Written by T. Michael Testi
This is the first of a series of three reviews that will cover what is contained in the Microsoft Expression Studio 2 Collection. Expression Studio is the latest version of Microsoft's development design set. In Studio 2, there are five programs that are geared to Web and application developers and designers. The products include Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design, Expression Media, and Expression Encoder. The goal is define what each product does and provide information of what it can do for you.
What do you need to run Expression Studio 2? On Windows you need an 1GHz or faster processor, Windows XP SP2 or Vista; on Mac, a PowerPC® or multi-core Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.4.11 – 10.5.4 (Leopard), 1GB RAM, 1024x768 display (1280x800 recommended) with a 24-bit video card, 2GB hard drive space, and DVD-ROM Drive.
In Expression Web 2, you have an editing screen that toggles between design screen, straight code, and split screen with the editing screen at the bottom. While it retains some similarities to FrontPage, it really is totally different under the hood. Instead of inserting jacked up tags and code, it really builds nice CSS-based code that is easy to maintain. It is also pretty easy to build larger sites by using templates.
So what is new with Expression Web 2?
• PHP Support – now will let you work with PHP sites and provide the standards-based features to this platform. You can just open up a PHP page and start creating. You get syntax color coding and full InteleSence control to help you choose functions and global variables, as well as tool tips that provide information about parameters. Once you have PHP on your system, you can also preview your pages locally without having to upload to a server.
• ASP.NET Support – has been enhanced as well to not only support ASP.NET 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008, but AJAX support as well. AJAX is the essential technology for creating a modern state of the art site in which the full page refresh is no longer needed and gives it a more responsive, dynamic feel. You can now work with any ASP.NET Control as well.
• Photoshop Support – will let you import a Photoshop PSD file and choose what layers are converted. You can also re-edit the file in Photoshop and easily update your Web optimized graphic file. When you insert the PSD file, Expression Web will optimize it for Web use, and any time you change the PSD file, it will automatically re-optimize it using the update from source functionality.
• Silverlight, Flash, and Windows Media Support – gives you the ability to add rich Internet applications to your Web pages by using a simple insert command, or via drag and drop. Expression Web will make sure that your content is standards-based when it is added to your page. You can use Flash, Windows Media, or Microsoft's new cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering rich media, and interactive applications.
I found that Expression Web 2 was very intuitive and easy to use. I especially like the fact that it creates pretty efficient Web sites and doesn’t add a lot of bloat like FrontPage used to. The opening up to non-Microsoft platforms is great. The ability to work with PHP and Photoshop are an enormous plus, as are the updates to work with the latest and greatest Visual Studio (2008).
If you order the Expression Studio 2 Subscription, you not only get the five products in the Studio, you also get a copy of Microsoft Windows Vista, and a copy of Microsoft Visual Studio Standard Edition as well, along with a year worth of updates.
One thing that I had a problem with is that I installed the demo, signed up for the subscription, and they sent me a set of permanent disks. The problem I had was that I then had to uninstall the demo to install the live version. It would have been better if I could have just put in a key, but in the overall scheme, not a biggie. On the upside from this problem was that I called tech support, and the person was very helpful in explaining what I needed to do.
I think that if you are into Web development, and especially if you work with Microsoft products, then I can easily recommend Microsoft Expression Web 2.