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Expression Web Review

January 15, 2008

My copy of Microsoft’s “Web Solutions Toolkit”, a special offer alloted to Microsoft Action Pack Subscribers, arrived yesterday. Among other items, the toolkit includes a complete copy of the Microsoft Expression Suite. I installed the Suite and have begun experimenting with Expression Web, and I wanted to share some of it with you.

Right off the bat, the toolkit includes a license key for a 60 day free pass to Total Training Online for Expression Web. I have seen a couple of Total Training videos before, and I am impressed with their quality. I spent a couple hours this morning watching training videos specifically for Expression Web and then this afternoon I developed my first web site using the tool.

I have built probably two dozen web sites over the years. I have made static pages, CGI data driven sites, Servlets and JSPs, and PHP sites. Over the last five years or so, I have focused on XHTML, CSS2, and PHP. More recently than that, I have grown weary of web development. I no longer get excited about web pages, and when people ask me to help with them I rarely accept. Part of this may be because I have always been a WordPad kind of a guy (unless I’m on Linux, where I prefer VI). What can I say, in this area I have always been a bit old fashioned. I like the hands on control it affords me. As an answer to my lost desire to create web sites, over the last year or so I have become a WordPress advocate: if I can’t do it in WordPress, I’m just not interested.

Well, all that is about to change. Expression Web is a fantastic tool. It includes an incredible set of features that are easy to find and easy to use. I find it as intuitive as a complex piece of software could be, and I am very impressed with the CSS editing facilities. Equally impressive are the preview options. Here are some of the other highlights:

  • Web sites can be created from predefined templates
  • You can create and save your own templates
  • Dynamic Web Templates allow you to implement and update the look and feel of an entire site (not the same as ASPX Master Pages)
  • You can create ASPX pages (including Master Pages) – even though you cannot write C# or VB in Expression Web, you can use it to easily create the pages which can then be consumed by Visual Studio. This can even include Data Binding code.
  • If you are into that sort of thing, you can create Tables and Frames. Meh.
  • You can create pages using Absolute Positioning or Relative Positioning
  • The Absolute Positioning tools blow ASPX and Visual Studio out of the water
  • The software includes a ton of templates for CSS layout, pages, tables, even entire web sites

The interface is very similar to Visual Studio, so if you are a VS user you should feel right at home with Expression Web. If you are new to Web design, I think this would be a great way to get your feet wet. If you are an old hat, I think you will understand and love this tool in a matter of minutes. In either case, it is definitely evaluating.

Also worth evaluating is Total Training. I have no interest in their company whatsoever, but so far I like what I see, and they have training available for the entire suite for under $300. I think I’ll be a customer in the very near future. As I learn more, I will certainly share.

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Categories: .NET 3.5, Expression
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