Blueprints – Reason #42 for not turning in your term paper after an all-nighter
Microsoft Blueprints, or the plans to a new interstellar hydro-combustion miracle-patented micro-teflon nuclear gamma strato rocketship-grade missile.
As part of the PDC 2008 Expo, Steve and I watched a demo of the new Microsoft Blueprints. If they work (notice I said “if”, campers), they will make delivering how-to’s, demos, templates, workflows, etc., as easy as pie.
Here is how they work for building a Blueprint:
1. Download and install the Blueprints Manager into Visual Studio 2008.
2. Open a new project, and launch the Blueprints Manager.
3. “Unfold” the Blueprints Factory into your project.
4. Follow the on-screen directions.
In the initial Factory Blueprint, it will lead you through creating a very basic workflow blueprint (not an uppercase Workflow, but workflow). You add activities, and with each activity you can create a Word documents, HTML files, or MHT files. You can even associate URLs with your activity. Word docs will open Word, and links will open up your default browser, but MHT and HTML files will open as details inside Visual Studio. Make a change to a Blueprint, and you can update your audience through an RSS subscription. You can include DLLs (imagine never having to download and install a hotfix again!)
This is fantastic for giving directions. It’s teaching you to fish, rather than just handing you a fish template. Let’s call this Fish Level 100.
Fish Level 200 is Code Resources. Say I’ve built a custom Fish class – unfolding a Blueprint that contains it will add this class to your project. Fish Level 300 is built-in commands (back to handing you the fish template); 400 is Solution templates (cooking the fish for you); 500 is altering Visual Studio to become Fishual Studio.
Here’s what I’m excited about – in one of those levels, I should be able to design a Blueprint so that I can tell you – Add a Goldfish to your project. If you add the Goldfish, the activity goes green and you can continue to the next activity. If you add a Flounder, the activity stays red.
At least, that’s what I was shown I could do at the PDC demo. And that’s what the screenshot on MSDN shows I can do. But I can’t find any samples of it being done!
So far, I’m seeing quite a bit of fluff. I’ve downloaded and installed the Blueprints Manager and every sample I could get my hands on, read through forums and discussions, watched videos, and pressed every button. The closest I’ve come to seeing anything useful used the Guidance Package Manager, which the Blueprints Manager is supposed to replace!
On another note, if you go to the Codeplex site, it says “Please also: Visit our MSDN site”… which gives you the related link back to the Codeplex site. Sheesh.
The Blueprints are definitely useful, even in their infancy – I will be building some Atalasoft Blueprints to demonstrate adding functionality to your applications. For this, I highly recommend installing the Blueprints Manager if you have Visual Studio 2008.
“And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process which rules out human meddling, the Doomsday machine is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing.”