Expression Web 4

by cdwise 2. July 2010 04:33

I know that I’m running a little late with this post since the launch was hours ago but I have been on the road the last couple of days with limited internet connections outside of my iPhone. Typing a review on my iPhone just isn’t going to happen and I didn’t get a chance to write one up before leaving my office so hopefully this will be worth the wait.

What’s new?

In the order of what makes me happiest about this new release:

  1. A new extensibility model, you no longer have to use Visual Studio to create add-ins for Expression Web. You can now make add-ins with html, css, javascript and a manifest file (xml). This is going to really expand the ability for more people to make add-ins for Expression Web. Since this is a model similar to those used by Dreamweaver extension makers hopefully this will cause more of the to make add-ins for Expression Web. WebAssist has already announced their re-entry into the Expression Web add-ins market place with the return of PayPal and Eric Meyer’s Site Sculpture add-ins (coming later this summer), and new PHP add-ins not available before. They are offering significant discounts of up to 50% off their new extensions. Anna Ulrick has an article on how to create add-ins for Expression Web 4 at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/xweb/archive/2010/06/07/easily-create-an-add-in-for-expression-web-4-with-the-add-in-builder.aspx
  2. SuperPreview Remote, you will now be able to view what your site looks like on a Mac running Safari without having to purchase a Mac. DOM syntax highlighting was added.
  3. Limited toolbar customization, you won’t be able to customize the existing toolbars but you will be able to create your own “Favorites” toolbar. (Add in to create it coming soon per Paul Bartholomew who provided this screenshot in this Expression Web Forum thread.
  4. SEO Reports, I tend to be a believer in organic search engine optimization (SEO) and rely on content and incoming links but there are new tools in Expression Web to help you with search engine optimization. Choose SEO options, display an SEO report, filter the results in the SEO report, and step forward and back through the list of results in the SEO report to see more detail for individual list items.
  5. Changes to publishing, check Paul’s response in this thread on publishing issues which discusses the new changes including the addition of new menu items/keyboard shortcuts for publishing on the Site menu for current file, changed files & all files.

Bug fixes, I wish there were more but overall I’ve found Expression Web v4 to be a little faster and fewer bugs. There are still some issues with slow updating on pages with lots of hyperlinks & tables but they haven’t affected me so I can’t say whether every instance of those bugs have been fixed or not. It would appear not from the thread I referenced in item 3 above.

Should You Upgrade?

If you have Expression Web 3 upgrading is a no-brainer since the upgrade is free. If you have an older version, I’d upgrade as well. If you have add-ins that work only in a specific older version of Expression Web keep it installed side by side so you can still use your existing add-ins.

Any Reason Not to Upgrade?

There is a change to the licensing terms of Expression Web 4 and the rest of the Expression Studio. In the previous versions you could install the application on as many computers as you personally used since it was licensed per user. The license terms have changed and it is now licensed like most other Microsoft applications. You can install on on one computer and maybe a second portable computer but I’m not 100% certain about that. I’m trying to get some clarification on how you would deactivate on a computer you have already activated your copy on so that you can transfer it to say a new computer. I’m particularly interested in this information since I am hoping to get a new computer in the next month or so.

Tags:

Expression Web

Amerivespa.org

by cdwise 28. April 2010 04:45

Many of you know that I ride scooters. This year Vespa Club of America is having then annual rally just down the highway from me in San Antonio Memorial Day weekend this year.

I have been looking at their website http://amerivespa.org off and on for a few months. Mostly I've been looking at the daily schedule and lodging pages. Every time I visit I get annoyed. So I just have to vent a little.

Why?

Because this is what I see in IE 8 (same in 6 & 7):annotatedFF

  • Notice the footer overlap?
  • See the huge horizontal scrollbar at 1024x768?

(note these are thumbnails, click to see 750px version)

Here is the same page seen in Firefox on Win 7 (which displays the same as Safari on my Mac:

annotatedIEDoes this look like they ever tested how their Drupal theme looks in IE?

True it is possible to use the site through it is very difficult to read the registration link. At least the link does function and I was able to register but the site poor usability in Internet Explorer 7 & 8 (according to Adobe Browserlabs and MS SuperPreview the same overlaps and horizontal scroll exist in IE 6 as well) leaves visitors using those browser with a broken experience.

Ironically when I look at the code I see a conditional comment for IE that loads a separate IE stylesheet which is what I think is breaking the site since it converts floating divs into absolutely positioned ones:

#main {
   position: absolute;
   margin-top: 20px;
   margin-left: 344px;
}

Position: absolute;

Which moves the entire content section 344px to the left creating the huge horizontal scroll and removing that content from the document flow which brings the footer up directly under the loco causing the overlap.

This is a prime example of why I consider using position: absolute is a bad idea.

Using old hacks creates problems

Other hacks are used as discovered when I pasted the page into Expression Web such as:

#page {
   _text-align: left; /* 2nd part of IE5/IE6quirks centering hack */
}

Why is that hack still in the stylesheet? Simple solution regarding IE 6-  the doctype switch is being used since an XHTML Strict doctype is specified so no quirks mode code should be in the page.  Is anyone really still concerned with IE 5? Get rid of the old hacks and if you are going to use IE conditional code limit it to appropriate versions, in this case LTE IE 5 not all versions of IE.

Using a CMS

Adding an additional layer of complexity is the use of Drupal which seems like serious overkill for this site. Maybe there were plans to add a forum or something that didn’t materialize which is why Drupal was used but so far I haven’t seen it.

Conclusion

I’ve never understood why people create websites that don’t render well in major browsers. To me that means a site needs to render well in the major browsers. My list of must display well in are:

  • Internet Explorer 7 & 8
  • Firefox 3.x
  • Safari (Mac)
  • Opera

Internet Explorer 6 must be functional but it can lose some of the bells and whistles as long as it is functional and reasonably attractive. There is nothing difficult about making this site render properly in IE 6+ and it is ridiculous that the page displays so poorly in IE 7 & 8.

What do you think?

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Arrogance & Ignorance

by cdwise 23. April 2010 04:35

I followed a link tweeted by Smashing Magazine today to be greeted with:

arrogance “You’re using old, unsafe and very slow browser, use Firefox/Chrome/Safari instead.”

Don’t you just love folks who spell out their biases so clearly?

Since IE 8 runs considerably faster than Firefox 3.x on my Windows 7 computer I don’t think the person really knows what he’s talking about. (Note I don’t know if the person behind that site is male or female so my “he” is used to include both.) Besides, I use a tablet PC and Firefox doesn’t properly register the system caret so I my input panel isn’t triggered for me to use things like forms on web pages. That’s also a problem for many assistive device users who would might want to use Firefox. So while it is on my computer and I use it regularly for testing and troubleshooting websites it isn’t my primary browser and cannot be until that issue is fixed. (Back in the early days there was an extensions that enabled pen use but the code has changed too much for the folks who created that extension to keep it functioning in FF 3.x.)

Apple has a history of creating pretty crappy software for Windows computers so Safari is only installed on my Mac. Besides it is the first browser to fall in hacking contests lifehacker.com.au safari falls first and everything falls eventually in browser hacking competition

Not being a fan of Google’s privacy policies my company doesn’t allow Google apps and that includes Chrome on computers they pay for unless they are isolated in a virtual machine w/o access to material stored on the hard drive.

Ironically, the article goes on to say that the CSS 3 effect used won’t work in Firefox until 3.7 is released. So until then you need to use jQuery to get the effect in Firefox which is exactly the same way you get it to work in Internet Explorer.

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Web Design

Daft to Say Static Sites are “Dying”

by cdwise 21. April 2010 04:36

I’ve got several Google Alerts set up and one that came in to day pointed to an opinion piece in PC Pro Magazine “Dreamweaver is Dying” http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2009/03/05/dreamweaver-is-dying/ from a current thread on a NetObject Fusion forum talking about how “static” sites are dead and “long live Drupal”. (Does anyone besides me find it ironic that this thread is on the web forum from a point and click WSYIWYG web editor support forum?)

I’ve seen similar posts in other places going back as much as 8 years ago with the only difference is the CMS proclaiming that static sites are dead in favor of PHPNuke instead of Drupal or Joomla or DotNetNuke. Yet, here we are with sales of Dreamweaver and Expression Web showing little signs of decline. The number of online site builders offered not only by services such as MySpace, Intuit (for business sites), Office Live,  but as part of hosting with your own domain for as little as $3 a month has expanded exponentially. That doesn’t even begin to count the number of low end entry level do it yourself web editors like  CoffeeCup, EZWebBuilder, Namo and yes, even NetObject Fusion and those are just the a few of the hundreds of Windows web editors. There are plenty for Macs starting with iWeb, Rapidweaver (good choice if you don’t have the budget for Dreamweaver) and at least a hundred others. Even Linux has WYSIWYG web editors like Kompozer, EditLive and Quanta.

When I read some of the posts from people who say that all websites “now” should be “dynamic” and “database” driven I can’t help but laugh because many sites don’t need the added layers of complexity that using a full rich backend adds. Take the AmeriVespa site I last blogged about. It uses Drupal. I know this only because I looked at the code yet I can see no reason other than possibly the registration page that benefits from using Drupal. Yet, the registration page submits the form to PayPal.

The site uses 15 base stylesheets and 1 IE conditional stylesheet (that breaks the site in IE 6+). The only rationale I can find for using Drupal is so that the event organizers can update pages but I can’t say I’ve noticed updates in the almost three months that I’ve been visiting the site.  There are only 5-6 pages that would need updating regarding the event and they could be easily handled by something much simpler to deal with like ContentSeed, InContext Unity or QuickChange without the need for back-end databases or a dozen stylesheets to control the look and feel.

The web is a very diverse place and many sites simply do not need the complexity of a full fledged, feature rich CMS system. For every site that needs the capabilities of a Drupal or Community Server there are probably at least a hundred that are a brochure site with minimal updates. Sites that need robust back-ends are those that have ecommerce with a variety of products, large sites that are frequently updated by multiple people, those who are active bloggers or have active forums/social networking going on. (I’m not including inserting your twitter or facebook feed on your site’s home page in this category either.)

Unless you believe that the brochure and small business sites and single event/activity sites are going to go away to say static sites are “dead” is just plain daft.

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Centering a Web Page

by cdwise 6. April 2010 04:47

I think how to center the contents on a web page is the single most common request on the Expression Web forum (but not in my Dreamweaver group).

You need 3 things to center a page:

  1. A valid doctype (EW does this by default)
  2. A container with a defined width (typically a div with an ID of container applied to it.)
  3. In the style definition for the container you need to have margin-left: auto; and margin-right: auto;

What you must not have are:

  1. Any position: absolute on divs or other elements on the page.
  2. Use of the spacebar ( ) to position elements - use margin, padding and/or floats instead.

#container {
width: 780px;
margin: 0 auto;
}

<div id=”container”>
  content goes here
</div>

Using Expression Web?

Another suggestion is that you think about how you want the page to look and create named styles that you can reuse because you know what they were created to do.

Instead of clicking on the format toolbar and creating a bunch of style1, style2, style3, etc.

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