Expression Studio 2 beta adds PHP, Silverlight 1.0 support

FROM MIX 08 - While Silverlight and Internet Explorer 8 are getting the most attention at MIX this year, Microsoft's Expression Studio also received an update. Version 2.0 of the suite is now in beta.

Expression Studio was first announced at MIX 06 and version 1.0 began shipping at last year's MIX 07. The tools were largely created to help companies build applications that take advantage of the new Windows Presentation Foundation found in Windows Vista.

Microsoft hoped the rich application capabilities would draw users to Vista, but developers have been slow to build such experiences, and in turn, consumers haven't rushed to upgrade to Vista. Expression targets the new breed of designer that is also part developer, and aims to make the process easier.

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Expression Web, the competitor to Adobe's DreamWeaver and a replacement to Microsoft's FrontPage, now fully supports editing PHP code. In addition to standard syntax highlighting and autocompletion, developers can preview their PHP pages in a Web browser without installing a separate Web server.

While Silverlight 2 Beta 1 was made available at MIX 08, Expression Web 2 only adds full support to the final Silverlight 1.0 release. Developers can edit an HTML file created by Silverlight or insert a Silverlight-based application into a Web page, along with Flash and Windows Media files. Other new features include Photoshop PSD importing and support for ASP.NET AJAX.

Expression Design, which developers can use to build 2D and 3D graphics that can be outputted to XAML for integration with applications that use the Windows Presentation Foundation, most notably comes with a new "Slices" feature in version 2 beta. Slices enable developers to export pieces of an image into a range of different formats, whether .bmp, .psd, .tiff or HD Photo.

In order to build user interfaces and complete the ecosystem of Web, graphics and application tools, Microsoft developed Expression Blend, formerly known as Sparkle and once thought to be a competitor to Flash. Blend can create and modify Silverlight applications, and Microsoft has released a March 2008 Preview of Blend version 2.5 in conjunction with Silverlight 2.0. Like the rest of Expression Studio 2.0, Blend 2.0 works only with Silverlight 1.0.

Expression Media -- an asset management tool like Adobe's Bridge that includes a visual catalog for keeping track of digital media such as images, fonts, sounds and videos -- and Expression Encoder have also received major updates for the 2.0 beta.

In order to push more developers to adopt Expression Studio, Microsoft has launched a "Professional Subscription" package for $999 USD, which will be available in the coming months. The subscription includes Expression Studios, Visual Studio Standard, Office Standard, Office Visio Professional, Windows XP, Windows Vista Business Edition, Virtual PC, and Parallels Desktop for Mac.

Brian Goldfarb, group product manager for Microsoft's developer division said that Expression Studio 2 would be released to manufacturing in a couple months. The platform is not in sync with Silverlight, he said, which is why Silverlight 2 requires Expression Blend 2.5.

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