Mathias Brandewinder on .NET, F#, VSTO and Excel development, and quantitative analysis / machine learning.
by Mathias 9. August 2009 17:25

The first of Scott Hanselman’s “Top 10 Tips Working Developers Should Know about Windows 7” really made my day: Win 7 includes .NET 3.5 SP1. This probably doesn’t matter to you if you are not a .NET developer, but if you are, chances are you have had the same frustration as I did. .NET 3.5 SP1 is really what you want to be developing against, because it includes so much goodness, but in my experience, most users don’t have it on their machines. As a result, your potential user has to go through a good 15 minutes of download and a reboot – and that’s assuming the IT department is fine with that, which is not a given (personal experience).

This is of particular importance to me, because my pet project Akin, a free application that helps track down differences between Excel files, is written against .NET 3.5. I really needed WPF to create the kind of user interface I wanted, but this has proven a hurdle in getting people to try it out. You might be able to convince people you know personally that they should install .NET 3.5, but for the casual visitor who stumbles across a webpage and wants to just try out an application, asking them to download a giant file for unclear purposes first is just a killer. You lost one potential user, right there.

With Windows 7 pre-sales making a solid start, hopefully I will be relieved of that issue. This is very motivating – time to get back to it, and implement some of the great suggestions I received so far!

by Mathias 1. August 2009 15:18

Even though I develop with WPF, I haven’t really used Blend so far: as of now, I am simply more comfortable working directly with xaml in Visual Studio. However, I was intrigued when I recently heard that the upcoming Microsoft Blend 3 version came with Sketchflow, a UI prototyping tool, so I downloaded the trial version and gave it a quick spin.

I spent about one hour playing with it, barely enough to give it justice (especially so when you practice the mantra “user manuals and tutorial are for wimps”), but I really liked what I saw. Sketchflow allows you to

  • Rapidly design screens using Blend, adding real WPF control and defining the flow between screens based on user actions on the controls,
  • Build the prototype so that another person can run it and experience interacting with the application,
  • Collect feedback on the prototype.

I created a simple application, where a user can view a list of products, and add new products. This is how Sketchflow looks: the top part displays your screen, the bottom the flow between the existing screens. To edit your prototype, you simply add and format controls, and define which screen they lead to if need be.



by Mathias 14. May 2009 01:10

Update: here is the event page.

Microsoft is hosting a Windows Live Messenger Hackathon on the 27th May 2009 at Microsoft's offices on 835 Market St in San Francisco. The event starts at 5:30, there will be a discussion on social media, how to use the Windows Live API in your website, a coding contest, prizes, free beer and pizza… Sounds like fun!

by Mathias 13. January 2009 05:58
If you missed this year's Microsoft Professional Developer Conference (like me) and live in the San Francisco area, you got a second chance. On February 23rd, the MSDN Developer Conference (MDC) will deliver the core message, content, and experience of the PDC in a one-day, multi-track event. Cloud computing, Azure, Live Mesh, WPF 4.0, Silverlight, Parallel Programming... all the latest bleeding-edge stuff will be there - and you'll even get a free copy of Windows 7 Beta! More on the event here, and registration info here.


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