Microsoft Expression Web Takes On The Mighty Dreamweaver

When Microsoft released Office 2007, Microsoft FrontPage was conspicuous by its absence. Its place has been taken by Microsoft Expression Web, a product which clearly aims to take some of Adobe Dreamweaver’s huge share of the web design market. For once Microsoft finds itself playing the role of underdog and is sensibly adopting some of the tactics used by Adobe in gaining their dominant position in web design software.

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Just as Dreamweaver is part of the Adobe Creative Suite, Expression Web forms are a part of Expression Studio, a group of programs aimed at equipping web designers with all the tools they need to design and build web sites. Expression Studio comprises Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design and Expression Media. (As a bonus, it also includes Visual Studio 2005 Standard.) So, should Adobe be quaking in their boots or just grinning smugly?  How good is Microsoft’s new offering?

At this stage, one would have to say that it is unlikely to become a Dreaweaver-killer. However, it is a serious contender and will undoubtedly take some of Adobe’s market share. Microsoft have created a program which is not simply a reworked version of FrontPage. Expression Web is a standards-compliant development environment which enables web designers to create pages visually and automatically generates the necessary code: XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML, XSLT and ASP.Net.

One potential problem which Microsoft will face in attempting to lure users away from Dreamweaver is the fact that Expression Web only runs on PCs. A high proportion of web designers use Apple Mac. Microsoft may find that it’s not enough to make Expression Web a little better than Dreamweaver in order to challenge its dominance; they may have to make it a whole lot better!

Both Dreamweaver and Expression Web allow developers to visually generate server-side code. However, both programs have limitations in this department. In the case of Dreamweaver, support for ASP.Net and PHP is fairly limited and the overall server-side functionality has not been enhanced for several years. In the case of Expression Web, only ASP.Net is supported; there is no support for PHP, ColdFusion or JSP.

There are over a million web developers using Adobe Dreamweaver and the program is recognized as the industry-standard in visual web development software. It’s maturity in the market place gives the program a huge advantage over Expression Web. Third-party developers have also created hundreds of useful add-ons (“Dreamweaver extensions” ) which provide such features as ecommerce and XML integration to the basic program. Microsoft recognizes the importance of add-ons and have given Expression Web similar extensibility but it will be some years before they have any chance of catching up.

Expression Web is a quality product. Like Dreamweaver, it focuses web designers on creating standards-compliant web pages with a minimum of effort. Adobe will have no option but to take this new contender seriously and come up with some new and innovative features in their next release of Dreamweaver. So, good news all round for users of web development software!

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