Expression Web Bugs & Requests

by cdwise 28. February 2009 00:01

Speaking of the MVP summit, is there something you would like to bring to the attention of the Expression Web development team?

In November at the Live Meeting we had here on by-expression we had a discussion of the: Good, Bad & Ugly, mostly concentrated on the last two but I'll be taking that list to the summit with me. Is there anything else you would like to add to the following list?

Text Select Bugs

  • Inability in design view to select text right next to a container's edge, the first character isn't selected or when you try to select too much is selected.
  • In code view when trying to select specific characters the entire word or section becomes selected suddenly instead.
  • When in split view you select an object in the design pane. Then when you move to the code pane section the the cursor jumps to an arbitrary point that bears no relationship to the text selected in design view.

No Thumbnails in Insert > Picture Bug

This is one of my pet peeves. I have Expression Web running on 7 different computers on two different operating systems (Vista & XP), not one of them lets me see thumbnails when I try to insert images. Every other program on my computer shows me thumbnails except Expression.

Installer Bugs

This must be the single largest area of problems I've seen on Expression Web groups whether they are MS or third party groups.

Broken or Missing Help Files

Too many of the help files in in Expression Web do nothing but refer people to MSDN which presumes the person already has a certain skill level as a programmer. Other help files are just missing or plain old wrong like the one that tells you how to display RSS feeds on your web page.

Publishing Bugs

FTP is slow as molasses even in v2 which at least fixed the inability to remember userid/passwords. When will performance there be at least as good as freeware such as Filezilla.

Feature Requests

We also discussed some of the things that we would like to see in Expression Web. The list includes (not necessarily in order of preference):

  • An easy way to create menus such as the popular Project Seven menu systems make available for Dreamweaver.
  • Support for rendering the html output of server side includes in design view, Dreamweaver has had this ability for at least the last 4 versions.
  • Root relative links - this one drives me nuts and I have been seeing it appear on the groups frequently. For those of us who use server side includes this is extremely important. Plus in complex sites it is just cleaner and more elegant to use /images/picture.jpg than it is to use ../../../../images/picture.jpg.
  • Support for Classic ASP, it is coming back in Visual Studio now that Microsoft has recognized that not all legacy applications will be migrated to ASP.NET.
  • Speaking of ASP.NET some recognition of code behind files and the ability to create at least a skeleton of a code behind file and the code to connect it to the aspx pages created in Expression Web.
  • Client side validation - remember Expression Web supports not just ASP.NET but also PHP so there is a real need for JavaScript form validation. Jquery is being integrated into Visual Studio (I believe as a plug in) and also can be integrated via API in Dreamweaver CS 4. So how about it Microsoft?
  • Speaking of plug-ins or add-ons or whatever you want to call it, when will the toolbox be extensible? Code snippets quickly get cumbersome in their current implementation if you add more than a couple to the existing ones. How about a more robust and easier to use way to add stuff to Expression Web? Turn the code snippet section under Page Editor Options into a separate task pane. Publish and SDK, expose the object model and keep it consistent or at least backwards compatible so that we can get active third party development of enhancements to Expression Web such as those I mentioned by Project Seven for Dreamweaver or the hundreds available for Visual Studio.
  • An "easy" button to help clean up legacy code. How best to do this has been discussed frequently, especially in the context of FrontPage websites being migrated to Expression Web and brought up to current coding standards. Some want to have Expression Web automatically move all font and html attribute formatting to stylesheets. Others want a wizard to step through their legacy site and give them options to choose from for each problem found. Currently the best you can do is in code view hover over every highlighted or squiggle error and try to decipher the error. For someone new to standards based design the error message aren't always intelligible.
  • Improve Search/Find & Replace - while the current version is very powerful it lacks the ability to do a global find for pages that don't contain something such as a doctype.
  • A way to attach a DWT to multiple pages at one time. This would be especially helpful for applying a DWT to a legacy site where the content has all been cleaned up and you only need to bring the content into one section and have the head section pick up the existing page title. It would also be useful if you needed to change the DWT associated with a large number of files already using a DWT.
  • Support for micro formats.

I'm sure my notes are incomplete and that there were things that people didn't think of during the November meeting that should have been on the list. If you would like to add to it, please comment.

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MS Expression Forum & Feedback

by cdwise 27. February 2009 23:27

Tomorrow I leave for Seattle for the MVP summit. One of the meetings I plan on attending is with the team responsible for the Expression, MSDN & TechNet forums. Whether there will be anything that comes from that session I can share with you or not I don't know but if you have something about one or more of those forums you would like shared with the Microsoft team responsible for them I'll be happy to pass along any comments or other feedback you would like them to hear or at least as much as they will allow me time to share.

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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.

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Threaded view in the MS Expression Forum

by cdwise 9. February 2009 11:16

I don't know if this is something new today (Sunday, Feb 08) but  MS has given me yet another reason to hate the Expression Web forum. I'm not sure if it is something new or if somehow my forum settings were changed but I when I went to look at the MS Expression Web forum today I was suddenly in "threaded view".

What "threaded view" does is require t you   click to expand every post that has replies to see the replies to the replies. Yeah, I know that sentence reads strangely but let me give you an example.

In the "list view" version I have used since they offered the ability to use AJAX  when you clicked the little arrow to the right of the thread subject to make all the replies visible.  (Well at least the first 10, beyond that you would have to click at the bottom of the expanded thread for the next 10 and the next 10 after that if a thread was long enough.)

Now instead of

Thread

  • reply
  • reply
  • reply
  • reply

You have

Thread

  • reply
    • follow-up to reply
      • response to follow-up
  • reply 2
    • follow-up to reply 2
      • response to follow-up
  • reply 3
    • tangent off reply 3
      • response to tangent
        • follow-up to tangent
      • comment on tangent
        • response
        • response
          • follow-up

Every indent is another click required to expand the comment. So now you can't even just scroll down though a long list of responses you've already read but have to expand each thread to see the response. You may even have to expand each one just to make sure that you have already seen the response.

Fortunately, I have discovered that I can change my settings to "list view" which is what I had before.  Actually, I can see a use for threaded view but only if you could expand all the threads with one click and see which branches have new replies since your last visit. Since you can't 

Besides speeding up the forum's performance, especially when posting what I would really like to see is an option to bold threads that have replies you haven't read, not just threads you have never opened. It is hard to tell sometimes when there has been a post in a thread you have participated.

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Last Chance Half Price Expression

by cdwise 23. January 2009 07:02

Just a quick note to let you know that if you haven't taken advantage of the half price sale on Expression Web and Expression Studio if you are in the US and purchase directly from Microsoft, they announced today that the sale ends January 31. 2009.

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