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Microsoft Expression Web Gives Dreamweaver A Run For Its Money

Die-hard Dreamweaver fans aren't likely to switch to Microsoft's Expression Web, but some serious coders who aren't wedded to the longtime market leader are finding a lot to like in the FrontPage replacement.

One of the most visible improvements that Expression Web offers over its predecessor is a multi-pane approach to editing HTML and XHTML documents. FrontPage 2003 is minimalistic, usually consisting of a single pane, although it can optionally be split to show both a Design view and a Code view. Expression Web, by contrast, opens by default with a handful of "task panes" visible. The central coding area is the most prominent but not necessarily the most noteworthy.


Microsoft Expression Web Gives Dreamweaver A Run For Its Money


 Out With FrontPage, In With
     Expression Web


 Image Gallery

In particular, Expression Web users will find their attention drawn to the application's "CSS Property Task Pane." (See Figure 1 below.) This work area displays any Cascading Style Sheet properties that affect selected text or objects in the current document. Other editors, such as Dreamweaver and Adobe GoLive, have supported CSS properties in this way for years. But Expression Web's task pane is a big part of the product's very reason for being.


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Figure 1. Expression Web's CSS Properties task pane displays an editable version of styled objects.

Since properties can "inherit" properties, however, even a relatively small document can quickly become confusing. The creators of Expression Web have made a commitment to the CSS way of building Web pages and want to help developers quickly see which properties apply to a given portion of a page.

The CSS Property Task Pane, therefore, acts like a hierarchical list that can be expanded or collapsed to reveal an object's characteristics. As with other good editors, furthermore, the list isn't just a static display. Properties can be edited within the pane, and the changes affect all similar objects.

In keeping with the Expression Web team's desire to help developers code to specific standards, a Page Options dialog allows users to dictate which HTML or XHTML version will be used. Expression Web uses only attributes of the selected version when converting text and images into code. For example, you can select the frameset, strict, or transitional versions of HTML 4.01; the corresponding versions of XHTML 1.0; or XHTML 1.1 (which comes only in a strict version). You can also specify CSS 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, or the IE 6 version of CSS. (See Figure 2 below.)


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Figure 2. Coders can select the flavor of HTML, XHTML, and CSS that is created when creating a page.

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