ASP.NET Tips: Expression Web vs Visual Studio

So there are now two different editors that are out from Microsoft.  There is Visual Studio which has been around for a long time and now a new tool called Expression Web.  So which should you use?

Well it all comes down to what you are going to be doing.


If you are creating a lot of HTML pages and designing them and working with client-side scripting, then Expression Web is the tool for you.  The entire Expression Suite is geared towards Graphic Designers.  It has tools for everything from creating images, to creating web pages and even Silverlight or Videos.

Visual Studio

If, on the other hand, you are doing a lot of work that involves code-behind (connecting to databases, calling web services and things like that, then Visual Studio is the tool for you.  It can do the same stuff that Expression does, but since it isn’t focused on it as much, we can separate the two.

Hope that helps to clear up the story between these two.  Please keep in mind that these tools are designed to be used with each other.  So both can open the same files and make changes.  This allows the Graphic Designers and the Web Developers to work together on the site at the same time which can really help enable your developers.

Comments (28)

  1. Narayana says:

    So. You mean to say both complement each other..

  2. Wayne says:

    Funny.  I use VS normally and I installed Expression to do all my classic ASP work.  There doesn’t seem to be any good IDE’s for working with the numerous classic ASP sites out there.

    While I try to promote migrating these application to .Net, that is not always something that is possible.  What would you recommend to use for Classic ASP apps?

    I feel like we’ve (developers) been left in a lurch with all the great progress that has been made with .Net, and that MS has completely ignored the fact that there are thousands of classic ASP sites still out there that need to be maintained, and perhaps cannot move to .Net without a huge investment and a complete re-write.


  3. Steve says:

    As always MS has a crappy view of what developers do – it’s 2008, we tend to do much off everything.

    This is just another excuse to find a reason to charge us beyond the licenses we pay to have Visual Studio.

    Blend is the worse example of this yet.

  4. Mojtaba says:

    i always use visual studio designer.i think that microsoft has borrowed so many features from expression web in vs2008

  5. Randy says:

    It may help some people to differentiate Expression Web and Expression Blend.  My understanding is that Expression Web is a replacement for Frontpage.  I opended an ASP.NET website in Expression Web and was not pleased with the rendering. I believe that Expression Blend is the tool for WPF design.  I hope that Expression Blend is a better tool for ASP.NET UI design.

  6. Grant says:

    I’ve tried to move my designers to start using Expressions Web.

    The major problem i’m experiencing is the fact that expressiosn web assumes your are working with a virtual directory. Like a Visual Studio "Web site".

    Except i am using a web application.

    So all my images now don’t show up in the design view and the product is unusable.

    I have not found a way to change that setting and because my web site is so large, everytime i try view properties for the whole site in expressions web, the application crashes.

    I’ve tried this in both expressions web 1 and 2.


  7. Narayana,

    Yes, exactly..  

  8. Wayne,

    While I agree that there are a lot of sites that are on ASP, generally the best advice is to continue to use the same software that you have been using.  Upgrading when you move to .NET

  9. Steve,

    What do you mean?  Can you give me examples of why you don’t like Blend?  Maybe we can do something to get it changed for the better for you.

  10. Bob says:

    @Wayne check out the sp1 beta for VS, classic asp support returns!

  11. Andy says:

    Check out Inetword, forget expression web!

  12. TG says:

    Its all rubbish if you ask me,, different applications to do the same thing??? then call it a different name with new advertising, design  and marketing !! there is no real difference,, just the illusion of something new to compete with more popular better industry applications that are already offered by other establishments!!

    As has already been said!! “Microsoft days are numbered”

    Technology has to move on instead of offering the same thing over and over and over again!!

    Microsoft already offer the same tools Visual Studio now Expression Studio?? how confusing is that??  What next?? (Expression Studio .Net C# 2009) ???

    What do you think???

    Another (Windows Me) if you ask me!!

    check out

  13. TG,

    I appreciate your opinion, even if I don’t share in it.  If you look at and use the Expression suite, you will notice that is completely different.  The expression suite is a very different experience from Visual Studio, Expression is geared towards designers and layout and design (it is very comparable to Adobe Dreamweaver).  Visual Studio is all about coding.

  14. Jay1b says:

    Now Classic ASP support has been added to VS2008, it would be nice to have it added to Expression Web 2 as well.  I’m really surprised that MS supports PHP but not Classic ASP.

    Also the colour coding for the text within VS2008 isnt as indepth as Dreamweavers, which is highly annoying as I absolutely hate Adobe with a vengence.   Things like document really do deserve its own colour.  Also VS2008 does seem to get a bit more confused as well…  for example if you paste the following code in the body element of a classic ASP in both Dreamweaver and VS2008, it looks 10 times better in Dreamweaver.

       <label id=<% If TRIM(rs("Type")) = "Unique" Then

    response.Write("lblMandrgAnswers" & rs("QuestionID"))

    Elseif  TRIM(rs("Type")) = "Multiple" Then

    response.Write("lblMandchkAnswers" & rs("QuestionID"))

    End If %>

          name=<% If TRIM(rs("Type")) = "Unique" Then

      response.Write("lblMandrgAnswers" & rs("QuestionID"))

    Elseif  TRIM(rs("Type")) = "Multiple" Then

    response.Write("lblMandchkAnswers" & rs("QuestionID"))

    End If %>  style="visibility:hidden; color:#FF3333">Please select an option.</label>

  15. Priya Jain says:

    how to write the code without visual studio

  16. Priya,

    There are lots of ways to do that.  You can even write code in notepad if you like.  It is just that Visual Studio gives you a lot of helpful features like intellisense.

  17. Ian says:

    Lot of negative reponses here that I don’t understand. I originally came from a design background and then became a reasonably good developer. I now use expression web in place of dreamweaver for my design elements, layout and client-side scripting and then take over with VS 2008 to crack on with the coding. Once coding is underway there is no need to use expression web to open the application. This works very well as a workflow and is how I believe these products were intended to be used.

    I personally believe that microsoft is going from strength to srength and that these products are finally giving us what we need.

  18. Thanks Ian, I appreciate your comments and thoughts.  Hopefully others will also use these tools and see the benefit of them.

  19. Thanks for clearing up the difference between Visual Studio and Expression Web. Version 3 of the latter was just released, and an app focusing on design is exactly what I need right now.

  20. Jeremy says:

    I think it is good idea to split up the design and coding. For smaller projects, it seems like one person ends up doing the design work and coding but for larger projects you can have a team do the design work in expression, then have another team do the coding in studio.

  21. 813coder says:

    As a do-it-all web guy, I handle the whole site from Photoshop to Flash to JQuery to Visual Studio.  I think for past 8 years Microsoft and its developer have given the big "FU" to anyone that hints about touching the front end of a web site [you left the peons Frontpage and walked away].  This attitude that "designers" are some inferior vermin or vile pond scum in your "agile" world of development, is silly.  So, too little late folks.  There’s a reason people Dreamweaver and have for many years.  I think the whole attitude in the Microsoft community needs to change.  No matter how much you want to belittle the front end and those who design it; it’s all your user sees no matter how good a coder you are.  And I suspect you will see that many people will start jumping ship to other platforms because of this second-class citizen label MS developers have assigned to the front-end.  Just ask your Marketing department if you don’t believe me.

  22. CSSteve says:

    I think Expression Web is absolutely superior to Dreamweaver because it is far more intuitive. Everything Adobe does, including their tutorials, seems like they are from another planet to me.

    It did not take me much time at all on both Expression Web and Visual Web Developer to see the difference. Expression Web is quick and easy for basic HTML and Master Page .Net website while VWD is obviously for back end features.

  23. Curtis says:

    Hi, I use DW primarily for creating Classic ASP sites, I incorporate a database whenever I can. I have been working with databases for over 10 years and find that I use them when I probably shouldn’t because I "think" there might be a need for scalability. Would expression web be a good tool to use to start moving into ASP.NET? or like someone else said above – I should use Studio and Expression Web together? I currently have Studio and am installing the trial for expression now.

  24. DadCat says:

    How would one use EW 3 and Visual Studio together on an ASP.NET project? I’ve read that EW3 doesn’t understand/create code-behind files. So do I have to create my pages in VS and then populate them in EW 3?  Or….???

  25. Akshay says:

    Expression Web 3/4 doesn't have a few features that, though small, are of GREAT use in day-to-day programming. 2 features I'll list here are –

    1. Highlighting a matching closing/opening tag whenever you click on one. I know you can do it with Ctrl + ; but it should happen by default. As in, Visual Studio.

    2. Showing indentation lines in the editor so you can indent your code neatly. Also showing a line between opening and closing tags.

    You guys should really learn from Notepad++ 😀

  26. Jonno999 says:


    Hopefully this thread is still live. (Almost a year since last comment.)

    Anyway, I have been using Vwd 2005/2008 for sometime. I have no problem with VWD as the application I am working on is heavily DB dependent. However, I want to improve the UI and improve the client-side of things. It looks as though Silverlight is the route to take and that in turn led me on to Expression Web 3.0. I was very confused about the different roles of EW and VS. Your summary at the top was very helpful in shedding some light on this.

    So I intend to use EW/silverlight to improve the UI and then integrate this into VS where I am familiar with the heavy lifting of db's and coding.

    One of the problems with this strategy is finding straightforward tutorials on how to achieve this in the huge volume of tutorials on EW, Silverlight and VS. Can you  point me to any tutorials on how to plan for/integrate EW, Silverlight and Visual Studio (VB). Many thanks.


  27. Aliesoft says:

    Big problems in VS2010 now:

    * There is no

     – Flash import option (and component choose option is not working either)

     – RolloverImage creating

    and Expression Studio 4 has not ASP.NET build structure for example creating CS files automatically to write codes as i see.