My favorite Expression 4 features

Today at Internet Week in New York, we launched Expression Studio 4.

Expression 4 is a suite of professional design tools for building immersive user experiences for the desktop, mobile devices and the web.  

There are a lot of new enhancements and exciting features in this release.  Here are some of my favorite features of Expression 4.

1. Publishing SketchFlow Prototypes to SharePoint

Publishing your SketchFlow projects that are Silverlight-based to SharePoint provides an easy way to share your prototypes with your team. And the best thing is, once a prototype is published, reviewers can post their feedback right back to SharePoint, making it visible not just to the designers, but also to all other reviewers. Designers can also see feedback from many reviewers concurrently. Collaborative reviews of working, interactive prototypes just got a whole lot better.

2. New Behaviors in Blend

Expression Blend 4 includes new Behaviors designed to enhance your application design process. The new Behaviors enable you to do a lot more while keeping you focused on the art of creating compelling UI designs. Using the new Behaviors, you can for example take advantage of multi-touch, specify fluid transitions between layout changes, define conditional logic or interact more easily with the components of an MVVM application. There are also new Behaviors specifically for SketchFlow, including ones to preserve screen state and to exert greater control over the playback of SketchFlow Animations.

3. Design a UI without writing Code

Expression Blend 4 now lets you design many complex layouts without writing any code.

An example: imagine you want to create a radial list box that arranges its content along a circle, like a carousel. In Blend 4, instead of writing complicated layout code, you can simply draw the desired "shape" of your layout with one or more paths and Blend will take care of arranging the content appropriately. Best of all, this is not just a design time feature, but it works with data-driven list boxes, and supports animation, letting you create incredibly complex, rich and creative layouts as easy as you can draw a path.  

4. Write Add-ins for Expression Web with HTML & JavaScript

As a web-savvy developer, you are probably comfortable with the languages of the web: JavaScript, HTML and CSS.  In Expression Web 4, we have provided a way to extend the app using only the languages you already know. You can now add your own menu items, toolbar buttons, panels and even dialog boxes using only HTML, CSS, JavaScript and a simple XML manifest file.  Do you have your own markup for creating online maps in pages?  How about a custom Twitter feed? Now you can easily extend Expression Web to make it simple to add this content to any site you are working with.


5. Improve your search rankings with SEO Diagnostics

Our new SEO analysis not only includes the usual checks for duplicate or missing titles, meta tags and headers, but it also checks the content of search sensitive text, like link text and page titles, to make sure they don’t have overly general values like “click here” or  “welcome”  which aren’t going to add any search value to your pages. 

We also include deep help topics that let you understand why these rules are important for getting a good search ranking.  This documentation makes our reports more than a simple checklist; it helps you learn and master the art of SEO.

6. Encoding and broadcasting live events

With Expression Encoder 4 you can now broadcast live video to the IIS Smooth Streaming format to ensure uninterrupted playback on Silverlight over HTTP. Select either H.264 or VC-1 output, configure the number and size of the streams then publish directly to servers running IIS Media Services. The redesigned user interface allows you to easily select from multiple live sources and file-based content to create high-quality broadcast output in real time.

We've also used this release as an opportunity to simplify the product line-up of Expression to more closely correspond to the Visual Studio 2010 product family.  These are the new Expression 4 products:

  • Expression Web 4 Professional
  • Expression Studio 4 Premium
  • Expression Studio 4 Ultimate

Current owners of Expression Studio 3 or Expression Web 3 can upgrade at no additional cost to corresponding version 4 products: Expression Studio 4 Ultimate and Expression Studio 4 Web Professional. Please visit the Expression site to learn more.


Comments (39)

  1. shaggygi says:

    Thanks for update and tools released today.  I already downloaded and started using this afternoon.

    I will say that I'm very disappointed that SketchFlow is not included in the Premium version.  I feel that this should be one of the features included.  I'm more dissappointed that Microsoft did not make it clear that this would not be included and should have stated up front what each MSDN subcription would support.  My development team already purchased VS 2010 Premium w/ MSDN thinking the same features provided in Expression Studio 3 would be included in version 4.

  2. shaggygi says:

    Thanks for update and tools released today.  I already downloaded and started using this afternoon.

    I will say that I'm very disappointed that SketchFlow is not included in the Premium version.  I feel that this should be one of the features included.  I'm more dissappointed that Microsoft did not make it clear that this would not be included and should have stated up front what each MSDN subcription would support.  My development team already purchased VS 2010 Premium w/ MSDN thinking the same features provided in Expression Studio 3 would be included in version 4.

  3. B. Owczarzak says:

    I'm EXTREMELY disappointed that Sketchflow is now only available to the Ultimate subscribers.  I've been a happy SketchFlow user since its release, just finished reading the wonderful book 'Dynamic Prototyping', and have a Premium level MSDN subscriber since 1999.

  4. Kiran says:

    shaggygi, add me to the list disappointed.  We received SketchFlow as part of our MSDN subscription as a Microsoft Partner & now it's gone!!

  5. JD says:

    As with the above commenters… what a lame bait-and-switch on including Sketchflow with Blend. You include it in Blend 3 and hype the hell out of it with tutorials, videos, articles, etc, and then yank it out of Blend 4. That leaves MSDN Premium customers who used it in Blend 3 (ahem) in the lurch. On a small team that doesn't use Team System, the added cost of Ultimate makes no sense.

  6. Luc Cluitmans says:

    I was rather surprised to see that the expression 4 download (premium) on MSDN does not come pre-pidded but requires an explicit product key request. As I tend to do my development both at the office and at home (so: on two different computers), will this cause problems as far as license validation goes? I did not install it yet on either computer.

  7. Joel Cochran says:

    I think the new features are great, especially the new Behaviors and Path layout. I've been using Blend 4 for a while now, so I'm glad to get my hands on the release version.

    While I personally don't care about SketchFlow, I agree with the sentiment that MS is pulling a Bait and Switch on existing users.  I have some other issues too, which I address here:…/expression-studio-4-released.html

  8. HS says:

    One main reason to purchase a Visual Studio Premium with MSDN Subsription has been the included license for the complete Expression Toolset. Especially the use of SketchFlow for Prototyping should become a main part in our development process.

    With the yesterday release of Expression 4 I am shocked that SketchFlow is no longer included with a premium subscription. In the new version I no longer  can use what was promised to me when ordering the subscription.

    What will I have to do to further use SketchFlow? Must i upgrade to a double-priced Ultimate subscrition? My boss won't be amused to hear so. Microsoft, why do you do this?  What will next be taken away from my toolset? Scary times are coming…

    Microsoft, please give us back Sketchflow!

  9. phuff says:

    With version 4, we have taken steps to simplify our design tool offerings for customers and align them more closely with other familiar Microsoft toolsets and resources like Visual Studio and MSDN. At the recent launch of Visual Studio, we also announced Professional, Premium and Ultimate tiers (each tier also containing differing /more features with each respective step-up) and Expression follows the same tiered model.

    Customers who purchased Visual Studio Premium from a retailer will receive an offer to purchase Expression Ultimate at a special price of $249.95 within the next few weeks. Volume Licensing customers will receive a 50% discount on purchases of an Expression Ultimate License with Software Assurance. The volume licensing promotion will appear on the volume licensing price list in a few months and of course all MSDN Premium customers will continue to have access to SketchFlow in Expression Studio 3.

    Polita Paulus


  10. KK says:

    Polita Paulus, Thank you for your comments.  I can't tell from your comments what a Microsoft Certified Partner that gets MSDN Premium is able to do to get Expression Ultimate (apart of just paying the normal price).  Is it 50% of the ERP of Expression Ultimate?

    What isn't addressed in your comments is why didn't Microsoft tell MSDN Subscribers this upfront and say that SketchFlow will be removed for Expression 4 RTM for Premium customers.

    Your comments: "and of course all MSDN Premium customers will continue to have access to SketchFlow in Expression Studio 3".  My thoughts: "Windows 3.11 is also included".  You get the picture!!

    Polita, I hope you are higher up in Microsoft to make any decisions on this, if not, I hope Soma or someone higher is taking note that there are lots of pissed off MSDN Subscribers & developers.

    In any case, I certainly won't be begging but I'll be very pissed (putting it very mildly) if we buy Expression Ultimate just to get SketchFlow and find that Microsoft changes soon after and makes available SketchFlow as part of the MSDN Premium.

  11. Student says:

    Please make it available on DreamSpark. I hope we don't get a crippled edition now that there are separate SKUs and what with Expression Media gone.

  12. Carbon says:

    I can understand about DreamSpark version lacking codecs as MS needs to pay royalties for them but why cripple DreamSpark Expression Encoder by stripping smooth streaming and screen capture??????!!!!!? This is something I hope to see improved in the future.

  13. Henning Kilset says:

    Leaving out Sketchflow from Expression 4 Premium is nothing short of disgusting. Way to go ahead and make complete morons out of yourselves, guys. This is the #1 most touted feature in Blend, and you're making it Ultimate only, effectively shutting out ALL your partners (including Gold ones!) from making use of it without paying extra.

    Looking forward to the retraction post on that decision that will come within the week, I suppose. Just like adding Expression 3 to MSDN in the first place.

  14. Jon Harris says:


    For MSDN certified partners we are creating a partner-only Expression Ultimate SKU at a 40% discount. This will be available soon.


    Jon Harris


  15. Culme says:

    I'd just like to second the general opinion that taking sketchflow away from MSDN Premium subscribers is …annoying.

    I wasn't aware of the expression "bait and switch" until today, but now I guess I've both heard and experienced it.

  16. Culme says:

    I'd just like to second the general opinion that taking sketchflow away from MSDN Premium subscribers is …annoying.

    I wasn't aware of the expression "bait and switch" until today, but now I guess I've both heard and experienced it.

  17. AJ says:

    Is there a software assurance option for obtaining Expression Encoder 4 pro codecs? The version available via ultimate msdn (the Exprssion 4 ultimate sku) excludes these as well as live streaming capability. Any idea of ball park costs? I would hope this would be notional given the pricing of vs2010 ultimate + msdn sku.

    The ultimate vs2010 msdn sku implied the same functionality as the retail version, it is an odd decision to even include EE4 pro in the msdn ES4 ultimate sku given its neutered state.


  18. phuff says:

    AJ, I'd like to understand your situation a little better.  Can you mail me privately at phuff [at] Microsoft <dot> com?


    Polita Paulus


  19. Daniel Carey says:

    @Luc. Just to see how limited we are, I tried to activate Expression Studio 4 on work PC, home PC, and laptop. It installed on the work PC and home PC but told me I had activated too many instances when I tried on the laptop. So the limit is two activations. As an MSDN ultimate subscriber, this *bites*. Please get us back to pre-pidded installs.

  20. S. Somasegar says:

    Hi Student,

    Expression 4 will be available as part of DreamSpark.  We expect this to be available in the next 2 weeks.


  21. Bob Baker says:

    My not so favorite feature of Expression 4: the removal of Sketchflow from the version that Microsoft Certified Partners get, especially after it was there to learn and use and proseletize in version 3. Not sure of the plan here, except products keep getting downsized or down-versioned for MS Partners. Even worse, I worked extra hard to obtain the ISV competency to get the extra bits. This is simply not acceptable.

  22. Simon says:

    I am hugely disappointed to find SketchFlow removed from the Premium edition of Blend.  And to be perfectly frank, the justification of aligning with Visual Studio is weak at best if not downright laughable.  Are we really expected to believe that some careful product management exercise has been cross-referenced with designer needs analysis or has some just found a way to shoehorn Expression into 3 SKUs?  

    I want to be perfectly clear about this.  The value to Microsoft of ensuring that more developers and designers have access to the broadest range of tools is to ensure that Silverlight continues to gain market-share and mind-share in what is an extremely fierce competitive landscape across PC, phone and digital entertainment devices.  Surely, that is the end-goal that we (Microsoft, Partners & customers) should be striving towards rather than slicing and dicing a great product suite to satisfy some internal requirements.

    Would it not have made more sense to say that Expression Suite was available to both Premium and Ultimate subscribers?  What was the decision criteria for stripping a prototyping tool from a designers toolkit?  Why stop there?  Why not remove SuperPreview on the same basis?  I really fail to see the logic in this one.

    I think we all know *why* Microsoft have done this; I just don’t think any of us agree with it.

  23. Culme (again) says:

    The saddest thing is that SketchFlow actually was a bit cool, it was an idea that could have helped Silverlight to gain some ground. When people ask "why should I use Silverlight instead of Flash", then the prototyping of SketchFlow could have been an argument.

    But SketchFlow is NOT cool enough for me to spend hundreds of dollars extra, just to be able to nudge some customers in the direction of Silverlight.

  24. KK says:

    Any chance from someone from the Expression Team confirming if anything is going to change for SketchFlow for MSDN Premium (via Certified Partner Program)?  If there isn't going to be any changes even after the feedback, appreciate if someone from the team states so.  If the team is still considering, I think we would all appreciate knowing this.

  25. Luc Cluitmans says:

    I agree with KK – some clarification if any changes/additions in the licensing are under consideration would be appreciated.

    To clarify my view of the issue: the problem to me is that Expression Blend is not available to MSDN premium users under the same license terms as Visual Studio 2010. And while developing code for WPF or silverlight without access to Blend is possible, I'd file that in the same category as "it is possible to develop with just notepad and a command line compiler" – it is true, but for any serious WPF development Blend is mandatory, even for a developer ("developer" as opposed to "designer").

    Personally I do not care about sketchflow; and the other components of expresion outside Blend are in the category "nice to have, but not essential".

    As far as I am concerned, the issue would be solved by making Expression Blend (just Blend) available to MSDN (premium) subscribers under the same license (pre-pidded) as visual studio.

  26. Jon Harris says:

    Hi KK

    We've listened to the feedback regarding the new Expression Premium SKU and having taken everything into consideration have decided that we will not be making any changes to the Expression product line up.

    This means that SketchFlow will remain in Expression Ultimate only. An upgrade path is available for MSDN Premium customers to receive Expression Ultimate at reduced cost, and a partner only SKU will be avilable soon at a 40% discount.

    Hi Luc

    The Activation scheme for Expression 4 allows for two installs whether the product was purchased through retail or received via MSDN. Unfortunately it isn't possible for us to pre-pid a product that requires activation.

    Kind regards, Jon


    Jon Harris


  27. JD says:

    Where is upgrade pricing available to MSDN Premium subscribers? Please provide a URL as the only upgrades discussed online have been for Certified Partner subscribers and those who purchased Expression/VS.NET at retail. I've yet to see an upgrade available for those who purchased MSDN Premium at retail.

    Frankly, it may not matter for our shop. This is a bait-and-switch and it's distasteful to expect us to spend several hundred more per-seat when we've already spent thousands per-seat on MSDN Premium (skipping Ultimate because we don't use Team System). Our most likely path is to skip the tools altogether – and to be a lot more weary down the road when a new feature is added to a product from the Developer Division. Re: listening to feedback? From the feedback online, it seems the only people who think this was a good idea are the marketing folks behind the decision.

  28. phuff says:


    Expression 4 is now available on DreamSpark.

    Polita Paulus


  29. Brad says:

    Hi Jon,

    If it isn't possible for you to pre-pid a product that requires activation, then how about giving those of us with MSDN Subs more keys?

  30. Marcello says:

    It isn't a contradiction that all these programs that are used to develop Rich Internet Applications have a flat, dark, 2D and boring graphical user interface? Why not add the possibility to change the theme of the IDE or make it appear less flat and more 3D?

  31. Andreas says:

    I agree with that the taken decisions are extremely partner-unfriendly.

    I also need to criticize harshly that a complete comparison between the Expression Studio editions is hard to find. I believe I found it once but now it is gone.

    Then there seem to be SKUs in the middle that allow SketchFlow but still do not give you Encoder Pro. Confusing, anyone?

    Finally, not having Windows Phone support at release and no clear side-by-side-story makes it tough to use at all for developers who need to do both.

    The non-pre-pidding and activation limit – is another example of "wtf"? Trust your developers/partners a bit more. Developers often need to reinstall. This is a pain.

    Overall – I am not happy, a lot of people are even more unhappy or they stop using Expression sticking with what comes with VS2010. While I understand the need to make money, you are alienating your biggest fans.

    I will be at the WPC to present and receive our award to discuss if necessary.

  32. phuff says:

    Andreas, thanks for your feedback- we're listening.

    On your question about where to find out more about the different SKUs, there's a Silverlight widget on…/whichproductpopup.aspx that will help you find the right product.

    Polita Paulus


  33. Sam says:

    soma and phuff: first of all, like other developers and designers here, i have to express that creating expression studio premium and ultimate is extremely disappointing. microsoft is recently facing terrible times with loss in market shares for IE, Zune and slowly but surely OSes like Apple OSX are gaining popularity. you guys were doing the right things by introducing technologies like silverlight, sketchflow, blend, etc. but now you want to cheat your own developers and partners by introducing expression studio ultimate and adding sketchflow to just that product?! No wonder microsoft has to PAY iphone app developers to write or port apps/games for windows phone 7! this is a disgraceful move on microsoft's part. your loyal .net developers and designers need tools like sketchflow, blend, 2010 cheaper to continue doing development with silverlight and .net in general – otherwise people will look elsewhere (like google wave)

    be careful with the delicate balance between greed and ability to grow/sustain the lead that you have.

  34. James F says:

    Just have to add to the fray my disappointment with the SketchFlow from Expression Blend 4 (premium). I have been the Silverlight evangelist in my company for a year now and, after finally getting some traction, I find that fully 1/3 of my value proposition has been nixed from the subscription version of Studio. Sad day.

  35. Mike ONeill says:

    I've already touched base with some folks who commented on Tim Heuers' blog, and I'd like to get some more detailed feedback from some of the commenters here as well.

    Kiran, HS, Henning Kilset, Culme, James F, Sam, Andreas, & Daniel Carey: if you're still checking this post, could you shoot me a note at moneill < at > microsoft {dot} com?


    Mike O'Neill

    Expression Business Manager

  36. tomthumb99 says:


    I am looking for a Web UI simulation tool that will support drag and drop .Net UI widgets.  The group supported has a large amount of UI Web applications under .NET, so this MS tool might make sense. Not looking to simulate unchanged UI widgets in production, only sections/parts of the Web-UI changing.  At this point looking for alternatives to iRise that can port prototypes/artwork over to .NET if needed.  Is this the right product, does it support UI simulation/modeling?  Thanks in advanced, apologies if I offended the tool's purist.

  37. batpox says:

    As an independent developer, the MSDN premium is a big slice of my budget, and the reason to remove Sketchflow is unfathomable. Why do DreamSpark users get it and I don't? Anyway, although I loved using Sketchflow, I have no alternative but to abandon it, and have found a decent and affordable alternative in Balsamiq.

    Microsoft was always developer-friendly under Bill Gates. What has happened, guys?

  38. batgrrl says:

    @batpox- i would like to better understand your situation. would you mind contacting me at so we can discuss further? many thanks.

  39. Klaus Oberdalhoff says:


    OK, you want us MSDN users to promote Balsamiq instead of Sketchflow, well then – OK, no problem, we can and will do so. (Thank's batpox for the hint) – wow that's good viral marketing, i always thought this was the domain of MS, but … obviously also companies like MS grow older <g>



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