Microsoft Updates Web Design Tools

Microsoft told designers and developers this week that it is shipping the latest version of Expression Studio, the company's Web site construction suite. The announcement came Monday during the Internet Week New York 2010 Conference.

The update, which Microsoft calls Expression Studio 4, is available for 60-day trial download, the company said in a statement. Additionally, Microsoft has restructured the Expression product line, a company executive said in a blog post.

"We've used this release as an opportunity to simplify the product line-up of Expression to more closely correspond to the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 product family," S. Somasegar, senior vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division said on his personal blog.

To reflect that, the Expression products have been renamed to Professional, Premium, and Ultimate, Somasegar said. Users who already have a license for Expression Web 3 or Expression Studio 3 can obtain an equivalent edition of Expression Studio 4 for no extra charges, the blog entry continued.

Among the new and updated features, the updated SketchFlow user experience prototyping tool in Expression Studio 4 Ultimate is one of Somasegar's favorites.

"Publishing your SketchFlow projects that are Silverlight-based to SharePoint provides an easy way to share your prototypes with your team," Somasegar's post said. "And the best thing is, once a prototype is published, reviewers can post their feedback right back to SharePoint, making it visible not just to the designers, but also to all other reviewers," he added.

In addition, Expression Blend 4 now provides the ability to design complex user interfaces without writing any code. "You can simply draw the desired 'shape' of your layout with one or more paths and Blend will take care of arranging the content appropriately," Somasegar said.

Expression Studio 4 also adds new search engine optimization (SEO) tools. Further, developers can create add-ins using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

Meanwhile, Expression Encoder 4 now supports broadcasting live video via IIS's Smooth Streaming format on IIS Media Services. That enables uninterrupted playback on Silverlight over HTTP using either H.264 or VC-1, his post continued.

Expression Studio 4 Ultimate includes Expression Blend, Web, Encoder, and Design, as well as SketchFlow, and will cost $599 as soon as it's available for sale. Meanwhile, Expression Studio 4 Web Professional will include Expression Web, Encoder, and Design for $149. They will be available for purchase online later in June from the Microsoft Store and from a wide variety of resellers in July, a Microsoft spokesperson told via e-mail.

About the Author

Stuart Johnston

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.


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