Thursday, April 30, 2009
Inspired by the side by side approach of the "eye candy" article I linked to, here are two apps to compare:
Yes, they're the same app. The difference is a theme - one of the ones I posted about a while ago. I had to make four changes to this application to get this theme applied. I started by copying the appropriate XAML and DLL files (in this case, ShinyBlue.xaml and System.Windows.Controls.Theming.ShinyBlue.dll) into the project folder. Then I added the XAML into the project, and added references to the dll and also to WpfToolkit:
This lets me use dynamic resources from the theme. This particular theme doesn't have a default background brush, so I edited the XAML for my window to use the background brush in the theme:
For everything except the background (the colour of the button, the checkbox, the foreground text colour for the label and so on), it's just a matter of adding the ResourceDictionary in App1.XAML:
The various controls look good together - that's the work of the theme. This is a pretty simple way to make a dramatic difference in your application. If you didn't look at WPF themes yet, you really should.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Design matters. I don't just mean software design, like what objects you'll have or what the interfaces will be or what database tables you'll use. I don't just mean planning before you code. I also mean visual design. I'll tell anyone who asks that I'm a grey-boxes-on-a-grey-background kind of girl, but that's mostly about my skills, not my aspirations. I can tell good looking from not so good looking, and I do get that being good looking makes a difference, at least for applications.
I read an interesting article called In Defense of Eye Candy and it has some good examples - mostly oriented towards web sites, but not entirely - about making it clear that a button is a button, and about the tone and mood you set with your design decisions. Worth reading.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Gary Bertwhistle tells the story of the "yeah but" guy and encourages all of us to be "yeah and" guys instead. It's good advice. Years ago, I heard about the improv "yes and" rule. I discovered that, in both business and personal life, if you take a sentence with a but, and replace the but with and, the sentence becomes a much more positive and pleasant one. Your decision, your ruling, hasn't changed. The way you present it has. Sometimes instead of "and", I split the sentence at "but" into two sentences. Compare these:
- (To your child, about some iffy party or event they want to attend) I love you, but I'm not letting you go to that. I love you, and I'm not letting you go to that.
- I've thought about it a lot, but it's not going to happen. I've thought about it a lot, and it's not going to happen.
- It's a good idea, but I can't approve it. It's a good idea. I can't approve it.
- I know you really want to, but you can't. I know you really want to, and you can't.
Is it because people hear "but", know you're saying no, and stop listening? Is it because "but" somehow negates the "good" half of the sentence? I don't know. I do know I have less arguing in my life since I adopted this verbal habit.
Friday, April 24, 2009
I like Scott Berkun's main blog and read it regularly. But now I'm also reading his new one that specifically covers public speaking. Lots of "how to fix" posts, and links to other tips and information. I was especially interested in the graph of heart rates falling as a lecture continued (in a university setting I believe) along with the recommendation to do something other than talk to folks every 20 minutes or less. Sounds like a good use for a demo!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I'm a very lucky person. I get great parking spots, I find money on the ground, I bump into people who turn out to be just who I needed to bump into, and so on. I was intrigued to read about a professor who can teach people how to be luckier. He recruited people who self-identified as lucky or unlucky, and then subjected them to tests that were not entirely based on chance (for example, not rolling dice or tossing coins) but that most people wouldn't think of as a game of skill. For example:
I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. I had secretly placed a large message halfway through the newspaper saying: "Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.” This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.
He has a list of principles to make yourself luckier. I'd say I do these things, and I agree they are likely why I am lucky. I suggest you give it a try. You may also be interested in his blog and youtube videos, which are mostly about "magic tricks" that are based on psychology but don't feel like it. I especially like "Colour Change." See if watching that changes your mind about anything.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Free or cheap software ... hmm ... not always a good thing, right? Well, what if it's from Microsoft? Plenty of utilities and add-ons are free, since they're only useful to people who already bought the main product, whether that's Office, Windows, or Visual Studio. Others are free as a deliberate decision to help introduce people to more powerful (and expensive) tools - think about all those Express Editions, for example.
Here's a comprehensive list, updated regularly, of goodies from Microsoft. I guarantee you will learn about a product you can use that you did not know existed. And this isn't some "bathroom wall" of links and torrents from a random person - this is the Windows Team Blog. I did stumble, a while back, across a laundry list from Blake Handler (a Microsoft employee) of free software from Microsoft that might have one or two things that aren't on the team blog.
Try some, and spread the word.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I love reading Rands. He has such practical day to day advice for managing projects and people, and then he has some truly inspirational topics. You think you have a tough project? You think you have to invent half the technology you're using on the fly? Working with new unproven tools? Try building the Brooklyn Bridge. I guess it's the engineer in me (chemical, not civil) but I see bridge building as one of our most persistently amazing technologies. It also makes an amazing metaphor. I hope something I design, build, or project-manage lasts 120+ years, but I rather doubt any of it will.
And while I'm quoting Rands, you just have to read about The Pond. I have had a lot of variation, over the decades, in the amount of time I spend with my staff and the amount of time they spend with each other. I wish his pessimism about the fate of those who work remote all the time was misplaced - but unfortunately, I think he's right. If you work remote all the time, you need to think about how to be in the pond.
Both highly recommended.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Well, a lot. Brian Harry has provided a feature list, and a secret decoder ring to help you decide which blogs to read to learn more over the coming months. My personal favourite? "Work item hierarchy & linking". If that means what it sounds like it means I will have a much simpler life when planning a project the way I often do - starting with big things and later breaking them down into small ones. I'll be watching for more details on that.
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