Microsoft finally tests Dreamweaver rival

Developers are getting their first chance to play with a Web layout and design tool which Microsoft hopes will lure developers from Adobe Dreamweaver.

Microsoft plans to release an early, Community Technology Preview (CTP), version of Expression Web Designer, one of three new tools designed to compete with rival Adobe Systems' extensive Web design portfolio. (www.microsoft.com/expression)

Microsoft hopes the Expression toolset -- which also includes Expression Graphic Designer and Expression Interactive Designer -- will lure some of the creative types that build Web sites using Adobe tools such as Dreamweaver and Flash.

Interactive Designer is a 3D animation and graphics tool, and Graphic Designer is a painting and illustration tool. Microsoft expects to have the entire Expression suite available by the end of the year.

Product manager for Expression Web Designer at Microsoft, Wayne Smith, said the only tool comparable to Expression Web Designer for Web designers right now was Adobe Dreamweaver. But he highlighted Web Designer's support for ASP.Net 2.0, the latest version of Microsoft's technology for building Web-based applications and services, as a differentiator between the tools.

"[Dreamweaver] supports ASP.Net version 1.1, but only to a fairly superficial level," he said. "We have deep support."

Smith also stressed Microsoft's effort to support standards such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) in Web Designer. CSS was the standard technology Web designers uses to create modern Web-site layout.

Microsoft enabled Web designers not only to build pages using CSS but also manage the underlying code, which could be a hassle for developers, Smith said.

"If you have a complex site, you will end up with lots of CSS code, and managing it becomes an important part of the developer's job to keep the site clean and make sure the styles you've used make it work correctly," he said.

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