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Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Microsoft Releases New Web Design Tools


Microsoft released yesteray public beta versions of two of the three applications comprising its upcoming Expression suite of Web and content design software.

The company released a fourth community technical preview (CTP) of Expression Graphic Designer, a painting and illustration tool, and its first CTP version of Expression Interactive Designer, formerly codenamed Sparkle, which also helps designers and developers work together to build 3D animation and graphics.

Along with Expression Web Designer, the Expression suite works natively with eXtensible Application Markup Language (XAML) code. Graphics created with the software can be exported as XAML code that developers can use to build dynamic applications.

That should speed up workflow between designers and developers, said Scott Stanfield, CEO of Vertigo Software, a software developer, and eliminate the need for designers to use separate applications such as Macromedia Fireworks or Adobe Photoshop. "I'm generally pretty jaded about this stuff, but Microsoft is blazing some new ground here," said Stanfield.

Expression and its use of XAML code is one aspect of the Windows Presentation Foundation, a new framework for creating user interfaces in desktop and Web applications.

Other designers and developers such as Jered Cuenco, a Portland multimedia developer for avenue a/razorfish, said the CTP releases of Expression remain rough, although they offer a lot of promise.

Microsoft is expected to release a CTP version of Expression Web Designer in March during its professional Web developers conference, Mix, according to a source.

Key declined to name a final release date for the Expression suite, which will only run on Windows and will compete with products from Adobe Systems Inc. and Corel Corp.

The beta for Expression Interactive Designer can be downloaded now from www.microsoft.com/products/expression/en/interactive_designer/id_free_trial.aspx. The updated beta for Expression Graphic Designer is also available online at www.microsoft.com/products/expression/en/graphic_designer/gd_free_trial.aspx


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