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Expression Web 3 Service Pack 1

Author: Steven Guttman, Principal Product Unit Manager, Expression Web

About the Author: Steven Guttman leads the Expression Web team.  He regularly contributes to the Expression Web Team Blog.

We recently shipped Service Pack 1 for Expression Web 3. This is really a must-have update for users of Expression Web 3 and—if you’re still on Expression Web 2—this may provide some incentive for upgrading. There are significant improvements, and we addressed some long-standing issues as well.

How do I get it?

Expression Web 3 SP1 is available in two ways. If you’ve signed up for Microsoft Update, then SP1 will be delivered directly to your PC and installed automatically with other Windows and product updates. It was launched through Microsoft Update on November 24. Because of the huge number of Windows machines that subscribe to Microsoft Update, the Service Pack isn’t available instantaneously, but is gradually loaded onto subscribing machines over several weeks. This is a worldwide patch, and works for all language versions of Expression Web 3.

If you can’t wait for Microsoft Update’s delivery, you can get Service Pack 1 directly from the Download Center on The Service Pack is available at and is under 10 MB in size.

What’s in it for me?

Root Relative Link Support

Expression Web SP1 addresses a number of important issues and a lot of minor ones. One of the subjects we heard a lot about, was the lack of support for root-relative links on the Design Surface. As you may be aware, links come in 3 flavors (like Neopolitan ice cream):

  • Absolute path: Links are specified with a complete URL to the asset starting with “http://” (e.g.
  • Document Relative path: Links are specified relative to the page being displayed (e.g. “images/logo.png” or “../scripts/jquery.js"). Here, the double dot “..” means, move up one directory.
  • Root-relative: With root-relative paths, links are specified relative to the site root. A root relative path tells the server to "go to the root" and then traverse whatever path you give it.

To specify a root relative path, simply prefix your path name with “/” (e.g. “/images/logo.png” or “/js/jquery.js"). Root relative paths are particularly important for sites with included files (like PHP includes)—where those includes may need to be inserted in multiple locations within a site hierarchy. In these circumstances, document-relative links won’t work because the starting directory for documents may be different. While it was certainly possible to use root relative links in Expression Web in the past, we didn’t provide support for resolving those links on the Design view, in CSS files, nor did the program do “link fix up” if files were moved or renamed. 

Expression Web 3 SP1 also contains significant fixes and improvements in publishing, the SuperPreview feature, file management, extensibility, and other areas of the program.

Alternative Color Scheme

In moving from Expression Web 2 to Expression Web 3 we unified the look and feel of the program with the other Expression Studio products—Blend, Encoder and Design. We did this to promote a consistent visual look and feel, as well as to share technology with other Expression Studio programs. Since then, we’ve heard pretty consistent feedback that people want more control over the UI color scheme. In SP1 we re-introduced the option to use Windows colors in the UI. You can find this option under Tools>Application Options.

Figure 1. Comparing Default and Windows colors

Note that this will also allow the visually impaired to use Windows high-contrast modes within Expression Web.

Improved Text Selection in Design view

Expression Web’s Design view is like a browser—but, in some ways it isn’t. A browser’s display is uneditable. Because elements on the Design Surface are editable, we do some special things to enhance the ability of people to modify them. For example, when the cursor is inside an HTML element, we create a selection rectangle around it with handles that let the element be resized. In some cases there is an additional rectangle identifying elements that are floating or which have specified size.

Because these selection rectangles are themselves selectable, if you are trying to select text in a small point size at the very edge of the selection rectangle, it can be difficult to choose the text instead of the rectangle—particularly with vertical glyphs .

Figure 2. Old selection model

The improved selection model adds a few pixels of padding between the text block and selection rectangle edge. This should make it much easier to make selections at that boundary. Of course, the extra padding disappears once you click outside the element.

Figure 3. Improved selection model

Other improvements and fixes

There are quite a few additional fixes and enhancements in SP1. Some of these include:

  • Extensibility improvements for add-in developers
  • Support for Drupal and CakePHP template files: Expression Web 3 SP1 now recognizes .module, .install, .inc, and .ctp as valid PHP extensions.
  • Internet Explorer 8 META tags and Web Slices: Contains new code examples to support features that are specific to IE8. The new code examples include META tags specific to IE8, plus a new Web Slice code example. You can access the code examples by pressing Ctrl+Enter in Code view.
  • Fixes a problem in which multiple tasks are undone when you use the Undo feature.
  • Resolves a crashing issue caused by nonstandard or corrupted fonts that are installed on your computer.
  • A variety of improvements to publishing

We highly encourage you to get Expression Web 3 SP1. It will make your web authoring better, more reliable, faster and (possibly) more visually appealing.