Microsoft Ships Expression Studio 2

Microsoft releases the latest version of its design tools suite.

Microsoft announced May 1 the release to manufacturing of Expression Studio 2, the latest version of the software giant's suite of design tools aimed at professional designers and focused on the market dominated by Adobe Systems.

Microsoft's suite of professional design tools consists of Expression Web 2, Expression Blend 2, Expression Design 2, Expression Media 2 and Expression Encoder 2 and works with Microsoft's core developer tools, Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Studio 2008, to make for a smooth designer-developer workflow, the company said.

Adobe also is working on technology to enhance designer-developer workflow with a tool code-named Thermo, which is currently under development in Adobe Labs.

Microsoft delivered a beta release of Expression Studio 2 at its MIX conference in March. The release to the Web of the suite comes a year after the last major release of its components.

Click here to read more about Microsoft's Expression Studio 2 announcements at MIX.

New features in the suite include support for PHP and Adobe Photoshop in Expression Web 2. Expression Blend 2, Microsoft's user interface design tool, supports its Silverlight RIA (rich Internet application) tool, and now adds vertex animation and an improved UI. And Expression Design 2, a professional illustration vector and raster graphic design tool, adds improved exporting functionality that includes the ability to export slices.

Raw File Format support and subscription

Expression Media 2, a digital asset management solution for photographers, adds support for raw file formats, provides geotagging functionality and is supported by Microsoft Office 2007 and Microsoft Office for Mac 2008. Expression Encoder 2, now a core offering of the suite, is a program for encoding digital audio and video media.

Although Microsoft released Expression Studio 2 to the Web May 1, buyers will be able to purchase the entire studio from retailers such as and Best Buy starting in mid-May for $699, the company said.

The Microsoft Expression Professional Subscription will become available in June. The subscription includes the full Expression Studio suite along with other Microsoft programs such as Visual Studio, Windows Vista and Microsoft Office, for $999.