When Microsoft retired FrontPage at the end of last year, developers wanting to use Microsoft technologies to build Web sites faced three choices: Work with the new Expression Web, adopt SharePoint Designer or work with Visual Studio.
Sound confusing? Microsoft officials maintain that the decision is straightforward, and will become even more so over time.
"Down the pike, Expression Web will be even more for creative designers, and SharePoint Designer will follow its own path," says Wayne Smith, senior product manager for Expression Web. Even though both Expression Web and SharePoint Designer will continue to be able to be used for Web design, "the two products will diverge more over time," Smith says.
But with lines increasingly blurring between Web pages and Web apps, the choice doesn't seem to be quite so clear-cut.
SharePoint Designer and Expression Web cost the same -- $299 each for a full license -- and both include an almost identical feature set. However, SharePoint Designer is available via Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), and Expression Web is not. (Further confounding matters, Microsoft is offering MSDN subscribers who had FrontPage as part of their subscriptions a $99 upgrade for Expression Web.)
"The thing to keep in mind here is that Web application design and SharePoint application design are two very distinct activities," says Karen Hobert, a Burton Group analyst specializing in collaboration and content strategies. "Where confusion might ensue -- especially when Microsoft releases the next version of Visual Studio [code-named "Orcas"] -- is when to use SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio for building composite applications, [which are] different than SharePoint applications.
"Microsoft asserts that SharePoint Designer will be used to assemble composite applications, which it can do, but if I wanted to build a workflow procedure, I can only use SharePointDesigner to create workflow processes on SharePoint lists and not external components. For that, I'd need Visual Studio or some other workflow development tool," Hobert adds.