Making a slight deviation from the more code-happy posts I normally do, I want to take a chance to talk about something which is very important to .Net developers, specifically those of us working in the Xaml space – the importance of tooling in a development environment.

Telerik Toolbox

(Hint, the above image was edited using a Telerik Xaml tool!)

Good Tools

As developers, these help us to create better products, internal applications, and websites.  With them we can achieve better results faster, complete with more code coverage for tests and better looking UIs on top of it all, all while making a more efficient use of our time to solve the complex business problems that lay in wait behind every stunning UI we create.  After all, just look at Visual Studio, built using WPF- the heart of this application is a code editor, but the surrounding functionality has a collection of tools for everything from code highlighting (to help us identify errors), code generation (added a service reference lately?), as well as a host of other things more numerous than I can list here.  Add software like JustCode on top of that, further enhancing your productivity by saving you from more mundane tasks like Chris highlights here, and you begin to see the importance of tooling to modern development.

We have also seen some pretty cool releases lately as far as tools that help us to better understand our applications as well as work with mobile applications on our desktop (or laptop) machines.  New products like JustDecompile are available to help us better understand the nuts and bolts of code that is otherwise hidden from view, while JustTrace lets us take performance analysis to a whole new level (just check out the ‘Performance Snapshot Comparison’ feature – how cool is that?).  Stepping into the Windows Phone arena, with the announcement of the next Mango beta tools update we also saw the developer OS bits being made available to – you guessed it – Windows Phone developers.  I updated my Samsung Focus last night and am now running the dev version of Mango so I can test not only on the enhanced emulator (complete with new performance profiler, as Jesse Liberty points out in his post), but also on my device itself, months before the update will go live for the general public.

In the Xaml Space

Xaml Developers have seen numerous tooling improvements over the last few years as well.  WPF and Silverlight now both have visual design capabilities within Visual Studio as well as Expression Blend, meaning that we can produce markup, create sample data for our data templates, extract control templates to customize and modify functionality, produce paths and animations, etc., all without touching a line of Xaml.  Mind you, I’m a Xaml guy, I like hand-coding much of my markup, but without these tools there are a lot of things that would take significantly more time.  Have you ever tried recreating something as simple as a button complete with visual states or written an animation path manually? 

Button Xaml

As fun as those activities are for getting to know the ropes of Xaml and these languages, experienced developers can appreciate the advancements in tooling, new Xaml developers can quickly catch on by producing code via Blend and exploring the results to see how things are done, and UI/UX designers have the freedom to make an application look amazing with a clean separation of logic and UI that the framework allows and is designed for.

Why All This Talk About Tooling?

Quite simply, we at Telerik have spent a long time working on UI components and in the last few years have also stepped more into the developer tools market.  But we aren’t stopping there – as you have seen in some of the posts for this next release the entire Xaml team (Silverlight, WPF, and Windows Phone) has been working on some pretty compelling improvements to our control suites, including both tooling enhancements across the board to better take advantage of the Visual Studio designer experience as well as providing controls that are out-of-the-box “tools” to bring enhanced functionality to your applications.

Stay tuned as we dive a little further into the tools of the Xaml trade that Telerik has been working on and why you should be extra excited for our Q2 2011 release!

About the Author

Evan Hutnick

works as a Developer Evangelist for Telerik specializing in Silverlight and WPF in addition to being a Microsoft MVP for Silverlight. After years as a development enthusiast in .Net technologies, he has been able to excel in XAML development helping to provide samples and expertise in these cutting edge technologies. You can find him on Twitter @EvanHutnick.

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