Microsoft Expression Web 3 review

£117
Price when reviewed

Thanks to a legacy of standards-flouting authoring tools and browsers, Microsoft doesn’t have a great reputation in the world of professional web design. Having ditched FrontPage, however, it’s keen to reposition itself as a credible challenger to Adobe’s all-conquering Dreamweaver.

Expression Web, the replacement for FrontPage, was originally a standalone page-authoring application, but version 3 is very much a suite, including the latest versions of both Expression Design, for preparing web-optimised graphics, and Expression Encoder, for preparing web-optimised video.

The core Expression Web 3 program also boasts enhanced media integration, including improved import of Photoshop PSD files. Not surprisingly, though, the focus is more on new support for Silverlight 3, Microsoft’s all-purpose Flash-killer web format designed for cross-platform, cross-browser playback.

Microsoft Expression Web 3 super preview

It’s now easier to embed Silverlight XAPs in your pages and Web 3 adds dedicated Silverlight-based support for smoothly handling high-res Deep Zoom bitmaps.

Silverlight is capable of many things, but the most relevant here is its handling of video. Previously, you had to prepare video externally, but now Expression Web 3 manages the necessary encoding itself, wrapping the resulting web-optimised video file in a choice of Silverlight player skins.

However, there’s a major problem. To see any Silverlight objects embedded in your pages you need to have the Silverlight player installed, and currently fewer than a third of users do (compared with 98% for Flash). You can’t even view Silverlight files within Expression Web 3 (although bizarrely, you can preview Flash SWFs). Instead, you need to preview your page in a browser.

Microsoft’s solution appears to be Web 3’s new Snapshot capability. This lets you see what your page will look like in Internet Explorer 6 and other browser versions you’ve installed (although not Chrome) from within the Expression Web application. Neither Silverlight nor Flash files are supported in the render, however, and the snapshot bitmap is inherently static, so you can’t interact with pages or click through to others.

Details

Software subcategory Web development

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no

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