Dreamweaver vs FrontPage vs Expression Web

by cdwise 8. July 2009 23:22

As I have mentioned before I  subscribe to Google alerts on a couple of web topics. Primarily, Expression Web since I happen to write about it but in addition to being a Microsoft MVP for Expression Web I am also an Adobe Community Expert for Dreamweaver so I tend to watch for Dreamweaver topics as well as general web design/front-end web development stuff.

In the last week I have seen several threads in my Google Alerts asking “Which is Better FrontPage or Dreamweaver?” So rather than go and register at a bunch of different forums and respond in the threads (after having gotten disgusted with some of the CAPCHAs I have seen and not received the confirmation email from two others) I decided to address the topic here.

First, why in 2009 would someone even be asking which is better “FrontPage” or “Dreamweaver”. FrontPage has been discontinued since 2006. Anyone who hasn’t been using FrontPage since before it was discontinued shouldn’t even consider buying it now – that is assuming they could even find a copy legally for sale. While never as bad as painted by most web professionals FrontPage does tend to write Microsoft Internet Explorer proprietary code. Since FrontPage has not been updated since 2003 its target version of Internet Explorer is IE 5 and Internet Explorer has changed a lot since then.

Second, unlike some of the people in the threads I don’t consider Adobe Dreamweaver to be the best choice of editor for every web design purpose or situation.  I will say that Dreamweaver is my primary web editor and I use it on a daily basis. However, I also use Microsoft Expression Web on a daily basis.

So why do I use both editors?

I do so because each has their strengths and weaknesses.

CSS, both have very good CSS editors but their approach is somewhat different, which you prefer is an individual preference. I slightly prefer Expression Web’s but your preference may vary. I am not going to spend a lot of time explaining the differences since that is an area you can easily test for yourself with the free trials each company makes available.

Site management tools in the current versions Dreamweaver’s site management tools are considerably better than Expression Web’s for publishing but the gap narrows quite a bit when Expression Web 3 is launched on Friday but Dreamweaver still wins on site management. Dreamweaver’s DWT architecture and capabilities are the more advanced, so in this category I prefer Dreamweaver.

Extensibility, Dreamweaver wins this one quite handily. Microsoft doesn’t have a good SDK for Expression Web and has not settled on a good framework for extending Expression Web reliably across versions. I have add-ins from InstantFX that only work in Expression Web 1 and other extensions from WebAssist and D2Stuff.com that had to be updated by the makers for each version of Expression Web.  On the other hand I have Dreamweaver extensions that were created for Dreamweaver MX and still work in Dreamweaver CS 4. That means the extensions work over 5 different versions of Dreamweaver (MX, MX 2004, 8, CS 3 & CS 4) without a single update. Okay, I wouldn’t use some of those extensions anymore because the web has changed a lot in that time frame but I could if I wanted to and if I were an extension maker I’d much prefer to write Dreamweaver extensions so I didn’t have to rewrite every release.

Previewing your work, both editors have pretty good WYSIWYG design surfaces approached in different ways. Neither are what you would actually see in a browser but given the variety of browsers and operating systems out there anyone who expect the design window to look exactly like what their visitor will see is foolish at best. Dreamweaver offers live view which is good and allows you to set up connections for testing servers as well as production servers. Expression Web includes a light weight testing server that lets you test asp.net and php pages in whatever browsers you have installed on your computer. There are pros and cons to each approach depending on your workflow.

Scripting, here is where you see real differences in the programs. If you work on pages with ASP.NET 2.0 and take advantage of the power of master pages, then frankly Expression Web is the design tool you should be using. Adobe’s decision to not support ASP.NET 2.0 is one that I have disagreed with from the first time I heard about it. As far as I am concerned I don’t particularly care if Adobe provides the web applications for ASP.NET 2.0 (forms to database add/update/delete) that they do for Classic ASP, ColdFusion, and PHP but I really do wish that Dreamweaver supported Master Pages. They are basically server side DWTs and if you work in an ASP.NETshop as a UI or web designer the ability to work with them is essential.

However, while Expression Web does offer support for php, Dreamweaver has a far more robust feature set and the ability to “see” server side includes in the design surface makes Dreamweaver the better choice here. Obviously, if you use ColdFusion Dreamweaver is the choice as well. Surprisingly, Dreamweaver is also the choice if you are maintaining a Classic ASP site since Microsoft’s Expression Web testing server doesn’t support Classic ASP and there is little benefit to using it over Notepad.

Dreamweaver has Spry, APIs for jQuery and YUI libraries while Expression Web only has ASP.NET AJAX support so for client side scripting Dreamweaver again is the better choice.

Troubleshooting, one of things I do both for clients and for students is to figure out why something isn’t displaying correctly on the web and how to fix it. For this I tend to use Expression Web since I can easily open a page directly from the internet and step through the display issue’s html and css. This ability using IE’s Page > Edit with Expression Web is so handy I haven’t even tried using Dreamweaver for such troubleshooting since Expression Web v1 came out as a CTP (Customer Technology Preview).


There is no clear winner hands down winner between Dreamweaver and Expression Web both are very good web editors but each has a different approach and methodology. They both require you to know basic HTML and CSS. Both require you to have an understanding of how the web works and the other technologies behind it. Both require an understanding of browsers and their differences in rendering. Both have a learning curve – Dreamweaver steeper than Expression Web due to its wider support of web technologies. Neither is perfect and each has feature sets the other doesn’t which is why I use both.

My recommendation – if you already use Photoshop or other Adobe programs check Dreamweaver first. While if your primary applications are from Microsoft check Expression Web first. Notice that I say “first” because what I really suggest is that you download the trials of each and see which fits both your needs and how you work. For me, I’ll continue to use both.

Tags: , ,

Expression Web | Dreamweaver

Call me list-nazi

by cdwise 11. June 2009 03:19

Okay, I’ll admit it when I own/moderate a web group I enforce the list rules. I’ve been on too many lists where there was no List Mom and ended up being filled with spam or dreck. If this makes me “arrogant” then so be it.

That means if you post a question to a list where I’m List Mom you need to:

  1. Be on topic – if you have  a question not directly related to the list topic but related to web design/development in general mark it with OT so that list members are alerted to the nature of the question. Keep it relevant or it moderators will shut down the thread.
  2. Use a descriptive subject line – this helps ensure that you get the attention of contributors who are knowledgeable or interested about that particular area. Do use subjects such as PHP form display issue, or Content Div not displaying, or Set a default editor for images. Don’t use “Question”, “Help”, “I’m a beginner”. This is especially important on a large or high volume list.
  3. Trim your quotes, other than the forum here at http://by-expression.com/forms every group I moderate is an email group whether on Yahoo Groups or Google Groups. On some of these there are a substantial percentage of folks using dial-up, being charged by the byte or receiving the digest version. So we ask that people be considerate and not quote everything when they reply. In addition to removing any adverts put in by say Yahoo, trim everything except what is needed to put your reply in context.
  4. Be courteous, and that means to everyone including the moderators if they make suggestions on how to improve your post. Flaming is not allowed nor is trolling. Doing either will get you banned.

Lists I own/moderate include by topic:

<moderator hat>

This is a convention used on many mail lists that I first saw years ago on one of the mail lists I belong to (I think it was css-d but I really don’t remember) that is used to distinguish a post made by a list owner or official moderator to remind people of list rules OR to call a halt to a thread that has drifted too far off topic or become abusive.

The use of this tag is meant to be a more or less gentle reminder that the list is moderated and keep the list on topic. The alternative is to either ban participants in off topic threads and/or violation of list rules, something that seems to harsh or go to a list that is a free for all. Neither of which would be good for any list in the long run.

Tags: , , , ,

Dreamweaver | Expression Web | Misc

SharePoint Designer - Free

by cdwise 3. April 2009 06:42

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that MS is now making SharePoint Designer free and anyone who has SharePoint Designer from a Software Assurance (corporate licensing agreement) will now get Expression Web as part of their package.

For more information including how to download SharePoint Designer see: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointdesigner/HA103607621033.aspx

What is SharePoint Designer

Basically it is Expression Web v1 with full FrontPage webbot support and support for customizing SharePoint sites. It doesn’t have the PHP support that Expression Web v2 has nor does it have the ability to remember FTP passwords (unless there has been an update since the last time I looked at it anyway) but it does have the same great CSS editor and web standards orientation (when not using the SharePoint-FrontPage bots) so check it out if you don’t have Expression Web especially if you are a FrontPage user who still has the FPSE on your hosted site and want to continue to use them for awhile longer.

Tags: , , ,

Web Design

FrontPage Migrators

by cdwise 14. February 2009 06:54

I have to wonder why it is that there seems to be a number of people who have used FrontPage that can't seem to understand that Expression Web is not FrontPage 2006 or 2008. They come into the Expression Web forum and complain that it is "missing" FrontPage bots. Then protest that MVPs and "Expression fan boys" don't react well to being harangued about how Expression Web doesn't have the click, click tools of FrontPage that allows someone to use it without learning how websites work.

Fortunately, the majority of people who are moving from FrontPage to Expression Web are embracing freedom and cross browser direction of Expression Web. For those who are complaining let me outline a few things that may help you in deciding where to go with FrontPage.

Microsoft Options for FrontPage Users

Microsoft discontinued FrontPage and has three options for those who used it and want to move to a newer program. They are:

  • Expression Web - intended for the serious hobbyist or professional who understands the importance of cross browser and cross platform website. This requires a willingness to learn about how to structure html, css - how it works and differences in browser implementation. Using a certain amount of "real" code whether it is a javascript library like jQuery or server side code using ASP.NET or PHP.
  • SharePoint Designer - remember that FrontPage was part of Office and the primary user Microsoft had in mind would be an "information worker" using FrontPage in a Microsoft centric environment. There you don't need to worry about someone on a Mac using Firefox or Linux using Opera to visit your site. As a result SharePoint continues the FrontPage tradition of bots and wizards that create code that works well in Internet Explorer but probably won't work too well in say Google Chrome.
  • Publisher 2007 - this is what Microsoft has recommended for the "home user" since it has navigation tools and relies on the FPSE in much the same way as FrontPage. As someone who is concerned about web standards and cross platform/browser I don't recommend this option but if someone is a dedicated bot user and the site is personal then it is an option.

Coming into a forum or other venue for Expression Web and complaining about what is missing and how "Microsoft" got it wrong. Maybe those who complain are picking the wrong migration path?

Other Options for FrontPage Users

If they don't like the options that I listed above there are others.

Stick with FrontPage 2003 - FrontPage will continue to be supported by Microsoft until 2013 under the Microsoft Life Cycle Support policy. See: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx/gp/lifepolicy (FP is part of Office which is a business application, it was never intended as a home user web editor though many of course used it for such.)

Use your hosting company's site tool, most web hosts offer some sort of tool to create a website in your hosting plan. If they don't, you may find that they offer a one click install of a blogging application (Wordpress is common), content management system (Joomla, Drupal or some ASP or ASP.NET system).

Use a service like Windows Live which even offers free hosting http://www.officelive.com/ or Geocities http://geocities.yahoo.com/ which have their own web site creating interface.

Using Dreamweaver

I must admit that I find it particularly amusing when someone comes in complaining about the learning curve with Expression Web and threatening that they will drop Microsoft web editors in favor of Dreamweaver.  Anyone who thinks that the learning curve for Expression Web is "too hard" will completely freak out over Dreamweaver.

Don't get me wrong I love Dreamweaver and really appreciate the new features in CS 4 like Live View, Code Navigator, the ability to freeze a state during the execution of JavaScript but it has a much steeper learning curve than Expression Web.

The majority of those who threaten to migrate don't seem to realize that those who answer the most questions on the Expression forum are frequently heavy users of Dreamweaver as well. Heck, I am both a Microsoft MVP for Expression Web and an Adobe Community Expert for Dreamweaver. I use both and am active in online communities for each program because I use each program for what it does best, frequently on the same website.

Tags: ,

Expression Web

Migrating from FrontPage

by cdwise 9. August 2008 03:36

I am pleased to announce that there is a new class being offered at Start to Web by FrontPage MVPs Pat Geary & Tina Clarke on migrating the website you created in FrontPage to Expression Web.

Tina and Pat have been working with people migrating their websites since the first beta of Expression Web version 1 was released. They have spent the last several months putting together material based on their experience for a class on migrating from FrontPage over to Expression Web.

Cleanup Preparations
    • Making a Cleanup Toolbar
    • Making Regular Expressions Queries
Removal Preparations
  • Check for redundant graphics
  • Removing Themes
  • Remove Shared borders and Nav bots
  • Detach DWT if you are using them
  • Replace/Insert  doctypes
  • Replace/Remove other bots
  • Clean Tables
Pages Preparation
  • Use Cleanup Toolbar
  • Run Regular Expression Queries
Revising Pages
  • Add Semantic Markup
  • Add Meta Tags 
  • Validate
  • Attach DWT
  • Add Include Menu
  • Use Site Summary

The first class will start August 30, 2008 and you can register for it now at a special introductory rate of $39.50 which is half off the regular price of the class.

Other classes being offered in the August 30, 2008 session at Start to Web include: Introduction to CSS and Introduction to Expression Web. For readers of this blog I have a coupon code worth 10% off any regular full priced class. When you go to pay for your class put in coupon code "CDWfriends" and you will automatically get 10% off.

Tags: ,

Expression Web

Online TV

Outstanding Hosting