Kaxaml 1.0 is Finally Done

Get it at www.kaxaml.com, or go straight to the download here.

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So, it's finally done. Done is never as done as you want it to be, so make sure you let me know if you find bugs. But it's done enough. What a great feeling! I've been working on this version on and off since MIX and something like 70% of was done on a plane or in an airport. The other 30% has been done over the holidays. And that's the kind of commitment I have to my New Year's resolutions. I knocked out the first one in two days. I also intend to do 23 solid days of exercise starting tomorrow.

So there's a lot of new stuff in this release. I've been working on it for long enough now that I don't actually think I could tell you everything that has changed. So, in lieu of a complete change log, here are my top ten favorite new features (from the included readme):

1. Intellisense / code completion This has the most requested feature by far. I ended up writing this from scratch even though the text editor I've been using (see #2) already supported it because I didn't like the UI (see #3). The Intellisense is based on an XSD so it will be roughly equivalent to the support you get in VS2005. Right now it only supports WPF (no Silverlight) but the plumbing is all there for a future update.

2. A better editor I can't take most of the credit for this one because I'm hosting the editor from the SharpDevelop project and I got a lot of cool stuff (syntax highlighting, line numbers, automatic indenting, node collapsing, tab to space translation, etc.) for free. A big thanks to SharpDevelop community for making all of this stuff easy.

3. New UI The New UI definitely in the spirit of original Kaxaml, but (hopefully) cleaner and nicer. I played with some other ideas (like a floating plugin bar, resizeable plugins, etc.) but I really like the simplicity of the current model and didn't want to abandon it. Visually, I purposely kept it dark and flat so that whatever content you're working on is the thing that pops. Unfortuately, I ended up removing the full screen view and the ability to swap the code editor up to the top. These are not tough features to add, I just wanted to get this out the door. Expect them in future updates.

4. Better Snippets Two new things here: first, you can right click on a snippet now and edit it in a popup snippet code editor. Second (and this is kind of a hidden feature), you can assign each snippet a shortcut and then access it from a drop down in the code editor. The hidden part is the shortcut key: it's Alt-Down. Right now, there is no other way to access that.

By the way, the snippets file format hasn't changed so you can hang on to you original snippets. Hopefully, you backed up your copy. The old installer didn't automatically keep it around for you. The file is in the Program Files folder and it's called KaxamlSnippets.xml.

5. Tabs This one is pretty self explanatory. You can open up more than one file now. Also, if you hover over the tabs you can see a preview. Ctrl+T will open a new tab. Ctrl+W will close one. There are some shortcomings still with tabs and hopefull I can fix these in a futuer version. First, there's no tab overflow. If you run out of room, you'll need to close some tabs to see the ones at the end. Second, I don't detect multipe instances of Kaxaml so double clicking a file will always create a new instance.

6. A better color picker (and color sync) I rewrote the color picker. It's bigger now and you can tweak the individual RGBA or HSBA values. Also, your palette of saved colors gets saved now. The coolest feature, however, is the ability to synchronize the color you choose in the color picker with your selected text in the editor. To use this, select a color and then choose the "plug"; button in the color picker (it's the top button, above copy and save). This makes it really easy to fine tune or tweak colors even when you're hand-coding your XAML.

7. Zoom This was definitely lacking in previous versions. Now you can zoom in our on your content. In my prerelease use of Kaxaml, zooming has turned out to be most surprisingly useful feature for me. The shortcut keys are the same as those in Blend (and most other design tools). Ctrl+= will zoom in (think Ctrl++) and Ctrl+- will zoom out. Ctrl+1 returns to 100%.

8. New plugins New plugins are: XamlScrubber (it formats your XAML and removes unnecessary properties that are commonly inserted by Blend) and Snapshot (it lets you save an image of your content). The ColorPicker is also a proper plugin.

So far the actual API exposed for plugin authors is kind of spotty. I've been adding stuff as I need it to build the plugins I want to build. No one has ever contacted me about writing their own plugins, but if you happen to embark on this path let me know and I will happily expose new APIs for you.

9. Silverlight support Kind of anyway. Right now it's just a big hack. I do some preprocessing on the XAML so that I can parse Silverlight XAML as WPF XAML. The hack really just involves switching out the Silverlight namespace with the WPF namespace. That said, the plumbing to someday have right support for Silverlight is all there. This will be the next thing I work on: real support for Silverlight xaml.

10. Better file management There were some bugs with the file management in previous versions. Sometimes you thought you had saved a file but hadn't. Worse, sometimes you had saved a file you didn't mean to (and overwritten a previous version). That's (hopefully) cleared up now. Also, you can drag a file into app and it will open. There's also kind of a quirky feature (but one that is super useful for me) that allows you to drag or paste an image and it will copy the image into a predefined directory and then generate some XAML for you.

Well, that's the top ten. Coming soon are better support for Silverlight, a font chooser plugin and some more cleanup. I'm going to take a break for a while and move on to some other attic projects. So for now, happy XAMLing.


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