Microsoft Expression Studio

Microsoft Expression Studio
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • With all the tools bundled together, it's an affordable piece of software; Expression Web because it represents such a positive step forward from FrontPage; Expression Media's functions are exposed through APIs, which you can see in action through a number of included sample scripts written in Visual Basic; multilayer Photoshop images can be browsed as thumbnails but can also be browsed layer by layer when you view them directly in Media; you can try before you buy!

Cons

  • CMYK support is completely absent from Microsoft Expression Design; Expression Web is geared a little more toward professional Web developers than novices; there is no Preview tab in Expression Web

Bottom Line

One feature of the entire Microsoft Expression Studio bundle that could prove attractive to a lot of Windows users is its price. Getting all these tools for the price is pretty hard to beat, and if you need at least two of them, it's a fair bargain. If history is any guide, though, Microsoft will have a finger in the wind for how the suite can be made more of a suite, and make the next version of Expression Studio a truly remarkable piece of work.

Would you buy this?

Verdict

It's hard not to see Microsoft Expression Studio as less a true "suite" than a collection of products that have been co-branded after the fact -- partly because Microsoft's other suite, Office, is so tightly knit in comparison. It's tough to see how the products in Expression Studio fit into a single integrated workflow or how they can all be used together, aside from creating XAML applications for Web sites.

Expression Design's vector-drawing tools seem to be mainly for the sake of creating graphics for use in Expression Blend, for example, which could create applications embedded in a site using Expression Web. But there are still many pieces missing -- where's Adobe Photoshop? Did Microsoft not include an image-editor simply because it felt that many people out there already had something that did the job? This sort of patchiness suggests Microsoft simply wanted to get something out there to start making it possible to build Silverlight/.Net/XAML/WPF applications. This is, again, in essence the same tactic the company used for Internet Explorer: get something, anything, out into the marketplace, and build it up over time. The individual pieces that do exist aren't bad.

The Microsoft Expression Studio program we were most impressed by was Expression Web, if only because it represents such a positive step forward from FrontPage. Expression Blend is impressive in its own way, and we suspect it will be something that desktop programmers (as opposed to Web designers) will glom onto first and try to do creative things with.

Expression Media will probably find a niche, and while we suspect it's the kind of program that might be too easily eclipsed by something free or open-source, the support for raw camera files ought to lure in professionals who need that sort of thing, provided they don't already have an application to do it.

We liked Expression Design, which, as capably assembled as it is, doesn't really stand much chance of wresting attention away from Adobe Illustrator right now. In fact, Adobe doesn't have much to worry about, period, from Expression Studio at this juncture. (Also note that only Expression Media is available for Mac OS X. A Microsoft spokesperson said that the company has no plans to deliver Mac versions of the other tools in the suite -- which makes sense, given its focus on the Windows development platform.)

One feature of the entire Microsoft Expression Studio bundle that could prove attractive to a lot of Windows users is its price. Getting all these tools for the price is pretty hard to beat, and if you need at least two of them, it's a fair bargain. If history is any guide, though, Microsoft will have a finger in the wind for how the suite can be made more of a suite, and make the next version of Expression Studio a truly remarkable piece of work.

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