10 shortcuts worth discovering in Expression Blend 3

If your schedule is in anyway similar to mine you’ll probably be very familiar with this scenario.

A new version of a tool that you use day in and day out is announced, packed with exciting new features and enhancements that you know will immediately make your day-to-day life easier. So you do what we all do; diligently set aside sometime to really understand all the nuances of the new version so that you can leverage all those great new features. Of course, real life immediately gets in your way! A new deadline, an issue with a project, or an unexpected client meeting. So you put off your learning time… but only for a few days.

Six months later you’re looking over someone’s shoulder exclaiming “I didn’t know Blend could do that!”. How many times has this happened to you? It’s happened to me too often, so with that in mind, here are a few keyboard shortcuts that you may not have realized were already available to you in Expression Blend 3:

1: Timeline: Selecting keyframes using mouse drag
If you’re working in the timeline, the ability to easily marquee select keyframes would be a much easier workflow than individually selecting each one. This is a hugely requested feature and it’s already available in Blend 3!

When you’re in the timeline simply hold the CTRL key to drag-select a group of keyframes across on a single or multiple timelines.

Shortcut: CTRL + Mouse Left Button + Drag

2: Timeline: Selecting non-sequential groups of keyframes using mouse drag
Taking the selection of keyframes to the next stage, sometimes you need to select multiple different groups of keyframes. You can achieve this in the timeline by using CTRL + SHIFT as you drag select each different set of keyframes.

Shortcut: CTRL + SHIFT + Mouse Left Button + Drag

3: Artboard: Quickly see a list of all the elements on the Artboard that are directly underneath the mouse pointer
This feature is perfect if you know the name of the element you need to select. Simply press CTRL + Right Click and then select the element from the list.

Shortcut: CTRL + Right Click

4: Artboard: Easily select a covered or overlapped object
Often you can see the object you need to select, but it is sitting underneath or is overlapped by other elements.
Repeatedly use ALT + Click to select and cycle through overlapping objects on the Artboard.

Shortcut: ALT + Mouse Left Button

5: Artboard: Drag selection of objects on the Artboard
Clicking the mouse button in Blend selects an object on the Artboard and holding CTRL at the same time allows you to drag select individual or multiple items.

Shortcut: CTRL + Mouse Left Button + Drag

6: Artboard: Easily zoom the Artboard view
Hold CTRL + Space to use the Magnifying Glass to zoom in on the Artboard. If you also click and drag, you can draw a marquee area and zoom in to just that area.

Shortcut: CTRL + Space (standard zoom control)
CTRL + Space + Mouse Left Button + Drag (marquee zoom area)

7: Artboard: Copy objects immediately on the Artboard
If you hold down the ALT key, then drag an object on the Artboard, you’ll make a duplicate of the object you dragged. Holding down the SHIFT at the same time will allow you to constrain the axis of movement as you copy.

Shortcut: ALT + Mouse Left Button + Drag (duplicate object)
ALT + Mouse Left Button + SHIFT + Drag (duplicate + constrain axis of movement)

8: Artboard: Temporarily select your previous tool
You can quickly select your previously selected tool by holding the CTRL key. This is a great time saver. Imagine you’ve just added an object such as a Button to your Artboard - if you need to move or resize it you can simply hold the CTRL key to select your previous tool, the pointer, and then immediately you can move and resize the button. Once you release CTRL, your tool reverts back to its previous selection.

Shortcut: CTRL

9: Data Pane: Temporarily switch to details data mode when using sample data
If you’re using the sample data feature in Blend 3 you don’t need to keep manually pressing the icons to switch from Master to Details mode. Instead, you can hold down the ALT key and any data you drag to the Artboard will be set as Details data.

Shortcut: ALT + Mouse Left Button + Drag

10: Having fun with sample data
Did you know that all the information Blend uses to define its sample data is held in a spreadsheet in the Data folder at this location:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Expression\Blend 3\SampleDataResources\en

and the images Blend uses is in the Images folder at the same location. You can easily change and adjust the information Blend is using to generate its sample data. Don’t forget to make a backup of the file first 🙂

We hope that many of these shortcuts were new to you and help make your day-to-day life with Expression Blend 3 more productive!

Comments (0)

Skip to main content