Saturday, August 1, 2009

Converting SketchFlow to Production

Deb: I was really excited to start working with Blend 3 with SketchFlow! I had seen videos from MIX 09 demoing SketchFlow and was disappointed it wasn't in the first release of Blend 3. Finally I was going to get a chance to try it myself.

I had a few learning pains, working with the SketchFlow Map - the documentation was a little sketchy (pardon the pun). I also had a problem getting the navigation to work right until I learned about right-clicking on the button and going to the bottom of the menu to tell it where to navigate to. Once I learned that, it was amazingly easy to setup a prototype project. I was really pleased with the overall tool; I was able to build a nice prototype in a relatively short period of time.

My disappointment has come as I try to convert this prototype to production. I hadn't read ahead in the help documentation about how to do this because I assumed it would be relatively straight-forward. Imagine my surprise when I found a series of 16 steps that had me deleting files, navigating to obscure folders in the SDK to include references, and editing code in Notepad! The best advice I received in this series of steps was Step One: backup your project. After an hour of tedious effort, I got nothing. The project wouldn't run.

So I googled 'converting sketchflow to production' and tapped into a conversation within the Silverlight community about just how ready for primetime SketchFlow really is. Some people are happy to have such a powerful prototyping tool at their disposal, but say that when you are ready to build the application for real you will need to build it from scratch. Others range from disappointment to outrage, feeling Microsoft rushed Sketchflow out before it was really finished, not taking it through the final, critical step of conversion to production.

Me, I've turned my prototype project over to Steve, the Developer, to see how much he can convert and how much effort is required to convert it. We will let you know in a later post what we learn.

Meanwhile, I will be rebuilding the prototype from scratch, as a new project. I will also investigate getting access to the 'sketchy styles' from a normal Silverlight project. It seems to me that much of the value of SketchFlow would be delivered by the styles alone. Now if creating navigation was only as easy in a regular Silverlight project..........


Petulka77 said...

Thanks for letting now about this huge lack! It's a shame of this missing conversion to real APP.
I was going to sketch my silverlight application and present it to my customer it this cool way and then just enhance the "APP sketch skeleton" to the real APP.
According the Mix09 videos I thought it's a platitude to convert functioning sketch to regular silverlight project. I am really disappointed and I rather stick with the old development method.
I don't want to invest my time to do nice customer presentation and then build everything from scratch again. Which doesn't make any sense! Incredible! :(

Jag said...

There is a Microsoft solution for doing this but before you use it read my blog post about How to Convert a SketchFlow Prototype into a Production Application… And why you shouldn’t!