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Microsoft Expression Web review: Microsoft Expression Web

Microsoft Expression Web

Elsa Wenzel
4 min read

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.


Microsoft Expression Web

The Good

Microsoft Expression Web design software supports XHTML, XML, CSS, and W3C accessibility standards; integrates with Expression Studio and Visual Studio.

The Bad

Microsoft Expression Web lacks FrontPage's help for design beginners; is expensive; offers limited tech support; supports Windows only.

The Bottom Line

Microsoft Expression Web is a solid Web site layout program that replaces FrontPage and offers tools for dynamic designs, although we'd like more help for newbies.

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.

Expression Web looks a lot like Dreamweaver. When you insert an image, Expression Web prompts you to add "alt" tags to ensure that your page meets the latest accessibility standards.

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.

However, those designing a Web site for the first time may not know where to start when they open Expression Web. We wonder if Microsoft plans at some point to offer a newbie-friendly application that will offer the hand-holding that FrontPage did. For now, however, options seem limited to the various templates offered by Microsoft Office Live, or even the free Windows Live Writer blogging tool.

Expression Web integrates with the other Expression Studio applications, but these aren't all final products yet. Even when the work is done on Expression Studio, Dreamweaver has the advantage over Expression Web of integrating deeply and richly with various components of Adobe Creative Suite 3. Expression Studio includes Design for creating digital images, Blend for making widgets, and Media for managing files. However, Microsoft's suite lacks a desktop publishing tool such as Adobe InDesign, video editing from the equivalents of Adobe Premiere and AfterEffects, as well as Adobe CS3's rich mobile support. Still, Expression Web does integrate with Visual Studio, Microsoft's main software development tool, which is a blessing for digital designers and programmers.

In addition to graphical templates of eye-catching designs, Expression Web offers extra help with CSS layouts and ASP.NET forms.

Expression Web offers a searchable, detailed, and useful list of help topics similar to those within Microsoft Office. There is little to no assistance for those seeking the ABCs of CSS, AJAX , for instance. Support options aren't as impressive as the deep videos and tutorials for Dreamweaver. From Expression Web's Contact Us link, for example, we were directed to a Microsoft Web page with details about corporate headquarters.

Expression Web is a solid, professional design program with plenty of goodies for making Web 2.0 pages, despite the lack of help for beginners. Dreamweaver offers even more features, but that can also be a drawback. The small Expression Studio package offers the basics for rich media designers. However, if you're looking for a more comprehensive digital design suite for repurposing work for the Web, mobile gadgets, and video, then Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 within one of its many CS3 suites would be a better fit.

Applications in Microsoft Expression Studio
  Price Upgrade price What it is
Expression Studio
Expression Studio
$599 $349 for those with Blend, Web, Media, Visual Studio or MSDN Suite of four design applications
Expression Web
Expression Web
$299 $99 from FrontPage Web site design, FrontPage replacement
Expression Design
Expression Design
n/a n/a Graphics illustration
Expression Blend
Expression Blend
$499 n/a Creates widgets and other Web-connected applications
Expression Media
Expression Media
$299 Free for users of iView MediaPro 3 until Aug. 1, 2007 Digital asset management; catalogs media files


Microsoft Expression Web

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 8Performance 0Support 6
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