For over a decade, the world of web development has been dominated by two software programs: Macromedia’s (later Adobe’s) Dreamweaver, and Microsoft’s FrontPage. For many years, the general consensus among web development professionals was that Dreamweaver was the superior program in a multitude of ways. A few years ago, however, Microsoft released Expression Web Designer which in many ways leveled the playing field. The question many ask today is, “Which is better? Dreamweaver or Expression?” This article will try to answer that.
Ease of Use
Both programs have very good point-and-click WYSIWYG editors, enabling even people who know nothing about HTML and CSS to build quality web pages. In this category, however, Expression is probably slightly better. Expression looks and feels very much like using Microsoft word, right down to the red squiggly underlines beneath coding errors, much like how Word points out spelling errors. Expression’s user interface makes it very intuitive and easy to use for novices. Dreamweaver, on the other hand, has a more complicated, feature-packed interface that hold greater appeal for experienced web developers.
Both programs handle Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) extremely well, automatically generating and displaying it accurately. Again, Expression is slightly better in this area, displaying CSS code more precisely.
When it comes to client-side scripting, it is difficult to see which software is better. They do different things, but both do it extremely well. Dreamweaver provides excellent support for Spry, YUI libraries, and APIs for jQuerry, but little support for ASP.NET’s AJAX. Expressions strengths and weaknesses are almost the exact opposite. It provides the finest support got AJAX… but little else.
Dreamweaver generally wins in this category. Dreamweaver supports PHP, JSP, ColdFusion, and several other platforms. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support the widespread and popular ASP.NET server scripting language (although it does support classic ASP). Once again, Expression is almost the polar opposite. Expression provides unparalleled support for ASP.NET, but little else (not even, strangely classic ASP). In the final analysis, Expression is the superior program for web development within predominantly Microsoft environment, while Dreamweaver’s superior support and flexibility makes it better for web development on most other platforms.
For years, Dreamweaver’s far superior website management features made it a clear winner over Microsoft FrontPage. Microsoft Expression, however, and considerably narrowed that gap, providing a wider feature set and compatibility with Dreamweaver websites. Dreanweaver, however, still maintains its lead in this category with a wider and more efficient range of website management tools.
So Who Wins?
Unfortunately, it’s a draw – at least according to your own personal preferences. I am more of a Dreamweaver guy, and believe they are going to be around for many years to come. Each program is better for certain situations, but poorly suited to others. If you are an amateur web designer working with an all-Microsoft environment (like a corporate network), Expression is more compatible and easier to use. More experienced web developers working within a cross-platform environment (a mixed network of Unix, Linux. and Microsoft platform is very common these days) would find Dreamweaver’s flexibility and robust feature set more useful and efficient.
As internet technology continues to grow, diversify, and specialize, the days of a one-program-fits all solution are quickly fading. Today, one needs the right tool for the right job. To that end, web developers may find it more effective to keep both Dreamweaver and Expression software in their virtual toolbox.