Microsoft Expression Web 2 – a quick review

Microsoft recently released Expression Web 2, their new web design program.

Frontpage is old news:

For those of you who don’t know much about it, Expression Web replaces Frontpage and as such, you won’t be seeing any new versions of Frontpage.

If you are still using Frontpage and you want to stay in the Microsoft camp (more on that later) then you ought to strongly consider Expression Web 2.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not endorsing Expression Web 2 … and not because I think it sucks, I just haven’t had the chance to really use it to give a confident thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

Instead, this article is meant to give you a quick overview of Expression Web 2 and perhaps give you a little insight into what Microsoft’s new web design tools are all about.

Expression Web’s features

Yes, Expression Web is Microsoft’s replacement for Frontpage … but that’s pretty much all these two programs have in common. Expression Web is far more advanced and it builds web sites using modern standards compliant code.

… If you are a beginner, and ‘standards compliant code’ means nothing to you … just take it to mean that Frontpage did things in an old-school crippled way, a way that Expression Web does not suffer from.

Expression Web is Microsoft competitor to Adobe’s Dreamweaver

Just a quick look at Expression Web reveals that Microsoft is going head-to-head with the now dominant Dreamweaver. Expression Web has many of the same features and capabilities and targets the same crowd: professional web designers.

Frontpage on the other hand, was more or less geared toward the casual web designer, or perhaps the office employee who had to look after the company website on the side.

Microsoft is really good at visual editors … but they have their own way of doing things!

When it comes to point-and-click wysiwyg programs, Microsoft is the king. But this historically has come at a cost:

… you’re forced to marry Microsoft – a shotgun wedding no less.

About the Microsoft ‘marriage’

Microsoft likes to lock it’s users into their products and it does this by creating interdependencies between all it’s products.

So for instance, if you wanted to use cool feature X in one program, you had to use and own another piece of software from Microsoft. Many times, these interdependencies we’re artificially created by Microsoft so as to lock you in.

… Nerds call that ‘vendor lock in’ … and it pisses off many nerds to no end. I am one of them.

That said, I can’t say right now IF that is the case with Expression Web. It looks to me (based on a superficial glance) that Expression Web 2 does indeed favor Microsoft ASP.net but that is not necessarily all that bad … depending how well Expression Web supports PHP.

Feature Highlights

Again, based on a quick look:

  • Very good CSS support
  • Lots of built-in web templates
  • Standard compliant code
  • PHP support
  • Ajax and XSLT integration
  • Accessibility support
  • Point-and-click database and server integration .. with ASP.net at least.

To answer a question: what are Microsoft’s new web design tools about?

In a nutshell, to compete with Adobe’s line up of web design and web development/programming software. Microsoft has their own Flash like software ‘Silverlight’ and their own image editors, video encoders etc …

In fact, Microsoft has a whole suite of programs sold together as the Expression Studio. This package includes:

  • Expression Web 2
  • Blend 2
  • Design 2
  • Media 2
  • Encoder 2

I will be getting more into this in other articles. For now, just understand that you have two camps to choose from: Microsoft vs. Adobe

… and there are implications to going with one camp or the other.

For example, you may love Expression Web 2, but you may find that it is much harder to work with Flash movies/objects in Expression Web 2.

… Microsoft’s wants to ‘encourage’ you to use Silverlight – Microsoft’s Flash competitor,.

You can learn more about Expression Web 2 at Microsoft’s website.

Don’t worry, we will soon have unbiased reviews and tutorials coming out on Expression Web 2.

Thanks for reading,

Stefan Mischook

www.killersites.com

Tags:

This post was written by:

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 at 2:30 pm and is filed under Expression Web, News, Web Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

22 Responses to “Microsoft Expression Web 2 – a quick review”

  1. Anna Ullrich says:

    Hi Stefan,

    Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about Expression Web or feedback about the program once you start checking it out more deeply.

    Thank you!
    Anna Ullrich
    http://blogs.msdn.com/anna

  2. Hi Anna,

    I tried to send you an email on your blog, but the contact form would not work.

    I was using Firefox as my browser. That said, please contact me .. I have an idea for an article.

    Stefan

  3. Anna Ullrich says:

    I got an email from you through my blog … it just read “test”…but I got your email so I’ll contact you.

    later!
    Anna

  4. Curtis King says:

    I created this website using MS Publisher 2003. Is there any way to migrate it to or duplicate it in MS Expressions? In other words, can I salvage any of it and convert it to an “Expressions” website? I know that Publisher isn’t widely accepted by many, but it’s all I had to work with at the time.

    Thanks a bunch.

  5. Hi,

    With just a little HTML and CSS knowledge, you should be able to duplicate it with Expression Web.

    Stefan

  6. Tim McKevlin says:

    Hi Stefan:

    We downloaded a trial version of Expressions, and everytime it’s opened in our computers with XP, it’s fine; whenever we open it in a computer with Vista, the program crashes. Any ideas?

  7. Hi,

    I don’t use Vista so I can’t help you there.

    Stefan

  8. Les (member Killersites) says:

    Hi Stefan

    Look forwrd to seeing more on killersite forum

    Thanks very much

  9. Scott says:

    Just a short comment about this:
    For example, you may love Expression Web 2, but you may find that it is much harder to work with Flash movies/objects in Expression Web 2.

    … Microsoft’s wants to ‘encourage’ you to use Silverlight – Microsoft’s Flash competitor

    That last part may actually be so, but if so, it’s kind of ironic how things worked out. I use both Adobe’s CS4 Design Premium suite and Expression Web and Blend. The irony comes from the fact that over on the Microsoft EW forum, more people have problems implementing Silverlight than Flash by a fairly large majority.

    EW has made Flash implementation pretty much a drag and drop operation. In theory, so is Silverlight, but since Silverlight is less mature, and is in a fairly constant state of flux, it tends to be a moving target. For example, although I can view Silverlight objects easily in Firefox, my default browser, I cannot “Preview in Browser” from Expression Blend’s IDE when testing. I’m told to “Get Silverlight,” which, of course, I already have.

    AFAIK, and I spend a fair amount of time on the forum and so get a feel for where the main issues lie, implementing Flash in EW isn’t an issue, presuming that you’ve already created it. If, OTOH, you’re a Flash developer looking for a round-trip experience, the integration offered in the CS (i.e. PS/Illy/Fireworks to Flash/Dreamweaver) can’t be touched when working in the MS suite.

  10. Tara says:

    Cant seem to get Expressions Web 2 to run with our Vista computer. Especially with our PHP sites. The minute you try to edit it shuts down… Is there help for this?? Anyone… Anyone…

  11. Tara,

    Are you saying that when you try to edit PHP pages, Expression Web shuts down?

    Stef

  12. Julie says:

    Is there a workflow solution for designing in Dreamweaver and implementing in asp.net with the apparent ease that the reviewer mentions for Expression Web. We are a Microsoft based backend and would like to continue to use Dreamweaver for the frontend design. Is there a filter? A third party solution? Or does it have to be EW to accommodate the .net features/ease the backend programmers need? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  13. Hi Julie,

    Dreamweaver CS4 (the latest version as of 2009) has removed its’ support of ASP.net. So that would suggest to me that the answer to your question is no. You can read about Dreamweaver CS4:

    http://www.killersites.com/magazine/2008/dreamweaver-cs4-review/

    It probably makes sense to look at Expression Web if your backend is ASP.net. Much in the same way, if you were working with ColdFusion (Adobe’s asp.net) it would make sense to look to Dreamweaver.

    Stefan

  14. Joshua says:

    All the reviews I read about Expression Web 2 before buying it and nobody ever caught the fact that this doesn’t support FTP over SSL. How are you guys using this to transmit your files to your server or web host?

  15. Ricardo says:

    Joshua,

    Regarding your question above “How are you guys using this to transmit your files to your server or web host?” you don’t have to use Expression Web 2 to transfer the files you produce with it, just use any FTP client that supports FTP over SSL to connect to your web host or server and browse to the files you generated with Expression Web 2.

  16. Mike Hale says:

    I am currently a student in college and I’m happy at the amount of programming and scripting languages that we’ve had. I’m even happier with the quality of instruction that I’ve had which is not always consistently high at “trade level” colleges, even when they are accredited. However, I’m confident enough with what I’ve learned to step out into the work force.

    My school, as a Microsoft training vendor, has made Expressions Studio available. I’m about to take my last programming class focusing on advanced features of ASP.net and the instructor is essentially treating this as a capstone. He asked our input concerning what we’d like to see in this course. I’ve briefly explored Expressions Web 2 and learned a little about how it works ASP.net, so I recommended we spend some time going over it.

    Anyone have any recommendations about Expressions Web 2 as a development tool, especially in regards to ASP.net? More specifically: do you have any experiences or suggestions that would be helpful in understanding how Expressions Web 2 and ASP.net work together and what would be useful to focus on in a class?

    (BTW Stefan: your articles on Web Business has really reinforced and encouraged my desire to form my own Web/Graphic Design Team. Thank You.)

  17. I cannot speak to ASP.net and Web Expression – I plan on looking at from the perspective of a php developer in the future though.

    That said, one thing Microsoft has a history of doing well is making wysiwyg software packages. The point-and-click tools are fabulous.

    In terms of code completion … I cannot say.

    Stefan

  18. Ryan says:

    I’ve been learning web design on the W3schools site for a few months. I would like to get more involved in building sites, mainly for personal/business.

    What would be best to learn from? DW or EW? My main focus is on making the sites interactive.

    Thanks.

  19. Ricardo says:

    @Ryan
    If you are looking at making the sites more interactive, I recommend you take a look at Silverlight, and if you are familiar with .NET you should look at the .NET framework and the use of AJAX.

    Good luck!

  20. sourav says:

    hi does it support flash,video files

  21. Not as easily it does silverlight video .. but you still could do it.

  22. Phil Young says:

    I have been looking for the why of the action script development, thank you that was an insightful and practical demo that finally made sense. great stuff!