Microsoft Expression Family... WTF?

When it comes to the 'Expression' family of Microsoft products, I have (until now) been about as confused as a man who's offered a shovel, a spade and a mattock, then told to take his pick.

What's the story with all these Expression tools?

There have been all sorts of codenames come and go -- and all the products seem to have some overlap with existing or retired Microsoft tools.

Here's the skinny as near as I can tell:

The Evil OverlordsTM of Microsoft have put out the following:

  • Microsoft Expression Web
  • Microsoft Expression Blend
  • Microsoft Expression Design
  • Microsoft Expression Media


  • Microsoft Expression Studio.

What are they for? what's the difference? and what do they do? Here's all the answers you'll need...

Starting at the end -- Microsoft Expression Studio is a combination of the first four products, plus Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition.

So Expression Studio is the whole expression family, plus Visual Studio Standard.

Okay -- that's that out of the way.

But what are those first four?

Well -- Microsoft Expression Blend: I know what that is already! That's a design tool for making fancy XAML files that represent animations, graphics, forms -- all the sort of good things you can make with WPF or it's subset Silverlight. It's targeted at designers, but we all know that programmers are going to end up having to learn it (we end up having to learn everything, in the end).

Microsoft Expression Web is the most confusing one for me (and it's what started me on my current investigative rampage).

Turns out Microsoft Expression Web is the replacement for FrontPage. It's touted as being head and shoulders above FrontPage and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. I'd like to put it side by side in a shoot out with my favourite web tool -- Aptana. I expect Expression Web would perform admirably.

Microsoft Expression Web is kind of part of the office suite, so it's something that every business should end up having a copy of (whether they use it or not). And like all office tools it probably has way more power and features than any one will ever use or find or understand.

The two remaining tools are Microsoft Expression Design and Microsoft Expression Media.

As near as I can tell Microsoft Expression Design is a fancy drawing program -- think MS Paint with a couple more features. Okay, a couple of thousand more features. And where MS Paint is pixel based, Expression Design leaps into the world of vector art, thus competing with Adobe Illustrator and friends. This is the most daring of the lot, I think because this moves away from the developer market (where Microsoft have fared well) and hits squarely in the graphic design market, where Microsoft's performance has always been abysmal. Perhaps abysmal is the wrong word. "Shithouse" might be more appropriate.

Every family has that one ugly member who utterly lacks sex appeal (a big hello to my uncle Terry!) -- and in the expression family, it's Microsoft Expression Media. This is some kind of 'professional asset management tool' and it sounds about as interesting as a hat full of armpits. As a programmer I value version control, source code management, and all those dry kind of boring things that make most people swallow their own tongue in boredom. I imagine that graphic designers -- with their uber cool flair, talent and turtle-neck-skivvies -- are even less thrilled at the prospect of asset management, encoding issues, and so on than the ordinary person. So no matter how good this application is, no one's gonna love it.

Okay -- that's my round up. This was info I had to find out for myself so I hope you don't mind me sharing it. Cheers.

If I'm wrong about stuff -- please tell me! Always happy to make corrections.

(note: I wrote this entry in Expression Web... didn't particularly enjoy the experience -- it felt like trying to ride a unicycle while drunk.)


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