from prototype to real screens, which is not really the case.

On the Blend documentation (Hit F1, select SketchFlow and click on “Convert a prototype”) you can find the official procedure to “convert your SketchFlow prototype into a production-ready project”. Have a look at it and you’ll see the process is long and really painful… far from a “convert to production” button that would remove the Sketch style from every control and clean the solution.

In fact the point is that you generally wouldn’t want to do that, and someone from the Blend Team confirmed this. You should build your prototype without production consideration in mind. The structure of a SketchFlow prototype itself is not done as a typical well-architected production solution would be. SketchFlow is very good to help you build mock-ups in a RAD-style development, then for production you have to start a clean new project and reuse some of the assets you created during the prototype. But no “convert project to production” button here, and no plan to have one as I heard (for the reasons described above).

Note: I am not trying to minimize the benefits of this tool, just pointing out the “switch to production” might be surprising at first.


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Expression Studio 3 Final version of Expression Studio 3 is now available online as free 60 days trial.

Expression Blend 3 was already available as RC since Silverlight 3 shipped some days ago, but we never had beta version of the rest of the suite, so here they are:

  • Expression Blend 3
  • SketchFlow
  • Expression Web 3
  • Expression Design 3
  • Expression Encoder 3
  • Nice! installing all that right now…


    When I am training Silverlight I am often asked by designers how to find resources on Silverlight/XAML/Expression, so here is a post for them:

    First you can find lots of Expression Studio videos training in the new Microsoft videos portal: provides videos training on Expression Blend and Expression Design:


    Expression Design tutorials on the Microsoft Expression Team blog:

    Here are some XAML exporters to help you do Silverlight with your assets from Adobe tools:

    The fantastic NibblesTutorials website (Expression Blend):

    This blog post collect free Silverlight controls and tools available on the net:

    And finally this interesting blog:


    Also as a designer you NEED to know about the Expression Professional Subscription, for a very good price ($999 USD) you get:

    • Expression Studio 2
    • Visual Studio 2008 Standard
    • Windows Vista Business
    • Windows XP SP2
    • Office Standard
    • Office Visio Professional
    • Pre-configured virtualized server environments (VPC)
    • Virtual PC (to use the VPC)
    • Parallels Desktop for Mac (a 3rd party application to run Windows OS on Apple hardware concurrent with OSX)

    So typically if you are a MAC designer with no Microsoft platform tools you get everything you need to get started and create awesome user experience applications with Silverlight!


    Expression Encoder 2 SP1 The main info is in the title…

    Download the SP1 of Expression Encoder 2 here:

    Why is it so nice?

    Because you can now export your encoded videos to a Silverlight 2 player with a new set of templates!

    Then easily open the output in Visual Studio 2008 and add your C# or VB code! How cool is that?

    Expression Encoder Silverlight 2 templates

    The blue “I” gives you information about the template applied to your video/settings like: “The gallery bar in this template supports thumbnails, but not all your media files have them.” nice!

    2 days ago we (RunAtServer Consulting) were invited by Microsoft Montreal to demo Silverlight during a presentation to their major media customers, we needed that SL2 templates to show VS2008 integration after export from Encoder 2, and had the chance to get a pre-version of the SP1 thanks to Joel!


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    Are you a talented designer ?
    Are you well-versed in web design ?
    Using Photoshop and Illustrator on your day to day job ?
    Are you a flash designer interested to add a Silverlight competency ?
    Are you living in Quebec or available for remote work ?

    Then contact us at RunAtServer Consulting!

    RunAtServer Consulting is a company based in Montreal, we are specialized in web development with Microsoft technologies.

    We are seeking a web designer with skills on the new Microsoft designers tools like Expression Blend, as well as good knowledge of XAML.

    We are web developers looking to work in pair with a designer for our Silverlight projects.

    Silverlight developers Montreal

    Vector Magic is an online tool that converts bitmaps into vector images. It provides a wizard that helps you through the process, so you can easily generate your vector graphics from bitmaps, then import into Microsoft Expression Designer or Blend. I already used it several times and the results are amazing! It is also impressive to have such a service as a website!

    First step is to upload your picture (gif or jpg):

     RunAtServer logo

    At first the tool try to identify your image (logo or photo):

    The correct type is automatically selected for you:

    Then you match the quality level of your picture:

    This step is for logos:

    You get a list of colors palettes related to your logo, with the best match selected for you:

    Finally the tool vectorizes your image and show a preview of the result with a comparison to the original:

    Now you can download your image as a vector file!

    Note: this service is not free anymore, but you can try it (upload, vectorize, preview, get unlimited png images and 2 vector results) without any subscription.

    Expression Encoder 2 is out, but you might wonder where is the Publish to Silverlight Streaming feature ??

    Remember you had to install a plugin for that purpose.

    You still need a plugin and the updated version is there: for Expression Encoder 2.msi

    Now you can encode your videos with Expression Encoder 2 and publish right to your free 10GB Silverlight Streaming account!

    Following my Silverlight 2 beta 2 Mega-FAQ here is a FAQ on Expression Blend 2.5 June 2008 preview as announced at TechEd 2008:

    Is customer support offered with the Expression Blend 2.5 June 2008 Preview?
    Support for pre-release products is offered on the Microsoft Discussion Forum where you can solicit feedback and help get your questions answered by the Expression community.

    When will Expression Blend 2.5 be final?
    We have not announced a release schedule for Expression Blend 2.5 however it is our intention to release it as soon as possible after Silverlight 2 is finally released.

    When will Expression Studio 3 be released?
    We have not announced a release schedule for Expression Studio 3.

    Is Expression Blend 2.5 compatible with the tools in Expression Studio 2?

    Does Expression Blend support Silverlight 2?
    Expression Blend will fully support Silverlight 2 in a future release. At TechEd we released an updated preview of Expression Blend 2.5 (Expression Blend 2.5 June 2008 Preview) to enable designers to start immediately exploring the power of Silverlight 2. We are currently evaluating how best to release this to market once Silverlight 2 is finally released, however we are committed to releasing preview versions to support the Silverlight 2 preview versions.

    Customers who purchase Expression Studio 2 or Expression Blend 2 will receive the future version of Expression Blend that supports Silverlight 2 for free.

    Are the features in Silverlight 2 Beta 2 exposed in Expression Blend 2.5 June Preview?
    A large number of the features of the Silverlight 2 Beta 2 are available, specifically those which focus on the visual, design aspects of the platform.

    Is Expression Blend 2.5 June 2008 Preview compatible with Visual Studio 2008 SP1?

    Where can I download Expression 2.5 2008 June Preview?
    The preview can be downloaded from

    Why isn’t the full Expression Studio included in MSDN Subscriptions?
    We recognize the tremendous interest in the Microsoft Expression product line within the existing MSDN subscriber community and have included Expression tooling in the premium MSDN subscription levels as a result.

    • Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Suite with MSDN Premium includes Expression Studio.

    • All other MSDN Premium levels include Expression Web and Expression Blend.

    Developers with design responsibilities want access to Expression just as designers with development responsibilities want access to Visual Studio. We provide tooling for each group with the MSDN subscription levels above–for developers who do design–and the new Expression Professional Subscription–for designers who do development.

    Which Expression products are included in each MSDN subscription level is a business decision reflecting our desire to continue meeting the needs of professional developers while delivering an “MSDN for Designers” option that appeals directly (and uniquely) to professional designers.