Is knowing blend required?
Do you expect your WPF developers to know expression blend?
Any good resources for learning more about Blend?
[UPDATE] Does knowing blend make you more productive?
I found Blend a great way to ease into XAML. Many of the common things you want to do are easy in Blend, especially databinding. Databinding has no intellisense and I found doing things in Blend a great way of discovering how do write the databinding syntax.
I now find myself mostly editing raw XAML buy hand.
The areas where blend is really handy:
- Customizing templates.
- Breaking the UI down into user controls
As a WPF developer I surely see the benifit of knowing Expression Blend for many of my previous projects. This help me to jump start on creating Usercontrols and Custom controls very effectively. And if we do in the conventional way of writing XAML from the scratch, it is gonna take a very long time of your development. And also for creating DataTemplate,ControlTemplate,Styles and ItemsPanelTemplate - it is just a click away in Expression blend. So I highly recommend Expression blend for a WPF programmer
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I typically work in both blend and Visual Studio (2005) side by side when doing WPF development. (Although, granted, I typically do both design and c# coding).
The benefits of using Blend is that certain tasks are extremely fast there - things like picking colors/brushes, creating animations and layout fixes such as tweaking margins/paddings.
Another usage is to instantly see how your hand written XAML will look like without actually starting the app.
Blend has a bad habit of producing some weird XAML so I always have to clean it up in the VS text editor afterwards. I still find it to be a net win to use blend though.
So, to answer your question: Is Blend required? no, not really. But it will make your life easier for certain tasks and thus make you more productive.
Things like animation and gradient color definitions can really only be done effectively in Blend. Blend is also often extremely useful for generating some non-trivial custom visual elements, just so that you can view the generated Xaml and import a CLEANER version into your production code. Unfortunately, the point-and-click nature of Blend disguises the fact that huge volumes of very messy Xaml is being generated under the hood, and you'll want to REFACTOR that Xaml before using it in your production source. Fortunately, learning Blend is not that hard. The best tutorial I ever found was called the "Fabrikam" tutorial. There may be updated versions available, but one version of that tutorial is still available at the link below.
Realistically, very few dev. shops have access to qualified "interactive designers" (its not somethiing a company can just re-task one of its junior Mar-Com people to perform), which means, at most places, developers will need to learn some amount of Blend if marketing wants to add the kind of fancy visuals that provide alot of the justification for using WPF in the first place.
As a developer, after working intensively with WPF for several months, you will find yourself becoming totally comfortable editing Xaml directly and, unlike with Windows Forms, you'll rarely rely on features in the VStudio designer. Not only is direct editing MUCH faster than scrolling through property lists, but VStudio does not have point-and-click support for many of the features you will use in production WPF applications (they just got around to adding an "event" tab in SP#1). Blend has more support for many of these items (it can generate a DataTemplate, for instance), but I usually only jump into Blend to create a quick animation or other visual effect, cut and paste a carefully-refactored version of the markup into my "official" VStudio project source, and move on.
I think at least the designers should start using the Expression Suite. The developers should be somewhat familiar with the tools but just enough to enable them to communicate better with the designers.
Since there are not so many good WPF tools, knowing Blend is a pretty useful skill. However I wouldn't consider it as requirement. The whole idea of WPF is to distribute work between coders and designers. IMO developer is not required to know Blend throughout, but basic skills are required to understand designer's needs.
Video training for expression blend: