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Microsoft Expression Web

It's more grown-up than FrontPage and cheaper than Dreamweaver, but will it leave the code intact?

By Dennis O'Reilly
March 1, 2007 12:00 PM ET

PC World - As the saying goes, there's no preacher like a reformed sinner. The proof that Microsoft got religion on Web standards is the company's new Expression Web program, which places Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), XML and other industry standards at the core of its site design and management strategy. While some vestiges of the former FrontPage Web design application remain -- particularly in Expression Web's templates -- the program is as close as Microsoft could get to a completely new product, and it adheres more closely to those Web standards than many competitors' products do.

From a developer's perspective, Expression Web feels much more grown-up than FrontPage. While the program still shields Web designers from much of the code underlying their pages, the resulting sites should meet all Web design and accessibility standards. The trade-off for all the added functionality is the hours of training the program requires for noncoders, even with its many built-in CSS and XML helpers.

Expression Web is the first release in Microsoft's Expression Studio, a suite of programs for creative professionals that the company hopes will give Adobe's industry-leading Creative Suite a run for its money. Later this year, the other three members of the Expression family will be released: Expression Blend ($499), which combines desktop- and Web-application development and includes Visual Studio Standard; Expression Media ($299), which manages files and workflows; and Expression Design, which lets you create interface graphics (available only as part of the $599 Expression Studio package, which includes all of the apps).

The benefits of CSS for Web design are undeniable. Separating the content on your site's pages from the navigation, color schemes and other design elements makes updating the site fast and simple. While you could develop and publish a site the old-fashioned way in Expression Web, CSS is the default for every new page and site you create, whether manually or from one of the program's many templates.

Expression Web goes to great pains to make CSS as approachable as possible. For example, when you choose a style, you see the attributes you can use for that style in a drop-down menu. The IntelliSense function lets you type just a letter or two to select options, and you can drag small pieces of code -- called snippets -- from one of the program's many palettes directly onto your page to add navigation elements, form fields or other components.

Even with all this help, making the switch to CSS takes quite a bit of training. People migrating to this program from FrontPage should be prepared to set aside a day or two to get up to speed.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2012 PC World Communications. All rights reserved.
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