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Microsoft Expression Studio Ultimate 4 Review and Opinions

Including Microsoft Expression Web 4, Expression Design 4, Microsoft Expression Blend 4

Microsoft Expression Studio Ultimate 4 was discontinued by Microsoft in December 2012 (Don't worry, Expression is supported to 2020) 

Expression Web 4 is now Free, Expression Design is still available but Blend is only available with Visual Studio 2012 - see CODA below.

Why I should use Expression Web at the end of this review  

Available now for free is Visual Studio Express for Web 2012 see the coda

Expression Web 4 will not have function imporovements but will be supported until 2020.  Download Expression Web Free

FYI - Windows 7 is supported to 2020 also.

See our conversion from FrontPage to Microsoft Expression Help page - We can help you convert your FrontPage site to Expression.  Please register on our contact page

Expression Web 4 SP2 is available.  Microsoft Expression Ultimate 4 contains Expression Video Encoder 4 and Encoder Screen Capture.  Encoder 4 SP1 must be downloaded separately from Microsoft HERE

Expression Web 3 was worthy of our use. Expression Web 4 is better and more stable we trust it

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Our upgrade to Expression Studio 4 was free from Expression Studio 3 as Microsoft sites stated.  We uninstalled Blend 4 Release Candidate before we upgraded to Studio 4  but other than that, there were no installation issues for us

Expression Web 4 does work and it is ready for prime time, at least for things that we need it to do. 

Microsoft discontinued Microsoft FrontPage in 2003 because it could not compete with web page editors that conformed to industry standards - - FrontPage used proprietary Microsoft technology that the industry did not adopt and rejected- Front Page was split into Microsoft SharePoint Designer (which requires the proprietary SharePoint server product) and Microsoft Expression Web which is an industry standard page / site editor

Microsoft Expression Studio was created to compete with Adobe's ever increasing web presence: Expression Studio includes: Microsoft Expression Web, Microsoft Expression Blend, Microsoft Expression Design, and Microsoft Expression Encoder. (An earlier version included an asset indexer for media, videos, photos and so on called Microsoft Expression Media - it has been discontinued

Things we like about Microsoft Expression Studio 4 / Expression Web 4 / Expression Blend 4

  • It supports industry standard technology
  • Upgrade from Expression Studio / Expression Web 3 to Expression Studio 4 / Expression Web 4 was free as offered on the Expression Web Sites
  • Microsoft appears to have a real competitor for the Adobe product line
  • It retains a subset of Microsoft FrontPage functionality but DOES NOT implement FrontPage components
  • The Expression 'Food Chain" seems to be growing and Microsoft seems to have a long term commitment to Silverlight technology.
  • Expression SketchFlow is Fabulous!  Set up an application or full web sites as prototype in a short time
  • Expression Studio 4 is proving to be a terrific improvement over Studio 3.
  • Our overall experience is proving positive. We are diving into Expression Studio 4 Ultimate as a real productivity tool.
  • This is powerful stuff - we like the comparative power to price opportunity with Expression
  • We are singularly both designers and, less so, developers.  This product line blurs the lines between the two responsibilities - helping us much along the way (and the negative: also infuriating us when bump into developer challenges that require deep coding skills)
  • The SketchFlow prototyping component is so good that it makes Expression Studio 4 Ultimate a 'Must Try"!
  • SketchFlow productivity will cut design time (read that as $$) dramatically for large sites / applications
  • Service Pack 2 for Expression Web 4 (SP2) was released in July 2011 - After a couple of weeks using it, we believe stability is improved - and there are a few enhancements -
  • We are significantly more positive about this product after this SP2
  • Microsoft Expression Studio Ultimate includes Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 and Microsoft Expression Encoder Screen Capture.  You can see how we are using it on our Small Town Web Site / EW Videos HERE. Expression Encoder Pro is included in the Ultimate edition but also sold separately.  We really like this tool

Things we DO NOT like about Microsoft Expression Studio 4 / Expression Web / Expression Blend 4 / the Microsoft Expression Offering

  • Although Expression Studio 4 has a less "rushed out the door' feel then version 3, it still feels rushed
  • Windows phone support is 'not yet ready' and will be issued in a Service Pack, another indication that the Expression 4 was rushed.
  • Expression Web 4 did not transfer our "publishing settings" or our "Manage Site List" from Expression Web 3 - an annoying oversight - may seem like a small thing but we have over 50 productions sites and it took over a couple of hours to look up the logons, passwords, etc.
  • Expression Web 4 crashed as we were editing this site in it for the first time - in fairness, after a couple of months of use, we are finding these crashes infrequent
  • Where are the templates and wizards? Forms with out wizards slows us down. There are no drop-down or fly out menu wizards
  • There still seems to be no conversion path from SketchFlow prototype to production site.  Expression Blend 4 is incomplete without it
  • Silverlight, the production of Expression Blend, is not distributed as widely as Adobe's products.  For example, we do a site for a small town - that town's library computers cannot see our Silverlight videos because Silverlight has not been installed by it's computer technician.

Expression Blend works with the Microsoft Deep Zoom Composer utility tool that can create interactive zooming of photos.  We created a quick deep zoom of a car show and then edited the output in Expression Blend 4.  The Expression Blend 4 output was incorporated in our web sites using Expression Web 4

You can see Deep Zoom examples on the Lucia Tristao Design Headband Zoom Catalog page and on the Bean and Bacon Days 2011 Car Show page.  To see the full power of the zoom try using the full screen controls.

Summary:

Expression Web 4  seems to fill our needs and we are learning to trust it. 

Expression Blend 4 has great potential and we find it stable and productive for the limited things we've done in Blend 4

Expression Encoder and Expression Encoder Screen Capture are welcome additions to Microsoft Expression Studio Ultimate.  You can see videos produced with the product at Small Town Webs under EW Videos

Editorial:

Expression Blend 3 was a train wreck in our opinion. Version 4 is worthy of at least trying.

Coda:

Microsoft has again given up a portion of the Web Authoring Tools market used by Mom and Pops and the less experienced web developer; first FrontPage and now Expression Web.  The Expression product never reached market penetration so it has been cancelled.  Expression Blend achieved even less of a market share. 

Microsoft now recommends that we purchase Visual Studio Pro 2012 (which includes Blend 5) at $500, with no upgrade price available for Microsoft Expression Web users.  A 30 day trial is available, with 60 days extended if you register.

A totally FREE Web Authoring Tool, Microsoft's Visual Studio Express for Web 2012 is available for download.  VS Express for Web 2012 is capable, similar to VS Pro.  Express may fit your needs (Blend 5 is not included in VS Express) but there is (another) learning curve.

Both Visual Studio Pro 2012 and VS Express for Web 2012 are focused on the Professional Web Developer and they are probably over the head of most casual users.  

Why I should use Expression Web

  • Expression Web is free, Adobe Dreamweaver lists at $400
  •  Newer and updated Adobe Dreamweaver will be subscription only, you will pay Adobe forever or your cannot continue to use it (see the Cloud Computing Review and Software Subscription Review
  • Expression Web is supported by Microsoft until 2020
  • Sites created with Expression Web use industry standard code
  • Sites created in Expression Web are fully compatible with Adobe Dreamweaver
  • Dreamweaver is more complicated to use than EW

 

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Microsoft Expression Web 4 and Expression Blend 4

Highlights:

- Expression Web does the job for us .

  Expression Blend is a most compelling opportunity to move from Adobe.

- Transition from Front Page to Expression Web and Expression Studio is an encumbered  task

- Get excited about Expression Blend's potential

- Sketch Flow is a terrific prototyping component