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Microsoft Expression Web Has Got Game

Expression Web is worth a look

In this article you will find out why Expression Web is setting a new standard for Web design and next generation Web Application development.

What is the “gap” Expression Web is filling?
In 2006 Microsoft began releasing a series of designer focused tools. The big question was: Why? Adobe has the best tools, doesn’t it? There is no doubt that Adobe’s tools are very good, what is clear, however, is that Microsoft is taking design seriously for this to be accomplished Microsoft does need tools that work well with their own tools. An immediate designer’s pain point for Microsoft is the millions of ASP.NET developers who have only Visual Studio 2005/2008 to design their Web applications with. If you have used Visual Studio as a design tool, then you know what I mean.

The focus, for the Expression tools, and specifically Expression Web, is to deliver the best tool for designers that you can integrate into a development environment.
What does Expression Web bring to designers?

Expression Web is a “from the ground up” new tool from Microsoft. The code is not based on FrontPage or any other design tool. With this said, you might expect that the features set to be limited in Expression Web. What you will find is a mature version 1.0 product. Some of the features that stand out are:

  • Easy site management
  • Strong CSS Support and Implementation
  • Strong ASP.NET 2.0 support

The focus on CSS is a tip of the hat from Microsoft in the renewed endeavors to support Web standards. Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, is a rich, expansive formatting language used for Web design. CSS gives you tools to format text, the absolute position of objects on the layered order of objects.

Many Web sites use CSS to layout the content on the screen. You can take Ulitzer.com as an example. With CSS document controlling the layout of the screen the Web site looks like this:

As you can see, CSS controls the columns, the formatting of text and the placement of objects on the screen.

Using Expression Web to create CSS
Expression Web will let you design with page based and site based style sheets. You can see this in action when you create a new document. Select a new Web page from Expression Web. Add the following pig latin text onto your blank page:

Mei decore detraxit conclusionemque id.

Id pri unum tota lucilius, dictas fabulas sadipscing eam te. Te duo putent postulant. Quo ei duis falli. Eam id diam vero dolore, mel et errem ridens albucius. Exerci facilisis similique mel ea. Inermis salutatus rationibus mei in, duo malis virtute explicari ad.

Labore principes nec ex, vis liber scaevola ea. Vitae labore posidonium eu per, mea semper albucius ea. At posse porro aeterno quo, mutat vitae virtute eu qui. Te mundi scripserit sadipscing sit, sea ei adhuc error paulo. No ius blandit apeirian splendide, mel malorum neglegentur id.

There is no formatting. Select the first line of text and, from the text tools along the top of Expression Web, change the font to Arial, the size to 24pt, add bold and change the color to olive.

Other Web tools will use the FONT tag to closely emulate your layout. Expression Web does not do this. Expression Web uses CSS to create a Style document. The document looks like this:

<style type="text/css">
.style1 {
font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
font-size: 24pt;
color: #808000;

The .Style1 is a class document that links to the paragraph of text. The same can be done with the additional paragraphs, creating a single style to format two or more paragraphs. The final style sheet has only to formats, but controls the layout of the entire page:

.style1 {
font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
font-size: 24pt;
color: #808000;
.style2 {
font-family: Verdana;
font-size: 10pt;

You do not want to working continuously in code, so Expression Web gives you a number of CSS tools.  The three tools you will use are the CSS Properties, Apply Styles, and Manage Styles.

The first action is to create a style. You have already seen how to do that. Now you need modify the style. You do this by selecting the text on the screen you want to modify. In this instance, select the headline. Now choose the CSS Properties window.

The properties are, by default, ordered in groups. Choose the Font group and select “color.” Choose “white” from the colors presented.

The Manage Styles panel lists all of your styles in your current Web page.  The preview pane shows you the style. You can also modify the style or create new styles from the preview pane.

Selecting the “New Style” link opens the New Style window.

The New Style window has the controls and properties to create add new styles. The preview window accurately displays the font as you add new formatting as shown here

Styles can be applied to text on the screen using the Apply Styles panel. All you need to do is select the text you want formatted and choose the style from the Apply Styles panel. The formatting will automatically apply to your text.

At any time press F12 to preview your Web page in a Web browser.

Next Steps with Expression Web
Expression Web is a powerful Web site solution. Some features are missing: there connection with the other Expression tools is weak; only ASP.NET is supported; connection with Visual Studio Web Projects is hard; there is now immediate support for Team System, Microsoft’s management system.

It is good to know that Microsoft is looking to build upon this architecture. It is an exciting time to be a designer.

More Stories By Matthew David

Matthew has written books for Friends of Ed, Pearson Press, New Riders, Wiley, Focal Press and Peach Pit. He is also experience at leading teams top deliver bestselling titles books that come with accompanying video training and media. An example is Flash MX Magic, a book written by 7 authors, with an accompanying web site and CD. The book sold over 45,000 copies in 12 languages. Matthew is also the author of 400+ articles.

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