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Microsoft Expression Preview Release

By Holly Marie Koltz | May 15th, 2006 | Filed in Authoring Tools, General, Microsoft, Web Standards (general)

Set to debut in June of 2006 Microsoft has publically released a free trial preview of its newest web authoring tool, Microsoft Expression Web Designer.

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In what appears to be about a month ahead of schedule, Microsoft has released a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of its standards-based Microsoft Expression Web Designer (code-named Quartz). The free trial will expire in February of 2007. More information about the trial at the preview FAQ).

Earlier this year, Eric Meyer commented about the web design software in his Mixed Impressions post about his experience at MixO6:

Microsoft is coming out with a new Windows-only Web design tool called Expression. It’s pretty slick, with features like visually illustrating margins and padding in the design view and what seemed like smart management of styles. Unfortunately, I had a little trouble following what it was doing, mostly because I saw it presented in a talk and didn’t have hands-on time.

With this free trial available, people can start getting some hands-on experience with the software and see how well it works. Though it is in beta format or a preview release, I hear there are some very nice features in this software.

Microsoft offers a preview of the software features at Web Designer Product Tours and Demos and more info at the Features link.

Also see First Look at Expression Web Designer – May 2006 CTP by Cheryl D Wise. Microsoft has also set up a Discussion Forum.

Your Replies

#1 On May 15th, 2006 6:20 pm Steve Tucker replied:

I’m quite looking forwards to Expression actually. It’s a predictable shame that it only runs on the Windows operating system, but at least Microsoft are showing true signs of improvement as far as standards are concerned. From what I have seen (in the form of existing websites) FrontPage seemed to provide very little in the way of support for standards, accessibility or indeed anything non-Microsoft (why wasn’t there a PHP text editor?!). However this is definitely a step in the right direction. Hopefully Microsoft will keep up the pace.

#2 On May 15th, 2006 7:45 pm Microsoft Expression Web Designer - Tableless replied:

[...] Eu li algo sobre ele algum tempo atrás, mas pelo que me lembre, não havia nenhuma versão de teste para baixar. De acordo com o WaSP, eles estão distribuindo uma versão trial que dura até 2007. Tentei baixar agora a noite, mas parece que eles estão com problemas técnicos. De qualquer modo, parece um software interessante, embora não seja tão diferente do famigerado Dreamweaver. Ele parece apelar muito para o lado dos padrões web, servindo várias facilidades na hora do desenvolvimento para facilitar a vida do desenvolvedor. [...]

#3 On May 16th, 2006 2:41 am WaSP Member lloydi replied:

I’m keen to find out more about Expression – shame it’s not available on the Mac … but I did just enter a competition to win a MacBook Pro, so who knows? ;-) On a serious note, when I first read this post I thought to myself “How long before the trolls start claiming WaSP are supporting MS again”. Just to re-iterate what Holly has said – it’s a beta and therefore your chance to see just how valid (no pun intended) MS claims that it’s a standards-based web dev tool are, and either a) praise them for the good work or b) pull them up on the bits they got wrong.

#4 On May 16th, 2006 5:15 am Rob Wilmshurst replied:

I’m very interested to see how Expression performs. Unfortunately the download page appears to be broken so I’ll have to wait a while.

I know there’ll be a lot of people dissing it as just another WYSIWYG editor (and it may be just that for all I know) but if it outputs even vaguely accessible code then that’s gotta be good for the internet as a whole.
Mr ‘I can do this because I called myself CEO and who needs a web designer anyway’ will still build shockingly ugly sites, but at least the code behind it will work better.

One thing though – apparently I can:

“Create dynamic, interactive pages and sites that leverage the power of the Web to deliver compelling user experiences.”

I hate the word Leverage. Shudder.

#5 On May 16th, 2006 8:39 am » Previews der Microsoft Expression Familie — cne _LOG Archiv replied:

[...] Das Web Standards Project hat auf die Previews hingewiesen und bietet im Artikel “Microsoft Expression Preview Release” mehr Informationen. [...]

#6 On May 16th, 2006 12:48 pm Rob replied:

I have said this elsewhere and I’ll repeat it here. I have a real problem with WASP promoting Microsoft products, especially since MS has come on board with this group. Mentioning the availability of the beta of a product is not promotion, I realize, but many of the writings lately have appeared with an IE/Microsoft slant.

As a proponent of web standards, you should consider Microsofts “all talk and no/little action”. But, if you insist, then you need to balance such opinions with Mozilla products, such as XUL.

#7 On May 16th, 2006 3:36 pm Rick replied:

Unfortunately, as with many current Microsloth software releases, Expression does not run on the Windows OS. It runs on Windows XP only. This means anyone with older hardware and sofware can’t use it at all.

It seems to me this is part of continuing Microsloth ploy to sell more OS software. or maybe just more software in general. Too bad I won’t be looking at their preview version.

#8 On May 16th, 2006 5:30 pm WaSP Member kblessing replied:

The fact that Microsoft is working on and has released a preview of a standards-compliant commercial Web development product is significant and deserves to be recognized by WaSP. We were part of the community that, for years, berated Microsoft on the lack of standards support in their products. We urged them to improve, and they asked for WaSP’s assistance in the process. So why would we not recognize their accomplishment? By highlighting what Microsoft has done, we also recognize our members and this community.

WaSP isn’t in bed with any company. Nor is it the place for brand bigotry. WaSP has every reason to be proud of the connections it has and continues to make. It’d be nice if this community could also recognize the contributions WaSP has made and facilitated in our industry, and get over the fact that Microsoft was involved.

#9 On May 17th, 2006 1:48 am Rob replied:

Mission Statement of the Microsoft Task Force: “The WaSP / Microsoft Task Force was formed in July of 2005 to support Microsoft” and “outreach and diplomacy initiatives between Microsoft and the Web standards community at large.”
Microsoft IE Progress commment: “On behalf of WaSP and the WaSP / Microsoft Task Force it makes me very proud to be here today watching history unfold.”

Even though IE will miss many targets and goals, the Task Force writes: “It’s been my opinion all along that Wilson’s perspective is not unreasonable in the least. Anyone who expects immediate gratification for the support problems in IE is simply not realistic.”

The DOM Scripting Task Force reports “The development team working on Internet Explorer 7 have been doing a great job.”

There are no task forces for any other browser.

There have been 30 stories mentioning Microsoft this year but only 9 contain Firefox and two with Opera.

In the announcement of Firefox Alpha2 release, it’s mentioned to “check out the IE7 Beta Preview 2″.

Now it’s almost 2AM where I am and I spent 15 minutes gleaning this little bit. What would I find if I continued?

#10 On May 17th, 2006 10:55 am WaSP Member kblessing replied:

I must correct a few statements made above:

  1. There is no task force for any single browser. There is a Microsoft (company) task force, which deals with their many products and is assisting them in supporting Web standards. (Clearly the other browser manufactures are doing well on their own, so they don’t need our direct assistance. But if they asked, we’d certainly be there for them as well.)
  2. Buzz entries express the opinions of their individual authors. So when Jeremy Keith writes that the IE team is “doing a great job” (while also stating that “there’s always room for improvement”), that’s his opinion, not the entire TF (or WaSP) opinion. Same goes for anything written by anyone else, including my comments here.

I also have noted that many other blogs and news sites that report on Web standards have had much more to say about Microsoft in the recent past. Given Microsoft’s recent publicity efforts, and their upcoming product launches, this makes sense. However, if there is industry and standards related news that we’re not reporting, let us know.

#11 On May 17th, 2006 11:12 am WaSP Member hmkoltz replied:

@ Steve: I am looking forward to the improvements for others who are using MS software. I think it is great news.

@ Rob Wilmshurst and others who may have had difficulty downloading the preview: I believe they may have ironed out the download issue and fixed the page offering the downloads. Downloads for these beta previews are also available through the link, too, or visit the web-based forum for more info and news about this preview. [Link is in the buzz above].

For others who feel we are making some sort of underhanded connection with Microsoft and or its products, as WaSP members we all have our own opinions and preferences, but one feeling we all share – improvements towards standards and standards support is good news. The fact that Microsoft is adopting and oradapting more standards into its widely used products or services is really good news for us all.

It allows more choice or a variety of options out there.

It also has a secondary effect on others to keep improving their own products, applications, or service. So the news is good for us all, Microsoft users or not.

WaSP is a volunteer group of people, with a variety of preferences and a simular goal — Standards. If there is standards news we do our best to let others know — wherever it comes from.

For those wishing to look around our site, you will see we do that. We cover a variety of topics with that common thread, standards.

#12 On May 17th, 2006 2:34 pm WaSP Member lloydi replied:

Well, I tried to fend of the backlash (‘On a serious note, when I first read this post I thought to myself “How long before the trolls start claiming WaSP are supporting MS again”’), but it went as predicted.

Rob, you picked up on this: ‘In the announcement of Firefox Alpha2 release, it’s mentioned to “check out the IE7 Beta Preview 2″‘.

Those were both my posts, and there was no intended MS bias on my part: I simply mentioned IE as an aside in the Firefox post as it was browser news that *may* have been missed first time around. Just to put your mind at rest, I am a Mac user, I use Firefox exclusively and have not personally touched IE7. I can promise you that I am no ‘MS bitch’, but news is news. And, to be honest, it is news to say “Microsft improves standards – check it out and see if it’s true for yourself” whereas saying Firefox is good for/with web standards is not news at all.

#13 On May 17th, 2006 2:56 pm Rob replied:

My concern was I had noticed this months ago, and when I saw the ‘product announcement’, it sends red flags indicating a promotion on the part of WASP which, as you say, is not your intention. Therefore, you might consider such “news” in the future and how it may be construed by the reader. Such news can be considered an endorsement.

Reading about the meetings with Microsoft, Chris Wilson, et al, is interesting and informative but you should stay with objective facts rather than opinions. While someone may think the development team is doing “a great job, Brownie,” (had to get that in), the facts show they have only talked the talk and not walked the walk, so far.

Now if there is no WASP Microsoft Task Force, but there is a Microsoft Task Force, why is it called the “WASP Microsoft Task Force” as copied from your page in my post above and stated as such in your news release and on Molly’s web site?

Ok, ok, volunteerism/time/we’re not news reporters/etc. I really do understand all that. What I want to say is “Be Careful Guys”.

#14 On May 17th, 2006 6:19 pm WaSP Member kblessing replied:

I didn’t say there wasn’t a WaSP Microsoft Task Force (which WaSPs generally refer to as the Microsoft Task Force). I said that we have a Microsoft (company-wide) task force; it is not IE-specific, as your earlier comments implied.

#15 On May 18th, 2006 5:31 am Abilio replied:

Wether or not you’re endorsing a MS product is (should) not be an issue. For me at least. We all know that everithing is for sale. What might be an issue is that MS is preparing to launch yet another product wich wouldn’t be updated (apart from security/bug patches) for several years. Has MS clearly states new versions of IE will only be launched with a new version of the OS. And we (Wasp suporters) are launching fireworks to the good news of better standards support… Why? The only thing better in IE7 is the css support. There is no real improvement in any other area. JS support is not improved. DOM support goes with it. So… is it css all that matters?

#16 On May 18th, 2006 11:16 pm Microsoft to acquire SoftricityMicrosoft is in talks to buy application -- replied:

[...] Microsoft Expression Preview ReleaseIn what appears to be about a month ahead of schedule, Microsoft has released … Microsoft is coming out with a new Windows-only Web design tool called Expression. … Microsoft offers a preview of the software features at Web Designer … [...]

#17 On May 18th, 2006 11:32 pm Microsoft lists Vista minimum requirementsMicrosoft outlined the minimum hardware requirements -- replied:

[...] Microsoft Expression Preview ReleaseIn what appears to be about a month ahead of schedule, Microsoft has released … Microsoft is coming out with a new Windows-only Web design tool called Expression. … Microsoft offers a preview of the software features at Web Designer … [...]

#18 On May 19th, 2006 7:45 am David Bailey replied:

I just spent the morning using Expression Web Designer and have to say that I am very impressed with this software package. It’s roots may lie in FrontPage, but all of the messy code FP generated appears to have been replaced with standards compliant output. Of course, bugs still exist and the help file is a real mess, but that is why Microsoft have released this as a CTP. I would strongly encourage WASP readers to try out this revamped web design tool and submit as much feedback to Microsoft as possible.

#19 On May 25th, 2006 4:23 pm Adam Messinger replied:

Rick said:

Unfortunately, as with many current Microsloth software releases, Expression does not run on the Windows OS. It runs on Windows XP only. This means anyone with older hardware and sofware can’t use it at all.

It seems to me this is part of continuing Microsloth ploy to sell more OS software.

I understand the frustration that users of older computers must feel, but it’s important to note that Windows XP is the Windows OS for all practical intents and purposes. It would be nearly impossible for MS to continue offering support and compatibility for the Windows 9x generation of hardware and software — the expense and logistics would be a nightmare.

Apple doesn’t make Keynote compatible with Mac OS 9, nor does it offer tech support for that antiquated platform. Why do people expect any different from Microsoft? While it has its problems, Windows XP (especially with the recent service pack 2) solved most of the stability and security headaches of previous Windows releases. Any computer user would be doing themselves a favor to upgrade, especially power users and web professionals. A computer that runs XP very well can be had today for no more than a few hundred dollars, and it’s a worthwhile investment.

A professional requires professional tools, reliability, and security. Microsoft needs to be able to turn away from the past at some point if it’s expected to continue making progress away from its history of buggy, insecure software that focuses on MS lock-in instead of solving users’ problems. These are the facts of life for people who work with digital media professionally. Once accepted, it’s clear that these principles pave the way for Microsoft to make the progress it sorely needs, not just toward better support of Web standards but also toward a more responsible and sustainable corporate ethic.

#20 On May 25th, 2006 4:34 pm Adam Messinger replied:

Mac users who’d like the low-down on Expression Web Designer might be interested in this Expression vs. Dreamweaver comparison from Digital Media Designer. I’m disappointed (though not at all surprised) to read that ASP.NET 2.0 is the only supported server-side language. My first bit of feedback for Microsoft will be a request for some kind of plugin system for additional user-contributed language support. PHP and JSP are a must, and support for Ruby (on Rails) and Python (Django) would be nice to see.

On the positive side, the DMD article has this to say about standards support:

You will find that, as you begin your page layout, Microsoft gently nudges you into using standards. Unless you get in and code by hand, Web Designer does not allow you design a page that is not CSS- or accessibility-compliant. This is no small achievement. Dreamweaver has been wrestling for years on how to add easy support for CSS and accessibility, without you having to take a night course in the two technologies.

That’s very good news, as is the compatibility with Dreamweaver’s DWT template files.

#21 On June 1st, 2006 10:04 am supersonic feet » Microsoft Expression Web Designer Blog Archive replied:

[...] I missed this while I was away on holiday, but going through recent posts on the Web Standards Project, I found mention of the successor to FrontPage (*spit*), Expression Web Designer – a completely CSS-based WYSIWYG editor. The standardistas seem quite positive on it so far and there’s now a free beta version available for download. [...]

#22 On June 17th, 2006 8:29 am Joe Dolson Accessible Web Design | Microsoft’s Expression Web Designer replied:

[...] The free trial should give a lot of web standards people their first chance to test it out and see what’s going to be happening. The trial is good through February of 2007, so there should be plenty of time in there to find any faults. [...]

#23 On June 28th, 2006 1:04 am Tony replied:

First, to Adam Messinger, Expression isn’t completely compatible with the DWT templates in Dreamweaver. Although the templates in Expression use the same file extension, the editable regions start with BeginEditable rather than TemplateBeginEditable and SessionBeginEditable as in Dreamweaver. Of course, a simple Find/Replace will fix this in all of your template files. Then you have to go through all of your pages and re-attach the templates. It’s a real pain for a website with hundreds of pages… trust me.

Two other problems I’ve found with Expression that didn’t give me trouble in Dreamweaver are root-relative links in local files and lack of non-ASP server technologies (as pointed out by Adam).

The relative links issue doesn’t effect the pages once they’re published, but if you use links in your pages relative to the root of the site, rather than the current page, they won’t preview properly. Not that it’s a huge deal, since I do almost all of my work in code view, but it would be nice to have my images appear in design view. And if your site has multiple folders, links relative to the root are much easier to manage.

#24 On June 30th, 2006 11:04 am Julian replied:



Blog Sig v1.0

#25 On September 7th, 2006 5:45 am Brennan’s Blog » Blog Archive » Internet Explorer 7 and Future Proofing your Website replied:

[...] Expressions should receive a warm welcome from groups like WaSP. And when we do see the release, we should be able to put Frontpage to rest once and for all. [...]

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