Someone asked me yesterday if the quiet announcement by Microsoft that starting April 1, 2009 SharePoint Designer was free and that Expression Web would become a SharePoint instead of web tool the FAQ it is not. The handwriting for the separation of internet from proprietary oriented editors at Microsoft is on the wall:
But Expression Web does not currently support SharePoint sites. When will that change?
Expression Web does not currently support SharePoint sites directly. However, we are working to ensure that Expression Web becomes an excellent choice for SharePoint customization. This capability will be available in a future version of Expression Web. In the mean time, customers who receive this Software Assurance benefit should continue to use SharePoint Designer for their SharePoint needs, and can utilize Expression Web for other non SharePoint needs.
I am extremely disappointed to read this because one of the major problems with FrontPage that caused it to be perceived as a second class citizen in the web design community was the proprietary nature of the FPSE and that so much of the "advanced" functions required Microsoft proprietary installs on the hosting server. As a result the output was heavily biased towards Internet Explorer and not always the latest version of it either.
I have been an outspoken advocate of keeping MS proprietary intra/extranet tools out of their "internet" oriented web Expression Web.
Many of you will remember that I argued that all the FPSE required bots should be removed from Expression Web back when we first saw the original CTP release in 2006. The decision to keep that key difference between Expression Web and SharePoint Designer was something I thought a good decision. I believe that the headway Expression Web has made in the professional web designer/developer community is directly due to that decision and was helped by Adobe’s decision not to support ASP.NET Master Pages in Dreamweaver.
[aside: Several shops that I know of who have used Dreamweaver exclusively are now using Expression Web for their front-end design of ASP.NET sites and master pages. So I think Adobe made a mistake not to support ASP.NET 2.0 Master pages in CS4 even if they did decide to drop ASP.NET application support.]
Unfortunately, this decision of Microsoft's to incorporate SharePoint design and editing into Expression Web will only validate the position taken originally by many that Expression Web is nothing more than a new name for FrontPage and its proprietary output. In addition, Expression Web has been on a release cycle comparable to other web editors, approximately every 18 months or so. This allows it to keep up with the pace of what people are doing on the web. Expression Web and SharePoint Designer were released more or less at the the same time in 2006. Expression Web is now in version 2 and we’ve seen at MIX 09 something of what they are working on for the next version with SuperPreview. Yet SharePoint has not had a new release being tied to both Office and Windows Servers it is on a much longer release cycle. Will putting SharePoint support in Expression Web put it on the same release cycle as Office and/or Windows Servers? Seems to me this change puts the strengths of Expression Web – the ability to host on any server and use PHP as well as ASP.NET into what may become a second class status in favor of a proprietary SharePoint orientation.
This is the second Expression Studio product that will be a casualty of Microsoft turning away from standards and towards proprietary solutions that server only a small segment of web designers/developer's needs.
I have watched Microsoft take a good graphics program and strip it of almost everything that made it a good web graphics program and turn it into something useful only to create WPF graphics. Now I see Microsoft taking their best web editor to date and moving it in the direction of a Windows only tool and am disheartened. Turning the focus of the entire Expression Studio inward to focus on SharePoint and Windows desktop (WPF) applications will only destroy what remains of the Expression Web community that has still not recovered from the move to the forum structure.
Microsoft – make SharePoint Designer free if you want to encourage people to use SharePoint but please don’t turn Expression Web into the “new” SharePoint design application.