Expression Web

Review and First Look

Microsoft Expression Web (EW)

Is Expression Web for You?

  • Expression Web items included in the boxA two page guide to see if Expression Web is for you or should you use an alternative? Is Expression Web for You
  • December 2007, Microsoft released Expression Web Service Pack 1 (SP1) containing significant security, stability, and performance improvements. Get the Expression Web Service Pack 1 (SP1) here.
    • How to tell if you need the Service Pack - Go to the "About Microsoft Expression Web" item on the Help menu; without the service pack the first line should read - Microsoft© Expression© Web (12.0.4518.1014) MSO (12.0.6017.5000), with the service pack it should read Microsoft© Expression© Web (12.0.6211.1000) MSO (12.0.6213.1000).
  • Expression Web 2.0? Since early 2007 Microsoft has been touting an upgrade 2.0 version. They have been unwilling to set a date or even time frame for shipment. Still no sign of a beat or other news in January 2008.

Just a Little CSS, for those who asked.

  • Basic CSS styles layout for you to review. It is not a step-by-step style but fairly self explanatory and the styles are embedded so they are to easy reference. Copy the pages, compare them and play. There are also links to sites with more information and examples of simple CSS styled navigation.
  • Horizontal centered navigation that was developed into a bar. It could easily be changed from a bar to navigation buttons.

Don't expect EW to be competitive with Dreamweaver 8

Microsoft Expression Web - started shipping in December 2006. It's good, but still not ready to play in the major leagues.

- but you will find menu structures similar to other Microsoft products (FrontPage & Word) avoiding the learning curve of an entirely new interface architecture.  However the program is advanced enough that with XHTML and CSS coding your knowledge and your imagination becomes the limit.

Although many of the former FrontPage niceties for beginners are not in EW, this still looks to be an excellent program for those beginning web development. Beware though, you will only be able to advance your skills in web site design if you know and understand XHTML and CSS, no matter which program you use.

With that being said the $99 upgrade price is reasonable but I'm not so sure about the $299 cost to new users. If I wanted advanced features and any inclination to do pHp or ASP coding, I'd opt for Dreamweaver.

And for those looking for .Net development tool, will here is a simple one, but if you want to do advanced stuff you'll still need  a Visual Studio product. And for those wanting pHp functionality, simply look elsewhere.

EW is cleaned up from the Community Technology Preview (a beta product not intended for production) and the Web Bots left over from FrontPage have been removed. They were not replaced with new functionalities to complete the same task, simply removed. The bots provided many web developers the ability to do things quickly with a very short learning curve. That is now gone.

I'd ask Microsoft to redevelop some of these web bots back into the program with the output meeting web standards. Some of the bots that would be worthwhile, navigation structures, included content for pages and FrontPage substitution.

Add in a new form handler and validation that is easy to use and not based on FrontPage Server Extensions (FPSE), since FPSE is deprecated. These should have been very simplistic for the brains at Microsoft to put into the program by its initial release, but their priorities were elsewhere.

About this Site

With my first look at the EW Community Technical Preview (CTP) I used the EW program to make this web site using one of it's templates, but slightly modified. I reused those pages for this review.

This web site is an example of what a beginner could fairly easily complete without much knowledge of graphics or detailed knowledge of HTML, XHTML or CSS

Most of the thumbnails images in this site were all made using the EW Picture tool bar. You can click on them to see a larger image. The larger images are full sized and can be up to 1280 x 960 pixels. However many have been replaced using other graphics programs providing a better quality image.

Expression Web, What's in the Box?

I purchased a small box version - not sure if a large box version is available. Included is a Total Training video tutorials CD, the EW program CD, a 57 page 4 1/2" x 6 1/2"  Quick Start Guide and a 12 page CSS Selectors note pad that can stand up for quick review.

EW installed five minutes and I had no problems. But you should make sure you have .NET Framework Version 2.0 installed if you plan on doing any ASP .NET applications.

Wondering About EW

I'm really wondering whom Microsoft developed EW for. Time and time again they said they were developing a tool for professionals. But they seem to contradict this goal by using such items as "layers' which is an absolutely positioned division CSS tag.  But they don't stop there, in the very fist part of the included tutorials, they start out with "layers." Hmmmm And there are other signs that Microsoft is hedging on their dedication to a strong professional based tool.

However they have priced the new version of EW out of bounds for even the enthusiastic hobbyist; and there is not enough in the program to warrant a professional to change from their current software. I can't think of one Dreamweaver developer that would even be willing to get a lesser tool than Dreamweaver MX for the upgrade price. Hmmm Well let's move on because it is a fairly good program.

The Expression Web Interface

The interface is the most vital function of a program for making the various program functionalities available to the user.  So this is what we will look at first.

The interface layout is clean and is representative of FrontPage to some extent. Even users of Word will find this interface easier to navigate than other web page development programs. So on to the interface.