By Ian Muir

ASP.NET and CSS with Expression Web

By Ian Muir

Recently, Microsoft came out with a new tool for HTML and CSS called Expression Web. Microsoft hasn’t exactly had a good track record with web design; in fact I have had a few projects focused solely on fixing sites made with FrontPage. Since I do a lot of work with ASP.NET and most of my own design work, I put aside my fears and gave it a try.

I used it for a few basic projects and was initially not very impressed. For the most part it felt like a less-refined version of Dreamweaver. However, when I started poking around a bit I found that it was pretty good.

For most of my previous projects, I would use Dreamweaver to write my markup and template, and then use Visual Studio to make it work. Dreamweaver’s code coloring and intellisence were just much better for CSS and the split view was very helpful when testing out different font sizes or tweaking colors. The big downside is that Dreamweaver doesn’t support many of the neat ASP.NET 2.0 features like Master Pages and working with server controls was always a little tricky.

This is where Expression Web fills in nicely; it’s almost as good as Dreamweaver for HTML and CSS work and it supports the vast majority of .NET 2.0 features and controls very well. It also does a great job providing some hand-holding for CSS neophytes. The CSS dialog provides some assistance on not only applying styles, but also constructing the selector. The other nice CSS feature is the properties panel, which lists all of the styles that are currently applied to the element, even those that are being overridden. This has become a great tool for figuring out CSS specificity issues.

Overall, Expression Web is a solid tool. It does have some quirks here and there, but that’s to be expected from a first release. It’s nice to see that Micosoft isn’t just improving standards in the browser, they’re also building the tools to back it up. I’ll still keep a copy of Dreamweaver for my PHP work, but Expression Web has definitely earned its place on my hard drive.

  • Anonymous

    “The However”, you mean “However”?

  • Looks like a typo slipped through. It’s fixed now.

  • Microsoft is too late in capturing the right technology in right time.

  • I haven’t had a detailed look at any of this stuff yet, but I’m finding the idea of an ‘Expressions’ suite kinda confusing. There used to be a nice vector tool called ‘Expressions’ that MS acquired. Now the name pops up on a Flash equivalent, a Dreamweaver killer and an interface design tool of some sort. I don’t really understand what they’re selling me.

  • Hey Alex,

    I think the goal is that Expressions will become Microsoft’s competitor for Creative Suite. Right now it’s still a bit thin as there are only 3 products.

    Expression Web – Dreamweaver for .NET
    Expression Design – The current version of the vector tool you mentioned
    Expression Blend – ??? Its not quite Flash, not quite Visual Studio. I’m hoping to learn more at the MIX conference next week.

  • wwb_99

    Blend is the Silverlight (nee WPF/E) development studio–essentially a flash killer expressed in XML. The huge advantage for all of those products is that they will be able to understand Visual Studio’s project model and source control bindings. So your massive DNA project team’s designers can work within the same framework as the developers without jumping through any hoops.

  • lukemeister

    This sounds really interesting. I’ve recently been working through an project using dreamweaver and it definitely could have gone smoother. I’m downloading the trial right now and am curious about what I might find.

  • zaza

    I would like to find more examples to create a web page ASP.NET, typing data into tables with sql server 2005 and retrive them in web page, thank you for your advices, e-mail

  • Anonymous

    musta kyrpa

  • lakupelle

    musta kyrpä pepussa

  • fadercreep

    I have a question about which route to take? I am in school now for C# programming in Visual Studio 2008. I have used Adobe’s Master suite to create websites before (manly Flash) but with the influx of ASP.NET I wanted to bring up my skill set and start taking advantage of sever side scripts.

    My question is what is a better route?

    Create a new ASP.NET page in VS then try and open it in Dreamweaver. *I have tried both ways with little luck*

    Or Use Expression Web to Design in and import to Visual Studio?

    Does any one know how to get design programs to talk with Visual Studio?

    I think everyone in the world is trying to Design with Dreamweaver and Code with VS there must be an answer out there somewhere?

    thanks !

  • aly

    I think everyone in the world is trying to Design with Dreamweaver and Code with VS there must be an answer out there somewhere?

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