Microsoft has launched Sparkle Interactive Designer to compete with existing high-end graphics design tools such as those marketed by Adobe and Macromedia.
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Sparkle is a vector-based user interface designer that can deliver 2D and 3D objects, which can be used for tasks ranging from Flash-type presentations to designing user interfaces for Windows applications.
Sparkle - which forms part of the Microsoft Expression suite - was unveiled in a pre-release version at Microsoft's recent Professional Developers Conference in
The Expression suite, which is currently available to developers as a community technology preview, along with Microsoft's .net framework and Windows Presentation Foundation graphical subsystem, represents Microsoft's efforts towards achieving Rich Internet Applications.
Rich Internet Applications create a desktop-like application but through a web browser. They do this with a rendering engine that sits on the client side with asynchronous messaging to the server instead of having messages go back and forth constantly between the two to refresh the screen.
Michael Azoff, senior research analyst with Butler Group, said, "Sparkle provides an end-user studio tool that gives rich graphics at the high end and will be a competitor with Macromedia's Flex. It is a catch up for Microsoft in this field, but where Flex runs on a browser, Sparkle can be run on a browser or desktop, so it goes a little further."
Sparkle allows the designer access to the same objects that developers work with, giving them control of the appearance and behaviour in the user interface without having to write code. Once design work is complete it can be saved and handed over to the developer and a C# project generated for the developer to work with.