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expression{} Thoughts on Expression Web and web tools in general

On the 20th December 2012 Microsoft announced that development on the Expression Studio products was being stopped (In reality it had largely been stopped for many months).


Whilst this wasn't a surprise, many of us had held the fervent hope that EW would continue to build on the excellent platform it had become.

In essence, Expression Web and Expression Design are now unsupported free downloads and Expression Blend ships as a tool within Visual Studio 2012.

Microsoft expect the community to support EW and ED, which we have been doing in terms of using the products, but installation issues are a different matter and how this will work out remains to be seen.

Microsoft's stated intention is to consolidate their design and development offerings into Visual Studio and say they are committed to providing class-leading tools for building modern 'applications'. That appears to be the key. They believe 'apps' are the way forward and that the web's days are numbered. We shall see in the long term but for the foreseeable future this is very definitely not the case and I sincerely hope that Microsoft will improve the front-end development experience in VS.

That said, I've seen people comment that they'll never use Visual Studio and that it doesn't start to replace EW. All I can say to this is that they haven't seriously tried it. With VS2008 the design surface and CSS tools in VS became those used in EW V1. Until VS2012 this hadn't been improved but there are now some changes. There is better support for HTML5 and CSS3 than EW V4, (although the way intelisense works when writing CSS isn't as good as EW and needs improvement). The JavaScript Editor in VS2012 has been completely re-written and is significantly better than EW.  Neither EW or VS support CSS3 on the design surface and that needs urgent attention in VS2012, as does the ability to work with 'ASP.Net Web Pages' (.cshtml and .vbhtml) in Design View.

So in my view, whilst I believe EW still had a place, I have always said that my ideal tool would be a combination of EW and VS. Maybe that will come to pass.

As it stands EW still has life until the HTML and CSS standards change significantly. It's now free, will continue to have user-created add-in's, snippets and templates, and remains one of the best HTML editors around, despite it's known shortcomings.

Download the free versions of Expression Web and Expression Design.

Note: The 'Web Essentials 2012' extension for VS2012 adds some further very useful tools but sadly the Express versions of VS2012 don't support extensions. and add-ins.


Posted on Thursday, December 27, 2012 2:14 AM | Back to top

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