What's Different in Expression Web Beta 1

What's Different in Expression Web Beta 1

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Typically, when Microsoft develops a product, it releases a collection of Community Technology Previews (CTPs) and betas to allow customers to see what kinds of features have been added to the product over the course of the development cycle. Expression Web, previously called Expression Web Designer, is no exception to this, and we recently released the first beta for our product. Unlike other releases though, you will see that one of the big differences between this beta and our previous CTP is that we have been busy removing, rather than adding features. We know that this is not the usual path for a product team, and it is often the case that when you see features pulled from a release, it is because the product team is running behind schedule. In this case, though, we are removing these features because you, our customers, have provided us feedback that some of our features were not appropriate for a high-end, standards compliant web design tool. I know that this is not something you typically expect from Microsoft, so I wanted to take the opportunity to explain.

So, what is being removed? Basically, we are removing features that rely on the presence of Front Page Server Extensions (FPSE) for rendering your website correctly.

FPSE actually plays two distinct roles for Microsoft’s HTML editors. The first is the role you may already be familiar with: FPSE communicates with your web server to download and upload files. This part of FPSE also makes link fix-up work. This is not the feature we are removing. Expression Web will continue to support the ability to use FPSE as a way to connect to your web server and perform link fix-up.

What we are removing from Expression Web is the second FPSE role: those features known as “bots” that use FPSE as a server-side scripting system. These bots, which we carried over into Expression Web from FrontPage, include things like Themes, Shared Borders, the Photo Gallery and the Hit Counter. In this role, FPSE takes web pages that have special markup in them - HTML comments that have a well-defined format - and uses the markup to generate a more complex set of HTML.

Note: Even though there are bots that don’t require FPSE on your server (because FrontPage and Expression Web contained an embedded version of FPSE), bots as a whole have significant issues and, for reasons that will be explained below, we are deprecating them.

Why did we do this, and what does mean for existing FrontPage customers that use bots? Let me explain...

A challenge for Expression Web

When the Expression Web team at Microsoft first started planning, we had a dilemma.  On one hand, we wanted Expression Web to be a modern web design tool taking advantage of the latest standards and targeting professional web designers. On the other hand, we knew that with FrontPage going away, Expression Web would be the primary web design tool from Microsoft. While the FrontPage market consisted mainly of consumers, hobbyists and small businesses rather than professional designers, we have a responsibility to these customers and we didn’t want to leave them high and dry.

This left us with a number of questions: How similar should we make the user interfaces?  How much of FrontPage's feature set should we support?  Some of these questions were easy to answer, and we quickly settled on an approach that would achieve the following goals:

  • We would use naming and terminology that was consistent with FrontPage when it did not interfere with our goal of creating a home for professional web designers on the Microsoft platform.
  • We would use menus and other UI artifacts that were consistent with FrontPage when it did not interfere with our goal of creating a home for professional web designers on the Microsoft platform.
  • While keeping the above in mind, we would make big investments in creating a standards-focused editor that was optimized for professional designers.

This was a good start, but even after setting these ground rules, we were left with the following question: How much of the old FrontPage feature set, particularly bots like Navigation, Shared Borders and Themes, should Expression Web support?  On one hand supporting these features would help users with existing FrontPage sites move over to Expression Web. On the other hand, these features were not necessarily attractive to professional designers.  Some of the problems with these features include:

  • Some of these features, like the Photo Gallery only work correctly with Internet Explorer.
  • Some of these features, like the Photo Gallery, do not generate the kind of high-quality content that designers expect.
  • Some of these features, like the Hit Counter, do not provide designers with the kind of stylistic control they require.
  • Many of these features were tied to FrontPage Server Extensions, so that your content would not render if you tried to use your website on a server that did not have these extensions.

Layering: An initial solution

Our initial solution to this issue – the one you saw in our CTP – can be thought of as the 'layering approach'.  In this solution we would incorporate nearly all of the existing FrontPage features into Expression Web for maximum compatibility. On top of this, we would add new features which were more focused on the professional designer, things like rich support for Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) and great design-time visualizations.  This approach was nice because it would allow us to move our focus toward professional designers while still leaving room for the existing FrontPage customer base. However, this solution was not the best option based on feedback from designers who worked with our CTP, and because these features could leave you with a website that only rendered correctly on a web server that had FPSE installed.

As a part of creating Expression Web, we wanted to show professional designers more respect. We believe professional designers are folks who feel that the design experience – how something looks and how you interact with it matters. Our ultimate goal is to build the kind of interface designers love to use, an interface that inspires creativity. FrontPage might have worked best with FPSE, but we wanted to be sure Expression Web provided an excellent experience whether you use FPSE or not. Ultimately this issue is not about technology or about functionality, it’s about trust. One of the reasons I joined the Expression team was to help Microsoft build trust with the designer community, and part of that is letting you make the decisions on how to build your sites or where to deploy them. This is why we are deprecating bots and investing heavily (and will continue to invest) in our support for using FTP and other non-proprietary protocols for communicating with web servers.

Upgrading: Our Expression Web path

We went back to the drawing board and came up with the 'upgrade' approach, which you will see in our next CTP release.  It consists of three main tenets:

  • In sites that don’t use bots, hide any Expression Web features that refer to them. In other words, FPSE bot features in Expression Web disappear if the web page you are working on doesn’t already use them.
  • Help the existing FrontPage community make the transition toward more modern standards-based web design techniques.
  • Provide a minimum level of support possible for pages that already have bots: you won’t find a way to add things like Shared Borders or FrontPage Themes to a website, but web pages or websites that already have these features will continue to render correctly.

This approach has two benefits: If you are an existing FrontPage user who is interested in moving into the world of modern, standards-based web design, then you should find Expression Web to be a familiar environment in which you can be productive very quickly. On the other hand, if you are a new customer to Microsoft (with respect to web design tools) then you should find that Expression Web is a design-oriented, professionally focused web editor that is uncompromising in its support for creating standards-based web sites.

We are aware, though, that this will cause pain for those existing FrontPage users that do not fall into these groups. Ultimately, we believe that your best solution may well be moving into a more managed web environment like SharePoint, where the vagaries of html and standards compliance will not impact you. If you are one of the people in this situation, I hope that you understand why we made this decision. If not, well, my email address is Erik.Saltwell@microsoft.com

Erik Saltwell - Development Manager, Expression Web

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  • I have just uninstalled the previous web express and now i am receiving this error when trying to install the new web express..


  • First off, I want to say that I really enjoy the beta release. However, I do have a few gripes...

    I represent a fairly large niche of young designer/developers who are fluent in both back-end code (e.g., PHP, ASP, Ruby, Perl, etc) and front-end code (e.g., XHTML, CSS).

    I’ve almost entirely stopped using DreamWeaver as my main IDE, and here are my main complaints:

    1.) Why is there a lack of syntax highlighting (color coding) for server side scripting languages? If you want to appeal to the largest audience, you will finally NEED to implement (at least) PHP support. It is well known, in fact, that PHP is the most popular development language. But, really, it can’t be that hard to support other languages. Look at the open source editor Notepad++.

    2.) I could careless about anything dealing with FrontPage bots. Please continue to rip out anything non-standard. Ick.

    I use strict XHTML/CSS, and sit in the code view while editing. I am a code grunt, and wouldn't have it any other way. Thus, I NEVER want my code rewrote/reformatted for any reason. FrontPage seemed to have issues with this. So, why don’t I just use a glorified text editor? Because, I like the robustness of a full-featured IDE (e.g., intelisense, automatic tag closing, file synchronization with the server, etc).

    It cannot be too hard to implement syntax highlighting (code coloring) for PHP and other languages, can it?

    3.) Why don't the rest of you install IIS on your XP boxes and use PHP for includes? It's incredibly easy! :-)

  • Will there be support for SFTP in future releases?

  • Quote:

    We are aware, though, that this will cause pain for those existing FrontPage users that do not fall into these groups. Ultimately, we believe that your best solution may well be moving into a more managed web environment like SharePoint, where the vagaries of html and standards compliance will not impact you. If you are one of the people in this situation, I hope that you understand why we made this decision.   Unquote

    This approach makes no sense to me.  This is the product maker telling the customer what they need?  Would "serious/professional" web designers be "offended" if web bots such as page counters where included?  Why not include legacy capabilities and allow the customer if/when/how fast they want/need to transistion to "standard" web designing.  Some of FrontPage's best features where due to the "handholding" that it provided.  You may be turning off many of the hobby website designers by this approach.

  • What is beeing done to make Expressions accessible with: www.screenreader.net, we want our *web* expressions for free!

  • Urk.  I just read this thread and learned about the disappearance of the design-time Include Pages feature that relies on FrontPage Extensions (and embedded bot-markup) to do it.  I am also a heavy user of that feature.  In fact, I have a whole set of document-engineering practices and patterns that rely on that feature and all of my sites rely on it:

    - All of the standard boilerplate (logos, etc.) are brought in from include pages that I can manage in one place.  I even use Include Pages to accomplish a form of versioning.  

    - You can see an example of that at http://nuovodoc.com/products/ODMlicensing.htm and follow the hard-hat in the lower-left corner to see what is going on.

    Well, I guess I now understand a side conversation that I was in at the iWoz book-signing.  Dang.

    So I get to run FrontPage on my little IIS development server until one of them just won't run any more.  Fancy that.

  • I agree with the last post. I’ve used includes on 100’s of sites. They make life easy! Since EW is a visual design tool and, why would you want to remove such a useful feature?  I see no reason to remove functionality, particularly when Includes are standards compliant.  As far as I’m concerned you can ace everything else, but KEEP the Includes.

    BTW the CSS features are awesome! I’ve love the fact that I can now use just one program for design work.

  • This has already been brought up, right from the beginning. I suggest you also join the EW Newsgroup to see the discussion. Visit the connect feedback and add your vote. https://connect.microsoft.com/feedback/default.aspx

    -it's not available right now or I'd give you the ID number regarding the wish list for includes.

    FrontPage Includes as they are called at the moment, a better name perhaps might be Design Time Includes, are still available in EW and new ones CAN be made. If you think about it logically all you have to do is insert the code and change the path. An easier way is to make a Code Snippet.

    This is outlined at:




    The date stamp I've no idea on .... log in to connect make a wish list it on the ng with the id number and invite people to vote to keep it ... do the same on this thread.

    hth Tina

  • I totally agree with removing the bots.....(except includes of course) however....

    I posted this to the ew ng, and thought it would also serve to be posted here.

    I like using fpse JUST for publishing .....something always goes wrong for me when I FTP ... I tried again and eventually I got it right .... however in EW it's problematic... if ms is removing fpse in the long term for publishing ..... perhaps a nice tight ftp feature instead of the samo samo might be in order?

    At the moment I'm looking for a fully featured FTP client that I don't have to spend any money on.. that allows me to see the .htaccess... otherwise I have to do it all through my file manager on my host .. now I use a reseller account just for my personal sites.. so I've more access than most .... but when it comes to helping others I want to be able to see everything....

    I should think that the FTP publishing area should be first on the list to revamp, those people will take the plunge to move from the bots in fp to EW .... will be helped more if they don't have to be crippled by the very old ftp features still in EW.

    It's like using the old CSS features in FP03.

    I'll be using fpse as long as I can.... but I'm looking to the future... when is the ftp feature in ew going to be updated? Before people go out and use a third party or after?

    I suspect it's a hinge point for thousands of users....not for me I'll make the effort, I like EW too much. However it's a glaring point of opportunity to me. Most pros don't always see all levels of usage, I'd like to highlight this one.


  • When I tried to download templates for Word 2007 B2TR I got the warning that "Microsoft Expression Web Designer Beta 1" is not an original Microsoft product.

    The download has been refused, the linked website:


    did not work.

    What to do?

  • After much reading about the new product, I'm still a bit confused as to IF or WHAT is needed on the server that a site created in the new product would need.  It appears that this no longer needs FPSE but can run on it, seems to need ASP.NET 2.0 running on server, not sure if SharePoint is needed but don't think so. Uhm, clarity here? Some of us have to plan way in advance for budget purposes for upgrades and this is confusing. How about this: what is the recommended server configuration/requirements for a web site that is created with this product? Can that be clarified here or even better save other time with that added to the Expressions web site?

    Last but not least, in regards to budgeting, can someone get some information out there soon on pricing for this product? I'm in education and we have to have budget requisitions for our next school year (starting July 1, 2007) in before the end of THIS year!! We have spoken to people at Microsoft, vendors of MS products and so far no one seems to know anything about pricing yet do know that the new product is coming. This hurts those in situations like Education that have such budgeting cycles. We have to upgrade as I am assuming by August 2007 as student's won't be able to purchase FrontPage 2003 any longer yet how can we put in the request if no one has any idea on pricing?


  • It makes sense to remove the often archaic, limited, and non-standard features that the FPSE bots made possible.

    It makes sense for this product to migrate former FrontPage users to web-standard solutions.

    But there is a stunning omission, that I don't understand why your marketing department isn't telling you:

    For each FP feature you remove, what is the migration plan and path?

    Per feature, a standards-based solution should be identified.  Plus add to the tool whatever you can to make migration easier from old solution to new solution.

    The best migration approach would be TRANSLATION: each old feature is translated into something that works without FPSE.  Presumably this would build on a combination of javascript on the client side, and ASP.NET or PHP on the server side.

    I believe that most of the people migrating from FP would accept an ASP.NET based solution.  It is essential that the solution be "standard" on the BROWSER side, but what is on the server side is less critical.  ASP.NET is a very powerful forward looking solution, and I can see customers accept Microsoft migrating them from the limited FPSE, which hasn't been updated since 2002, to a technology with strong long-term potential.

    If the development team does decide to start adding such feature-migration, I would like to be contacted -- because I have already started working out how much of this might be do-able as an add-in.  [Apologies for the self-promotion.]

  • I forgot to say:

    And the MINIMUM approach is a TUTORIAL giving users step-by-step instructions for an equivalent solution using a combination of ASP.NET and javascript.

    I am not familiar with all the FrontPage FPSE features, but I will write a tutorial for some of them, at toolmakersteve.com/Expression-Web

    I would like to hear from anyone else who might be writing such migration tutorials or add-ins.

    -- Steve


  • Just in using Expression alongside FP I have to say it's a nice program, we only have one complaint internally that is hindering us from jumping from FP to Expression, "preview mode" is gone...

    I have talked w/ other designers / developers who are in agreement, this is a convenience that we have taken for granted in the past and now that's gone we miss it...  Any plans to bring it back?  The preview in a browser thing is okay for looking at a final product but designing on the fly it's definitely convenient even if it's not always "accurate"...

    Just my two cents,

    Cotton Rohrscheib, Partner

    Pleth Networks, LLC

    Powersite Design Group

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