Mike Ormond's Blog

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Microsoft Expression 1..2..3

Microsoft Expression 1..2..3

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Blend, Encoder, Web, Design, Media, Studio – it’s easy to get confused by the plethora of Expression family products but given we’re nearing another release I thought it might be worth a few posts to try and to try and simplify things as well as provide a “jump-start” for some of the individual tools.

Starting from the beginning, Expression is our brand for more “design” oriented products (as distinct from Visual Studio as our brand for development related products). Now that’s a gross oversimplification and it would probably take roughly 2s to shoot holes in it but I like simple things and I like buckets so there you go. The Expression tools are currently at version 2 (in fact most, if not all, are v2 Sp1). Version 3 is imminent.

Expression Studio is the daddy. It contains the suite of Expression tools including Design, Web, Media, Blend, Encoder as well as a copy of Visual Studio Standard edition. It currently retails for a little over £400. It’s also possible to buy an Expression Professional Subscription which (a bit like MSDN) gives you access to other products and services (eg operating systems and support incidents) in addition to the Expression Studio products.

Expression Design is an illustration and graphic design tool that is conversant in XAML. It’s therefore very useful for creating assets for Silverlight and WPF applications. You can import from a wide range of formats including Illustrator and Photoshop and export to image formats such as PNG, JPG etc as well as XAML, PSD and PDF. Expression Design is part of Expression Studio.

Expression Web is our web design tool. Very much focussed on web standards and standard based design, it has great support for ASP.NET and PHP as well as some very powerful reporting tools and great CSS visualisation. Expression Web 1.0 replaced FrontPage in 2006. Expression Web retails for about £175.

Expression Media is an asset managing tool for cataloguing digital assets and organising them for easy retrieval. I’m beginning to think this exactly the sort of tool I need for all the video and imagery I’ve captured recently. Expression Media retails for about £120.

Expression Blend is perhaps the trickiest Expression product to visualise until you’ve used it. It’s all about making it easy to create the interactive, dynamic experiences that are possible with Silverlight and WPF. Think about animations, styling, transitions, layout etc etc. Essentially it’s a very powerful visual designer that transforms your design into the equivalent XAML representation. It’s a must if you’re building complex Silverlight or WPF applications designs. Expression Blend retails for just under £300.

Expression Encoder is a video encoding / transcoding tool that can also generate a Silverlight media player experience. It is generally used for transcoding to Silverlight compatible (ie VC-1) formats although it’s be no means limited to that. It’s also useful for transcoding to device friendly formats / resolutions. It retails for about £120.

This is how things stand today and of course is all subject to change with the release of Expression 3. I’ll follow up with some more details and jump-start information on Expression Design, Web, Blend and Encoder.

  • Expression Design is too basic and weak, all the original features stripped off from Creature House Expression. It should be beefed up to act as a real *raster graphics* editor for *the web*. At least be competitive with Fireworks or ImageReady if not Photoshop.

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