As I’m packing up for a rush trip to Norway to see my dad defending his doctor’s dissertation the Microsoft Expression team is hard at work in New York City presenting the new version of my favourite web development application Expression Web 4. Now packaged as Expression Studio 4 Web Professional and bundled with Expression Design and Expression Encoder version 4 is a programmatical improvement on the already hugely successful Expression Web 3 that introduces some new and nifty features that will make your web development process even simpler.
New in Expression Web 4
There is a long list of new features in Expression Web 4 but here I’m only going to mention three – because they are the most important ones.
In-app SEO reporting
Like the name suggests Expression Web 4 provides a full SEO report for selected pages or the entire site. Gone are the days of trying to remember all the SEO rules or using 3rd party apps to make sure your site gets listed on Google and Bing. With the click of a button Expression Web 4 will give you a list of everything you forgot to add to your site, like a title tag, proper description, keywords or broken links. But more interestingly it also gives you tips, in the form of warnings, that are not so obvious. During beta testing I ran the SEO reports on some of my existing sites and got feedback like “title is too general” and “description is too general”. This might seem like weird error reporting but it’s actually vitally important if you want your site to be noticed in the search environment: To be noticed your pages need proper titles that tell the visitor what’s on them. And the descriptions have to be specific enough to stand out. There are tons of other such warnings that, if heeded, will not only increase your SEO but will also teach you to write your code in an SEO friendly way the first time around. Which is exactly why I like Expression Web so much – it teaches you through its use to do things the right way.
I’ve raved about SuperPreview – the in-app or stand-alone cross-browser compatability tester that was introduced with Expression Web 3 – before. With Expression Web 4 SuperPreview has been enhanced and improved to include more browsers (IE 6, IE 7, IE 8 Compatibility Mode, IE 8 etc), more file inputs and most importantly an online component that lets you test your pages against the Mac version of Safari. It’s the same application with onion skinning, active areas, DOM view and all that great stuff, only improved for broader functionality.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: SuperPreview by itself is reason enough to buy Expression Web.
Publish Current Page
For people like me who tend to work on multiple disjointed pages and do live updates to sites all the time the process of saving a page, going to the publishing panel and then uploading the pages to the external server is extremely cumbersome. The obvious solution to this problem would be to have a button or function that lets you publish the current or all open pages to the server right away. I requested this feature at some point in the pre-beta process of Expression Web 4 and I’m happy to say it’s now included in the app making publishing of your latest and greatest errors updates a one-click process. It may seem like a small and insignifficant upgrade but it really isn’t: After working with an early beta and going back to Expression Web 3 I kept swearing at my computer because I couldn’t just push my files straight to the server but had to go through the publishing panel. That quick one-click or shortcut process is a huge timesaver and a hugely important addition to an already excellent application.
If you have version 3, version 4 is a free upgrade
Yes, that’s right: If you already purchased Expression Web 3 or Expression Studio 3, Expression Studio 4 is a free upgrade. That means you get all the cool new stuff at no cost. Very cool.
More to come
I’m hard at work writing tutorials and other stuff (TBA) about Expression Web 4 so stay tuned to this blog for all the updates and other useful tips!
I’ll try to compile a list of all the news on this exciting new app as they get in. If you have a link, dump it in the comments below and I’ll post it: