At the PDC, front-end component and tools vendor Infragistics announced that it will ship its NetAdvantage 2005 presentation-layer tool set 45 days after the release of Visual Studio 2005. Infragistics also showed beta 1 versions of Grid and Chart controls compatible with Microsoft's new Windows Presentation Foundation.
Third-party tools and controls like these could prove helpful to Windows developers who, it appears, will need to quickly learn a lot of new presentation technologies. Infragistics has worked closely with Microsoft, and its new tools are built to take advantage of infrastructure visual innovations in .NET 2.0, said Jason Beres, Chief Technology Evangelist, Infragistics. The tools target both Windows Forms and ASP.NET formats. [Microsoft has pledged to release Visual Studio 2005 on Nov. 7.]
Beres said the Grid and Chart control betas give developers a good opportunity to experience Windows Presentation Foundation development. The company is looking for user feedback as it moves that software toward general release.
"We already have AJAX in our grid products," said Beres, "Now with Atlas we can expand and build on the very rich presentations that you can do in the browser."
"Microsoft says you want to have a rich UI in the browser, and not have to post back [frequently] to the server. We do that. But now that Microsoft if providing a framework, we can do more."
Microsoft shook up the software world a bit this week as it formally brought together a wide assortment of designer-oriented betas to create the Expression family of graphic design tools. Some of these are definitely aimed at the art groups in and out of companies, but some produce XAML output which places them as potentially useful to developers using the Windows Presentation Foundation. Expression comprises the Acrylic Graphic Designer, the Sparkle Interactive Designer and the Quartz Web site designer.
Some viewers place Acrylic in competition with Adobe Photoshop, and Sparkle in competition with Macromedia Flash. All of this is a bit afield from Microsoft's development sweet spot.
"I think it will be hard to get people to switch from Photoshop to Acrylic. But it will more likely grow in the developer and developer/designer worlds," said Infragistics' Beres.
"Microsoft's strength is that it makes everything work well together. If I have a design tool that works well with a development tool, that is a good thing," he said.
"For example, Acrylic will work well with Sparkle. With Acrylic I can save out drawings as XAML that can be consumed by [Windows Presentation Foundation]," said Beres.
Moreover, Sparkle, which is similar to a Flash timeline-based designer, will make it easier for developers to build application elements to 'fire' based on steps in a Sparkle timed-sequence.
Grid/Chart WPF Beta tool download pages - Infragistics.com