Visual Studio 2008 WPF (Cider) Designer - First Impressions

Beta 2 is finally here. Got it installed last night and of course one of the first things I wanted to play with is the WPF designer to see how far it had come along since Beta 1 and the Nov CTP tools for VS 2005.

Positives:

  • The designer surface itself has come a long way and the snap lines, margin guides, and other adornments to help get elements positioned within the UI and visualize what underlying layout properties have been set looks really nice.
  • There is a zoom control that makes it really easy to zoom in and out with smooth scaling to focus on the parts of the UI you are working on as a nice alternative to scrolling.
  • They have a great little breadcrumb control at the bottom that lets you see where you are in the element hierarchy and even gives you a pop-up rendering of the other items in the hierarchy as you hover the mouse over them (see below).
  • Picks up container locations such as grid cell when you drag and drop a control.
  • The properties grid is fixed as far as being able to edit collection properties such as the RowDefinitions and ColumnDefinitions properties of a Grid.
  • The XAML editor has improved IntelliSense with icons that help identify different constructs (namespaces, classes, etc when the IntelliSense list is up. The IntelliSense includes listing available namespaces with a clr-namespace construct for types in the project. Once the clr-namespace has been added, custom types show up in the IntelliSense tag list. Nice.
  • Common WPF constructs (Window, Page, UserControl) are in the Add > menu from the project.
  • Double click to hook up default event! Finally!

Cider

There are still a number of annoying aspects that I sure hope will be worked out by release.

Negatives:

  • Designer load time: Still takes a really long time to load an empty form in the designer.
  • Properties grid: No option to sort the properties alphabetical, so you still need to scroll around looking for what category the property you care about might be lurking in. Unfortunately no property search like Blend has.
  • XAML Editor: Still does not add closing element tags when you create an open element tag. Very annoying productivity hit wen forced to bang out XAML by hand. Fills everything that is not inside an element tag with a cyan background. There does not appear to be any way to customize this.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with what I see. I think I can finally ditch using the Nov CTP in VS2005 for WPF development! I’ll still be using a mix of this and Blend though.