Microsoft Expression Web 2

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Microsoft Expression Web 2
  • Microsoft Expression Web 2
  • Microsoft Expression Web 2
  • Microsoft Expression Web 2

Pros

  • IntelliSense makes coding more accurate and streamlines the process; full Photoshop file support; Silverlight, Flash, QuickTime, PHP and AJAX support

Cons

  • Some caveats with Photoshop file import; Windows-only

Bottom Line

Expression Web 2 is an effective tool, allowing you to build sites that comply with XHTML, CSS, XML, and XSLT standards; its support for ASP.NET 3.5 allows the drag-and-drop use of assets such as Silverlight applications. This, the full support for Photoshop files and PHP pages, and the ability to insert Flash SWF and Windows Media files, make this probably the most valuable part of Expression Studio for the widest range of users.

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Expression Web 2 continues the design-led approach of Blend, offering a well-sized Design view for working with images and text. Full Photoshop support is a welcome addition, though imported PSD files must meet some criteria first.

Only 8-bits per channel colour images can be used, the image size must be under 200MB and the PSD file had to be saved with Maximise Compatibility turned on. That said, Web 2 can generate a PNG, GIF, or JPEG file from the PSD file and allows you to pick the Photoshop layers you want to include or exclude from the image, though adjustment layers didn't seem to translate.

Expression Web 2 lets you insert Flash SWF and Windows Media files into your pages, edit their properties, and preview your Flash files in Design view. You can also insert and run any other type of ActiveX control, such as QuickTime or RealPlayer. Web 2 can be used to either modify the HTML file that was generated by a Silverlight-authoring application like Blend, or insert a Silverlight-based application into a Web page.

There is lots of control over margins and spatial padding, and while you manipulate page elements in Design view, Web is automatically writing the CSS code. This underlying structure can be accessed through a fairly sophisticated Code view, while in Split view you can see both views at once, with live updating from one to the other. The optimised Code view window benefits from coloured text that indicates different components, as well as IntelliSense (above), an auto-complete tool that automatically inserts code as you edit. For example, if you type a start tag, such as <p> then IntelliSense will automatically insert an end tag </p> for you.

New in version 2 is the ability to preview PHP dynamic pages in a Web browser without installing a separate development server or having to upload your Web site to a server. Common PHP code snippets can also be directly inserted into either Design view or Code view. When you want to reuse content on multiple PHP pages — such as for a header or navigation menu — you can use a PHP include and preview it in Design view, complete with formatting marks to identify the PHP script and enable you to modify it. You'll need to have PHP installed and configured on your computer first though.

You'll also need to install the .NET 3.5 Framework to work with Expression Web 2's new ASP.NET AJAX server controls. These include the UpdatePanel, Timer, UpdateProgress, ScriptManager, and ScriptManagerProxy controls, which enable you to create Web pages that are more responsive to user interaction.

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