Microsoft Kills Expression Suite
Written by Ian Elliot   
Friday, 21 December 2012

Microsoft has announced that the Expression suite of design tools is no more. It has been removed from sale immediately and it has been placed on a maintenance only status until it reaches its end of life. However it's not all bad news...

Visual Studio is Microsoft's only flagship development system and this raised the question of why Expression Blend, the XAML user interface designer, was a standalone product. Not all Visual Studio programmers were even aware of what Expression Blend could do for them. For example, books on programming Silverlight or Windows 8 would often concentrate on using Visual Studio and mention Expression Blend as an afterthought.


If the split always seemed unnatural to you then you will be pleased to hear that Expression Blend is to be integrated into Visual Studio 2012 - most probably with Update 2. You can download a preview of Blend, including Sketchflow for Visual Studio 2012 (including the Express version). The integrated designer will handle XAML compilation to Silverlight, WPF and WinRT apps. 

The whole point of launching Expression as a separate entity from Visual Studio was that it was Microsoft's tool for designers. As well as Blend, the suite also included Design 4, Web 4 and Endcoder 4. These really didn't form a coherent whole in any reasonable sense. Design is a vector drawing application that was mostly ignored because designers already had alternatives. Web provides yet another way to build a website and Encoder is a general-purpose media encoding and transcoding tool.

Microsoft seems to have decided that the suite didn't really serve the designer and left the programmer out in the cold. As a result Design and Web have been dropped and Encoder will be around only until the end of 2013.

In future you can use either WebMatrix or Visual Studio to build a website and use whatever third party drawing tool you care to select. The import options in Design are going to be incorporated into Visual Studio.

Clearly Microsoft is going to need some sort of media coder in the future but Expression Encoder 4 will be the last in this particular series. It seems that the Windows Azure Media Service will be the way things are done in the future.

There is some partial good news in that Microsoft has decided to make Design 4, Web 4 and Encoder 4 free to download. You don't get support but you do get the programs to use. You can also carry on buying Encoder 4 Pro until the end of 2013. Of course, knowing that you are using "doomed" products, even for free, takes some of the icing off the cake.

Microsoft has probably pleased the people who matter most, i.e. the programmers, by bundling the only really important part of Expression, i.e. Blend, into Visual Studio. The people it has most annoyed are the few who just bought Expression Studio. Microsoft suggests returning the product for a full refund or, if it is outside of the retailer's returns period, to obtain a refund via the Microsoft Money Back Guarantee program.



More Information

Expression Home Page

Related Articles

XAML Developer Reference

Expression Blend for Silverlight 5 now available

Microsoft Expression Blend 4 Unleashed


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Last Updated ( Friday, 21 December 2012 )