Microsoft may not be the first name that comes to mind when it comes to digital design. With its rollout of Expression software, however, the company is vying to win over users of Adobe Dreamweaver and other tools such as Namo WebEditor. The $299 Expression Web, which replaces FrontPage, is the Web design application in Microsoft's new lineup.
To run Expression Web, you should have Windows XP SP2 or Windows Server 2003 SP1 or newer, or the new Windows Vista. Make sure to check the ReadMe section of Microsoft's Web site before installation, as you may have to add Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 and uninstall any beta versions of Microsoft Office 2007. A trial download of Expression Web is available at CNET Download.com.
We spent about 15 minutes installing Expression Web. Once you have the program running, you can choose from a variety of templates to get started with a personal or professional Web site. We like that Expression Web includes templates for CSS designs as well as ASP.NET forms. Expression Web will also open an existing Web site or import one via FrontPage extensions, FTP, HTTP, or WebDAV. However, Dreamweaver CS3 does offer more template choices.
The interface of Expression Web looks significantly similar to that of Dreamweaver. You can view code or design, or both. Page views, folders, tools and other elements are divided into panes that you can dock and drag and drop nearly anywhere on the screen.
Anyone migrating from Dreamweaver should be able to jump right in and use Expression Web without much effort. If you breathe dynamic Web design, then Expression Web offers solid features for managing XHTML, Cascading Style Sheets, and XML. Expression Web is even less cluttered than Dreamweaver in this regard. We found it easy to move the same Web pages between both programs without causing problems in the code. Plus, Expression Web supports W3C accessibility standards for designing pages for people with disabilities--a must-have for those creating business Web sites.