One of the conspicuous no-shows from the list of programs that will make up Microsoft Office 2007 is FrontPage. Microsoft's flagship Web page design and HTML editing program is being retired. In its place, Microsoft is launching Expression Web Designer, which will be part of a new line of products aimed at competing with the art, graphics, and design prowess of Adobe/Macromedia.
FrontPage had its share of fans but I was never one of them. I always thought the program was unintuitive and clumsy to use. I tried several versions over the years and never liked any them. I always preferred Macromedia Dreamweaver and Adobe GoLive (and even Adobe PageMill before that). Naturally, I was not sad at all to see Microsoft putting an end to FrontPage and because I still do a lot of my own HTML editing and page building, I'm looking forward to giving Expression Web Designer a shot, even though it will have a lot of work to do to replace Dreamweaver as my program of choice.
Today, Microsoft officially released the first public beta (CTP) of Expression Web Designer. You can download it for free and give it a try. One word of warning: you'll need to first install the .NET Framework 2.0 before installing the Expression beta and if you have other programs that rely on the .NET Framework then version 2.0 may break some things. Microsoft has previously released a CTP for Expression Graphic Designer (Microsoft's answer to Photoshop) and a CTP for Expression Interative Designer (for building slick next generation interfaces for desktop apps).
I'm currently trying out Expression Web Designer and Expression Graphic Designer and I will post my opinions after I've put them through their paces.
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.