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Is Microsoft Expression Graphic Designer Good Enough to Take On Adobe Illustrator?

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Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista promises a new era of rich, graphically engaging experiences. The new beta illustration tool, Expression Graphic Designer, will allow you to create content for Vista. What is interesting, however, is that Graphic Designer is being promoted as a serious professional tool that will compete against current tools such as Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Fireworks. Does Graphic Designer stand up against these power tools? Maybe.
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In a world dominated by engineers, a light is appearing for the graphic designer on the Microsoft campus. Microsoft's new beta product, Expression Graphic Designer is one-third of the new Expression tools, which include Expression Interactive Designer and Expression Web Designer. This article introduces Expression Graphic Designer and tells you how it can fit in with your current tools. At the time of this writing, Expression Graphic Designer is still in beta.

History (or Lack Thereof) of Graphic Tools at Microsoft

Microsoft's history of creating tools for the designer community has been poor at best. Tools such as VizAct, Paint, and Publisher have been met with scorn. There were a couple of bright lights along the way, most notably when Microsoft acquired SoftImage. (Avid recently bought SoftImage from Microsoft.) The image that Microsoft has painted is one of a developer-centric organization. Design was left to those "creative folks" over at Adobe and Macromedia. The problem is that design is becoming more and more a central feature of new software products, as illustrated by the presentation of Apple's OS X, stunning Web sites such as, and cool new software interfaces seen in products such as Microsoft's Instant Messenger.

Microsoft realizes and acknowledges that design is part of the development process. This is being clearly demonstrated with the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), code-named Avalon, which will appear in Windows Vista next year. Essentially, WPF is radical restructuring of the presentation-level graphics used in application development. Mac users will recognize this as similar to Core Image used for graphics presentation in OS X.

Microsoft is now announcing tools that will enable you to create solutions on the new WPF framework. An eagerly anticipated tool is Expression Graphic Designer, which is a blend of Adobe Illustrator and PhotoShop, allowing you to create both vector and raster images in the same document. You will find a lot of the tools you may already be comfortable with in Adobe's products and a couple of new tools.

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