Microsoft Expression Web Designer CTP 1

A new CTP for Microsoft Web Designer was recently released, and we finally got to take a look at it.

The first expression we felt was probably closest to anger, when we found out that Expression wouldn’t install on a machine that had Office 2007 Beta 1 TR 1 installed, but it seems that in using the Office 2007 installer (an excellent idea BTW, that installer is really easy to use, though a color other than grey would probably suite it better) it requires that no older versions of Office be installed. So we uninstalled Office 2007 and continued, the installation didn’t take long, and we were up and running 7 or 8 minutes later.

Now, there is no way to describe what the program looks like and do it justice. The word that comes to mind can’t possibly be used, yet I fail to see any other way of putting it: Microsoft Expression Web Designer looks Web 2.0! It’s a program, I know, but nevertheless, no doubt about it, the smooth and clean interface, the sharp fonts, the well-blended colors, and over all simplicity of the program leave one stunned. The icons used are very reminiscent of the Fam-Fam Silk collection, but different in their own way. The program looks absoloutely amazing, and leaves a good feeling behind: afterall, who wants to design a Web 2.0 site with something that looks like Frontpage? Even Dreamweaver looks bloated and ugly, but Expression takes the cake.

So Expression looks cool, great. But it’s also very improved functionality wise. It now outputs correct XHTML 1.1 code, something not even Dreamweaver has mastered, but it still uses the same irritating/border-line stupid dialogs for inserting/modifying components (especially the add-a-link dialog, still uses graphics from 1995!). It has excellently formed tag-sense built right in, very much like Dreamweaver’s tag displayer on hover, but taken several steps further.

If there is one feature that is lacking, it’s Expression’s lack of PHP awareness. ASP is wonderful, but the most popular web language remains PHP, and it get’s annoying to discover that you can’t even see the contents of PHP include() in design mode (Dreamweaver does that OK), and it would be a lot nicer to let it use whatever server-side technology exists on the test server instead of displaying all contents as static HTML.

All in all, Expression is the real deal, it seems that Microsoft has finally got it’s priorities right, and we’re seeing some quality code here and in the entire Office 2007 line-up. This is still the first CTP, there can be no doubt that improvements are on the way, but we really like what we see so far. At the moment, we’re redesigning NeoSmart Technologies for debut as WinHEC goes live, and 45% of the coding is done in Dreamweaver, 30% in VS.NET 2005, and the remaining 25% in Expression Web Designer, and we really like where that leaves us! :)

6 thoughts on “Microsoft Expression Web Designer CTP 1

  1. Good review. You’re right. Expression Web Designer is going to be a very successful product (unless MS manages to mangle it in the final phases of development). I understand that even Dreamweaver users are very complimentary.

    I loved Expression the moment I started it up. Its interface is similar enough to FrontPage (this is, after all, FrontPage 2007 with a new name) to be easy for FrontPage users to quickly learn, and it has all the features needed–plus some–to build XHTML- and CSS-validating web pages for the contemporary World Wide Web.

    Unfortunately, this is pre-Beta. I loaded this on my office PC, and was loving the whole experience until I tried to save a file. It exploded in my face, then wanted to send its failure report to MS. I could not get it to save anything without shutting down like this. So, okay, it was just a test, now to get back to work using FrontPage 2003. Right? Wrong. Now FrontPage did the exact same thing when saving a file. Rebooting the PC didn’t cure it. Reparing the install didn’t cure it. Uninstalling, rebooting, then reinstalling it STILL didn’t cure it. It completely hosed FrontPage 2003. As long as I was working on a site that had been opened using FrontPage Extensions (via selecting http://mysitename) it could not save a file without blowing up. If I opened the site by just opening the site’s network folder, I could save files, but each save took over 3 minutes. If my new PC hadn’t been waiting in the wings, I might have had to reinstall Windows just to fix what Expression broke.

    I’ll be very happy when it’s in beta, and more so when it’s released. My IT department will buy thise, rather than going to Dreamweaver as we had originally planned.

  2. Not at all… We were busy with EasyBCD or VistaBootPRO (can’t remember which), I’ll get the team to upload them later today :)

    Thanks for the heads up :D

  3. Having tried Expression Web Designer I have to disagree with a few of the points in this review.

    First of all, Dreamweaver does producte valid XHTML.
    I had high hopes for EWD with all the talk about webstandards, but sadly it’s not quite up to scratch.

    It doesn’t handle external CSS files as well as dreamweaver, and resizin anything results in tons of inline styles.

    As for looking Web 2.0? What a strange comment. It just looks like any other editor, Topstyle mashed with Visual Studio really.

    It’s not a bad piece of software, it’s easily as good as Dreamweaver, albeit with a focus on MS technology, which is a shame,

  4. I must have missed something when I was using Web Designer.  I design with Front page and Dreamweaver MX and Version 8 and Web Designer was the worst thing I have used since my early days of using homesite or pagemill.

    Seriously folks…. do you guys work for Microsoft or something?

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