Expression Design follow up – Answering questions from Microsoft

So I wake up this morning to discover that Microsoft has taken an interest in my blog (undoubtedly because I posted this blog on one of their forums). Anyway, they responded with some pointers, questions and disagreements. I realized that some of what I had said required some backing up in the form of actual screen grabs and examples so I’ve spent some time making illustrations to prove my point.

The biggest and most annoying issue I found when working with Expression Design was the poor quality of the exports. This was questioned by people from Microsoft so I’ve compiled some exports for your viewing pleasure. These images were all exported with whatever settings are listed underneath, then opened in Adobe Photoshop (where the strokes and text were added) and exported again from Photoshop using quality 12 and Standard compression. The graphic in question is the logo I’m currently working with for a web project. The logo (vector graphic) was imported as an EPS into Expression and resized to fit the frame. The bad rasterization is prevalent no matter what size the graphic is.

A series of exports side by side with no compression or re-sizing:

Export examples side-by-side

At normal resolution you can clearly see the stepped or frayed edges on all the Expression Design exports, especially pronounced along the horizontal elements in the ‘Z’ and the bottom left hand curve of the ‘u’. You’ll also notice that the green in the three top images seems slightly muddied and the white has a yellow tint to it. This is caused by the artifacts. The Adobe Photoshop exports are much better even at lower qualities.

To really show what the problem consists of I’ve blown up each of the above:

Expression Design JPG quality 8
Expression Design JPG quality 10
Expression Design JPG quality 12
Expression Design PNG
Adobe Photoshop JPG compression 10
Adobe Photoshop JPG compression 12

It’s quite obvious even to an untrained eye that the JPG compression from Expression – even at full resolution – is quite bad. Notice in particular the artifacts in the green and white areas of the quality 12 image. Likewise the edge-stepping is very pronounced making it hard to use the graphics. The difference in quality between Expression Design JPG at quality 12 and Adobe Photoshop JPG at quality 10 is also staggering, especially when it comes to artifacts around the edges and in the white. The artifact problem becomes even more pronounced when using gradients rendering the exported JPGs virtually useless.

I guess one could argue that the JPG compression is better using Photoshop because Adobe has been in the business longer and has had more time to perfect the science of compression. But that is beside the point. Microsoft intends to take over at least some of the market currently dominated by Adobe so it is vital that they get “simple” issues like this right right away.

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