I just downloaded WebMatrix and build a web site uploaded it to a new domain all in a very short period of time. Then after I got that done, I sat back as ask myself: “Why?” WebMatrix is a stripped down tool from Microsoft to build web sites, and it is a lightweight installation for the most part. When I did the download today, there were a few hiccups in the installation because of internal issues inside of Microsoft and it took longer than I had planned. Later I tested the download again on a virtual machine and it went smoothly.
Now why WebMatrix? Couldn’t you do the same thing with Visual Web Developer and for the same price? Yes, but the Visual Web Developer offers more tools, and if it is the only version of Visual Studio on your system it will launch if you want more power than offered by WebMatrix.
WebMatrix is connected tightly with the SQL Compact, this means that you can use this file base SQL database with your projects. However, Visual Web Developer does as well. WebMatrix supports a type of C# syntax called Razor, it also works with Visual Basic.
So in the case between WebMatrix and Visual Web Developer, if you need to do editing of an existing web site, then WebMatrix would be a good lightweight choice. However, I would use the Visual Web Developer instead of WebMatrix. If you are just learning how to build websites, then WebMatrix is a very clean interface that is easily explained. I would make sure to upgrade to Visual Web Developer as soon as possible. If you are getting started with using ASP.NET, then WebMatrix is the way to go with an excellent way to learn how to do web development. If you have to prepare for one of the exams like 70-511, then you need to get the Visual Studio Express versions.
Now what about WebMatrix versus Expression Web, if you are a student in science, technology, engineering or math, then you can access the software through MSDNAA. Otherwise you can get the Expression studio via Dreamspark at http://www.dreamspark.com. Expression Web is a good tool and has extensive capabilities for graphics, design and programming. In this case Expression Web wins. However, if you need help figuring out how to use Expression Web, the online material provided by Microsoft is at best confused, WebMatrix has a clean, easy to navigate site: http://www.asp.net/webmatrix, in this case WebMatrix wins big time over Expression Web.