Microsoft Expression Web 3 review

Price when reviewed

As if aware of just how half-baked Snapshot is, Microsoft’s other big addition to Expression Web 3 enhances it considerably. SuperPreview lets you compare browser renderings side by side in a dedicated environment. You can also click on an object in one view and see it automatically highlighted in the other, with any differences in positioning highlighted. And, if you open the DOM tab, you can see the object’s associated HTML code.

Getting pages to look the same in different browsers is a web designer’s biggest headache, and getting CSS to work at all with IE6 is a particular nightmare, so Microsoft deserves credit here. But it isn’t perfect: SuperPreview again depends on rendered bitmaps of single pages that don’t support embedded media or interactivity. And highlighting the associated HTML isn’t actually very useful; it’s the associated CSS that’s most critical.

The obvious comparison is with Dreamweaver CS4 and its superb Live View capability, which lets you interact with your pages, freeze JavaScript to fix states and even drill through to the relevant CSS file. And this is just one of the many highlights of Dreamweaver CS4’s core page authoring capabilities.

Microsoft Expression Web 3

Sadly, Expression Web 3 does very little to compete. It adds nothing to its existing design and coding capabilities across the board. In fact, the only big advance is in site management, and even here the support for secure FTP and ability to transfer multiple files simultaneously are only playing catch-up.

Despite its proud boasts, it seems Microsoft has given up trying to compete with Dreamweaver in the professional arena. Perhaps the clearest indication of this is the price. Even with the bundling of Expression Design and Encoder, the cost has been slashed by more than half. The full Expression Web 3 suite now costs less than Encoder used to on its own and, with a cheaper upgrade price for users of any Microsoft Office product, it’s clear Microsoft is desperate for new users at any cost.

Expression Web 3 is good value, and compared to FrontPage is a hugely powerful, modern, standards-compliant web authoring suite. But it still doesn’t offer a proper challenge to Adobe’s CS4 Web Standard.


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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