You would be forgiven if you didn't realize Expression Studio 2 is now available. It went up quietly this week on the newly red-designed Expression website. While there will be a bigger splash later in the year to announce the launch of this product, the reason why you haven't heard much about it yet is because while the product is now released by Microsoft, the physical media for the product is in the process of being shipped to retailers.
While the physical media won't be available likely until late May at retailers, if you are interested in trying out the products in the mean time, you can download trial versions today.
There are a number of things that are very important in this release of Expression, many of which are very important to developers. Below are some of the new and improved features you will see with Expression 2 products:
- PHP Support in Expression Web: Say what? Really? Yes, really. You may or may not of heard that Expression Web 2 has support for PHP development, but rest assured it does. And when I say "support" I mean everything from PHP tag intellisense to debugging facilities for PHP to publishing capabilities for PHP. A lot of the PHP developers I have talked to have told me that this was one of the most pleasant surprises they have seen from Microsoft in a long time. Quite a few have even switched development environments to Expression Web 2 due to the richness of the functionality it provides.
- ASP.NET 3.5 Support: As you might expect, Expression Web 2 provides full support for ASP.NET 3.5 (from intellisense to publishing facilities like PHP).
- Standards-Based Web Design: Build websites that conform to the various web standards that exist. The various facilities within Expression Web 2 provide you with tools to determine what is out of compliance so that you can get the problems fixed quickly.
- CSS Tools: CSS can be a real pain (I know from experience), but the visual tools and centralized management of CSS within Expression Web are absolutely amazing time (and sanity) savers.
- Unified Look and Feel with Expression Studio: Did you like the cool dark IDE presented in Blend and Design? Were you bummed out that Expression Web v1 wasn't aligned with that look and feel? I was. The good news is that slick dark UI is now in Expression Web 2!
- Silverlight 1.0 Support: Full support for Silverlight 1.0 applications is provided with the release of Expression Blend 2. While I am a little bummed out that Silverlight 2 support isn't in Blend 2, there is a beta version of Blend 2.5 available for you to use (for free!) to help you build interactive experiences with Silverlight 2.
- Rich Control Sets: More controls are available "out-of-the-box" with Blend 2. Some of the controls that come ready-made include: gridsplitters, ink canvases, treeviews, expanders, sliders, rich text boxes, tab controls, and toolbars.
- True Integration with Visual Studio 2008: Designer/Developer workflow was a huge reason why Microsoft introduced Expression. Blend 2 provides true integration with Visual Studio 2008 for both WPF and Silverlight 1.0 projects so you can do the hand off between designer and developer as seamlessly as possible.
- Improved Exporting and Slicing Capabilities: With Design 2 comes enhanced capabilities for exporting Expression Design assets to both Expression Blend and Expression Web. One of the cool things that is provided is slicing capabilities so that the image assets you export for Web can be loaded in parts, thereby reducing wait time for page loads.
- More Export Options: Design 2 provides many export options, including Silverlight canvas, WPF canvas, WPF resource dictionary, HTML comp, XAML, PSD, and PDF.
- XAML Cut and Paste: Leverage the raw XAML markup created by your Design 2 assets by cutting and pasting them directly into other files.
- Windows Live Silverlight Streaming Export: Seamlessly export video assets to Windows Live Silverlight Streaming with a click of a button.
- Improved Overlay and Interactive Support: Create video overlays for professional touches to video. You can even add a poll for users to answer a questions in the middle of a video using Silverlight!
- Further Integration with Expression Media: Out of the box integration with Expression Media is provided within the Encoder 2 tool.
- Enhanced Tagging and Cataloguing: Tag and index up to 128,000 media assets in a single catalogue, including offline support (i.e.: cataloguing of assets that are currently unavailable).
- Backup Capabilities: Media 2 provides backup facilities to protect your media assets.
New with Expression 2: The Expression Professional Subscription!
A new and very exciting purchasing option for Expression is also available with Expression 2, starting in June 2008. This is the Expression Professional Subscription. If you are a developer, designer or wear both hats, this might be an option you will strongly want to consider. The Expression Professional Subscription contains a veritable treasure chest of software for a fraction of the price all of the software combined (Canadian pricing is still being worked out, but numbers I have seen make this a very good deal).
Software included in the Expression Professional Subscription:
- Expression Studio 2
- Visual Studio 2008 Standard
- Windows Vista Business
- Windows XP SP2
- Microsoft Office Standard
- Visio Professional
- Virtualized Server Environments
- Virtual PC (for use with Virtualized Environments)
- Parallels Desktop for Mac (a 3rd party application to run Windows OS on Apple hardware concurrent with OSX)
Stay tuned on pricing and availability. This is a great way to lower the costs for you to build great software solutions.