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Alphabetising the properties window for WPF in VS2008 RTM RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hi everyone,

     

    Have just installed the RTM version of Visual Studio 2008 and are playing with it now to see what's better or not from beta 2.

     

    The one thing I was hoping that they would fix in the final release is the properties window when working with WPF forms. Unlike the properties window for windows forms/classes etc, you cannot sort the properties alphabetically - gah!

    I REALLY wish they gave you the option like in all the other property windows. Not a huge show stopper, but one of those really annoying small things.

     

    So far, the WPF 'cider' designer seems to be faster and more robust than beta 2's. I could pretty much get beta 2 to crash with certain XAML, but I've yet to do the same in RTM.

     

    Richard.

    Monday, November 19, 2007 10:40 PM

Answers

  • Agreed, it definitely is a feature that is high on our list.  We have received a lot of feedback about this and really wanted to get this feature in after beta 2.  That said, schedule and resource realities made it really hard to add new features post beta 2.

     

    What is important at this point is to note that we hear your feedback and have it high on our list to address this moving forward.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007 12:47 AM
    Moderator
  • I'm afraid I have to agree with devexpert. I cannot comment on the extensibility model, as I have not spent any time with it yet. But the overall usefulness of the WPF designer is near 0. devexpert hit the bullseye when he said "It is not designer, it is XAML preview window that mostly works." You can't really use the designer for anything, you can only see the results of the xaml, and even then, the designer routinely encounters unexpected errors that force you to reload (and if you don't reload it quickly, the whole IDE crashes). It is easier to code the xaml directly than use the designer, and thet's saying a lot given how complicated xaml is. Add to that the impotent property window, and I might as well be using notepad.

     

    Frankly, if you are still targeting the "early adopter" an entire year after WPF was released, then you are way, way behind. I have been talking up WPF to my bosses for nine months, and we have been planning to do several new projects in WPF once Orcas was released. Now I have to go back to them and tell them that we have to either 1) spend more money on an additional tool outside of Visual Studio that will have its own significant learning curve, or 2) plan on spending significant additional time on any WPF project to account for having to code the entire UI by hand. How do you suppose they are going to respond to that?

     

    The only conclusion that I can draw from the state of the WPF designer in Visual Studio 2008 is that either 1) Microsoft is not committed to WPF and is not willing to allocate the necessary resources to supporting its development, or 2) Microsoft is trying to force dev shops into spending extra money on additional tools by intentionally limiting the WPF support in Visual Studio. Either conclusion is unacceptable, and is forcing me to abandon any plans of using WPF in new projects. This is very disappointing, but really, how do you expect dev shops to respond when this is your attitude toward your top tier IDE?

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 4:36 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • I completely agree with you.   I never use category view in the Property window.  I prefer the sorted view.  I hope an improved property grid is HIGH on the list of changes for the next release.

    One good thing though.  Microsoft added a search box to the property window so you directly find the property, if you know the name, instead of scrolling through the list by category.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007 4:24 AM
  • Agreed, it definitely is a feature that is high on our list.  We have received a lot of feedback about this and really wanted to get this feature in after beta 2.  That said, schedule and resource realities made it really hard to add new features post beta 2.

     

    What is important at this point is to note that we hear your feedback and have it high on our list to address this moving forward.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007 12:47 AM
    Moderator
  • Jim,

     

    What is ridiculous is that this feature was removed in the first place! If there is one rule about releasing a new version of an application, it is that you NEVER remove features without a good reason and without actively seeking user feedback regarding the importance of the feature. It should never have been an issue of trying to get the feature in after beta 2; it should have been there from the very beginning.

     

    "What is important at this point is to note that we hear your feedback and have it high on our list to address this moving forward."

     

    Actually, what is important is that you learn from your mistakes, and stop removing features that your customers use on a daily basis.

     

    (For the record, yes I understand that WPF uses a new property window, so technically the feature was not "removed"; however, from the perspective of most users, that distinction is irrelevant. With as many hundreds of millions of people that Microsoft designs applications for, Visual Studio and others, I would think you would know that by now.)

    Monday, November 26, 2007 10:17 PM
    Moderator
  • David,

     

    We certainly understand your frustration, and trust me it has been very painful for us to make some of the trade-offs we had to make for VS 2008. For you it's alpha-sort, for others it maybe the lack of the events tab or the description pane. If we would have tried to come anywhere near to what's possible with the WinForms designer today, in addition to what we have been doing, we would not have shipped a WPF designer in VS 2008.

     

    We realized that early on and shifted our focus accordingly to target the early adopter of WPF and built a solid Extensibility story, a first class language service for XAML, and some basic design and layout support. Because of architectural differences we were forced to create a new WPF-based property browser, which has its own Extensibility story that it shares with Expression Blend. Here we had to make similar trade-offs, focusing on Extensibility and creating a basic property browser in order to create a solid foundation.

     

    And yes, all this is irrelevant in the eyes of most users but it doesn't change the fact that this designer is a brand new product that has nothing in common with the Windows Forms designer whatsoever, and that our team does not have the resources to create a "super-sized WinForms designer for WPF". The designer for WPF (and later Silverlight) is a work in progress and will continue to improve with each release. And as Jim said, alpha-sort in the property browser is pretty high on the list.
    Tuesday, November 27, 2007 8:41 PM
  • Marco & Jim,

    The WPF Cider designer shipped with VS.NET 2008 is, to put it mildly, disgrace. It is not designer, it is XAML preview window that mostly works. That's it. I am really sorry to say that.

    How did you guys let this be released in professional tool is puzzling. Where was professionalism of the team releasing this? Why did team let standards slip? Why crashes that were reported were not fixed?

    The Extensibility model that you have built into the Cider to allow us developers to provide design time functionality is overly complex. The architecture is not well thought out. Have you tried to create a designer that allows simple, simple mouse movement of an control on the designer surface? Please do give it a try. You should rethink this architecture and come up with something simpler, easier for developers to use. Learn from Windows Forms designer, you've done good work there.

    VS.NET 2008 Cider team in my opinion has dropped the ball on this. In my estimation you guys had 2 years to ship the designer and this is all you could come up with? Shame.

    The Property Window control is best example of this. Not to oversimplify it, but I could do much, much better in only two months worth of work.

    Yes this is intentionally harsh but I am just telling it like it is. I hope the team realize how bad this release is. It puts serious question into Microsoft commitment to WPF as platform.
    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 12:17 PM
  • devexpert,

     

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion and I'm not going to argue with you about it. As I said earlier, the WPF Designer in VS 2008 targets the early adopter of WPF by aiding them in basic layout tasks and providing a great XAML editing experience. There are a lot of people who do appreciate the functionality provided and there are others who can't get beyond the admittedly limited feature set of this first release. For the latter group and for more sophisticated WPF design tasks Expression Blend is the tool of choice for the time being.

     

    FYI, our new extensibility architecture, which was designed by the same architect responsible for the WinForms extensibility story, may seem overly complex to you but if you take the time to learn a little bit about it you will realize its full potential. We have involved 3rd party component vendors very early in the product cycle in order to provide a solid extensible designer platform.

     

    Please let me know what reported crashes you think we did not fix, so we can make sure to address them in the Service Pack.

     

    And lastly, if you feel you could make a positive contribution to our designer, feel free to email me your resume.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 4:22 PM
  • Devexpert,

     

    You should probably blame the Avalon/WPF team and not the Cider team for these problems. I don't think they had even 2 years to work on it, because the other WPF team seemed independent and made few efforts to make the Cider team job easier. This is just speculation but it seems WPF was not designed to make designer architecture easier, especially considering the size of the bloated WPF API.

     

    I do believe the extensibility model is too abstract and would be easier to use if less concepts were required.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 4:34 PM
  • I'm afraid I have to agree with devexpert. I cannot comment on the extensibility model, as I have not spent any time with it yet. But the overall usefulness of the WPF designer is near 0. devexpert hit the bullseye when he said "It is not designer, it is XAML preview window that mostly works." You can't really use the designer for anything, you can only see the results of the xaml, and even then, the designer routinely encounters unexpected errors that force you to reload (and if you don't reload it quickly, the whole IDE crashes). It is easier to code the xaml directly than use the designer, and thet's saying a lot given how complicated xaml is. Add to that the impotent property window, and I might as well be using notepad.

     

    Frankly, if you are still targeting the "early adopter" an entire year after WPF was released, then you are way, way behind. I have been talking up WPF to my bosses for nine months, and we have been planning to do several new projects in WPF once Orcas was released. Now I have to go back to them and tell them that we have to either 1) spend more money on an additional tool outside of Visual Studio that will have its own significant learning curve, or 2) plan on spending significant additional time on any WPF project to account for having to code the entire UI by hand. How do you suppose they are going to respond to that?

     

    The only conclusion that I can draw from the state of the WPF designer in Visual Studio 2008 is that either 1) Microsoft is not committed to WPF and is not willing to allocate the necessary resources to supporting its development, or 2) Microsoft is trying to force dev shops into spending extra money on additional tools by intentionally limiting the WPF support in Visual Studio. Either conclusion is unacceptable, and is forcing me to abandon any plans of using WPF in new projects. This is very disappointing, but really, how do you expect dev shops to respond when this is your attitude toward your top tier IDE?

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 4:36 PM
    Moderator
  •  

    If there are specific bugs you are hitting - crashes in particular - please use Connect to report them. We made every effort to find and fix crashing bugs before we shipped and will continue to fix them if you report them using Connect. The more details you can include the better. Specific repro steps are the best, but even if you don't have them please still report the bug.

     

    You state the "overall usefulness of the designer is near 0". Can you be more specific? What are the top 3 or 5 things that would make the designer more useful to you?

     

    thanks

    mark

     

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 5:24 PM
  •  

    WPF took hundreds of people, years to develop, and the API is monstrous. How could a good designer be done in 2 years, even if they had that long? Designers are far harder to develop than a vector graphics system. I think Microsoft is committed, the real problem is WPF itself, not Cider.
    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 5:26 PM
  • Mark, there are issues that I reported along with the samples to reproduce the crashes 6 months ago. They still happen with the RTM release. These issue went directly to your dev team. You guys have them, they've been ignored so you can ship. Team knows about them, they are in system.

    I have no idea which usage scenarios you guys have worked for in Cider designer, but from the end result it seems like the usage case you have covered is: "Lets see how my form looks like without running the application" Thats it.

    Seriously, please just take a look at the Property window in Cider. It is amateurish work, it is disgusting. You cannot even select an image to apply to MenuItem using the Property grid. Look and Feel is alpha quality. How did you guys let this be released? I would rather quit than release something like that.

    Regarding extensibility API, I challenge anyone, please, try to implement designer support for moving of the control on the designer surface. Start with trying to find documentation on how to do so. That will show you what I mean. Team has not worked enough with control developers on extensibility API, I know that much.

    To be honest with you, I'd never send my resume or worked for to the team that shipped this. Team should be ashamed. I hope you forward the thread to everyone that worked on the release... Actually the team that worked on this should be dispatched here to support it until next big release.

    I know of at least 2 big, multi-national companies, that changed their plans after seeing the RTM Cider designer and have dropped the WPF and switched back to Windows Forms for the new projects they are starting. How many are out there?

    Tone of my post is intentionally though, but I love you guys  I hope that somebody on your team takes a stand so something like this is not released again. You guys are professionals. You develop professional tool. People look up to you. This appears like its been developed by amateurs. Amateurs should be fired!


    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 6:30 PM
  • As Mark said, please report any issues you have through the proper channels, i.e. the Connect portal site.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 6:43 PM
  •  

    >there are issues that I reported along with the samples to reproduce the crashes 6 months ago.

    >They still happen with the RTM release.

     

    Can you send me the Connect bug numbers for these issues?

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 7:13 PM
  • Mark, this went directly to your developers, not through the Connect. Sufficient to say, you guys know in which closets skeletons are... If nothing has been done about it when I sent it in 6 months ago, I know nothing will be done now. I have no time to spend on that again...
    Wednesday, November 28, 2007 7:45 PM
  •  Mark Boulter wrote:

    What are the top 3 or 5 things that would make the designer more useful to you?

     

    Sorry this is more than 5, but after using the VS 2008 RTM designer for a few months, these are the things I'd like to see improved immediately.

    1. Designer support for child items (e.g., menu items, tabs, status panels, toolbar buttons, etc.).  It's nice to be able to drag in a Menu from the toolbox, but then it really bites to have to manually add all the menu items by editing XAML!
    2. The property editor should provide a combo box to select a specific control on the form.
    3. Add an Events tab on the property editor.
    4. Option to sort properties alphabetically in the property editor.
    5. Smarter editing for individual properties.  For example, Width for a grid column should show Auto, *, or # options.
    6. Ability to edit data bindings in the property grid.
    7. Use bold text to highlight properties that are set to non-default values.
    8. When you start typing on the selected control in the designer (e.g., when a Label is selected), it should focus the property grid and start editing the current property.
    9. Ability to select container controls “up” the hierarchy by right-clicking a control and picking one of its containers.
    10. Refactoring should affect XAML.  For example, renaming a property or event handler in code should update the XAML.  Also, renaming a page file should rename the class in the .cs file, fix the <Page x:Class> attribute, and fix references like <Application StartupUri>.
    Thursday, April 10, 2008 3:12 PM
  • Bill,

    thanks for the feedback. These are all great points. The good news is that we are planning to address some of these things in the shorter term - the events tab, alpha sort and most of your refactoring asks when you start from code - Scott Guthrie mentions these in his blog here - http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/archive/2008/02/19/net-3-5-client-product-roadmap.aspx 

     

    (9) - selection up the hierarchy you can achieve by hitting escape - select a control and hit Escape, its parent is selected and so on all the way to the root. You can also use the Path control at the bottom of the document to select the parent control and the document outline. What is it about the right click context menu that you prefer?

     

    (2) We deliberately chose not to do this because we thought it wouldn't scale - you typically have many more controls on a WPF form than on a Windows Forms or VB6 form. We thought the document outline in conjunction with the property browser would be a better solution for WPF apps. Does this work for you? If not, what don't you like about it?

     

    The rest of your list (databinding in particular) we would like to address in a future release.

     

    thanks again for taking the time to give us your feedback,

     

    mark

    Friday, April 11, 2008 3:50 AM
  • Just to clarify (9), we do have support for selecting anything in the parent hierarchy from the context menu as well:

     

    Friday, April 11, 2008 2:56 PM