One of my newest programs to have a blast with is Microsoft Expression Design. Why do I enjoy using it? Because as a WPF developer it gives me a way to draw vector-based graphics and then use a XAML exported form of them into an application.
For instance, I can create a vector-based icon in Expression Design using Bezier curves, polylines, gradients, various stroke patterns (ranging from simple lines to realistic-looking ink on paper to water color strokes), and more. Once I have the design what I want, I can export to a XAML file which I can then use with little modification in an application. The beauty of keeping the graphic in XAML is that it remains vector based and I can scale it as needed and all along keep the graphic looking nice. Sometimes if I make something much bigger or smaller than originally drawn I have to back in and clean up strokes a bit or prune out extraneous parts of the drawing, but for the most part the XAML drawings scale relatively well. In the past I’d use a program like Illustrator or Photoshop to draw a graphic and then save it to an image file with the correct size I needed. If the program that was going to use the graphic needed something different I’d often have to go back to the original program and resize it there and save another version of the image. Quite often I’d end up with a handful of image sizes–some for a fullscreened Tablet, some for a small-screened UMPC. By keeping the drawing in XAML I can more often keep with one graphic that I can use in more places.
How is Expression Design on a Tablet PC? Not bad. I use the mouse for precision at times, but drawing Bezier curves, polylines, and the like with the stylus is a breeze. I also like how you can modify values in edit fields by simply pressing the stylus within the edit field itself and then dragging the stylus left or right (or sometimes up and down). The farther you drag the stylus, the more the value changes. The interaction is quite natural and quickly becoming my preferred way of interacting with number edit boxes. I’ve never really cared for those ultra-tiny spin up/down arrows that are all too common adjacent to numeric edit fields. Yuck.
100% this app belongs in a WPF developer’s tool belt.
I’m still learning, but so far I’m having a blast.