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Microsoft Expression Web Takes On The Mighty Dreamweaver

Mar 5, 2008
When Microsoft released Office 2007, Microsoft FrontPage was conspicuous by its absence. Its place has been taken by Microsoft Expression Web, a product which clearly aims to take some of Adobe Dreamweaver's huge share of the web design market. For once Microsoft finds itself playing the role of underdog and is sensibly adopting some of the tactics used by Adobe in gaining their dominant position in web design software.

Just as Dreamweaver is part of the Adobe Creative Suite so Expression Web forms part of Expression Studio, a group of programs aimed at equipping web designers with all the tools they need to design and build web sites. Expression Studio comprises Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design and Expression Media. (As a bonus, it also includes Visual Studio 2005 Standard.) So, should Adobe be quaking in their boots or just grinning smugly; how good is Microsoft's new offering?

At this stage, one would have to say that it is unlikely to become a Dreaweaver-killer. However, it is a serious contender and will undoubtedly take some of Adobe's market share. Microsoft have created a program which is not simply a reworked version of FrontPage. Expression Web is a standards-compliant development environment which enables web designers to create pages visually and automatically generates the necessary code: XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML, XSLT and ASP.Net.

One potential problem which Microsoft will face in attempting to lure users away from Dreamweaver is the fact that Expression Web only runs on PCs. A high proportion of web designers use Apple Mac. Microsoft may find that it's not enough to make Expression Web a little better than Dreamweaver in order to challenge its dominance; they may have to make it a whole lot better!

Another possible problem area in Expression Web is that, on the server-side, it only supports Microsoft's own ASP.Net while Dreameaver offers support for ASP, ASP.Net, Coldfusion, PHP and JSP. However, it is not just Expression Web that has limitations in this department. Dreamweaver's support for ASP.Net and PHP is unimpressive and it has been years since the last upgrade to Dreamweaver's server-side functionality.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Expression Web is the sheer size of Dreamweaver's established market. With over a million installations, Dreamweaver is recognised as the industry-standard in visual web development software. Also, as well as the features of program itself, there are hundreds of Dreamweaver-compatible software add-ons, called "Dreamweaver extensions", created by third parties and adopted by the Dreamweaver community. Microsoft recognises this and have given Expression Web similar extensibility. However, they have a lot of catching up to do.

In short, Expression Web is a worthy competitor to Adobe Dreamweaver. Both are aimed at casual as well as professional web designers and developers. Hopefully, the eventual winner of the competition between Microsoft and Adobe will be the increasing number of ordinary people who find themselves thrust into the ever-changing world of web content creation.
About the Author
Author is a developer and trainer with Macresource Computer Solutions, an independent computer training company offering Adobe Dreamweaver training courses in London and throughout the UK.
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