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July 13, 2010 / Joe Osborne

Microsoft Student Insider Feature: Ed Meadows + A Chance to Win Free Stuff!

Hopefully some of you vicariously enjoyed my journey through Twitter, but I’ll let you Geekadelphians in on it anyway: I was recently granted an incredible opportunity to visit Microsoft’s Main Campus in Redmond, WA and meet a brilliant bunch of folks involved in the various teams that develop, design and market Microsoft’s newest suite of design tools, Expression Studio 3. So, let’s kick off this feature series with a fine fellow. Ed Meadows, Senior Product Manager on the Expression Web team, revealed some key features of Expression Web 3 and a glance into his not-so-routine life at Microsoft. A little more info on Ed’s daily life at Main Campus and some neat features that designers can find within Expression Web 3 (as well as details on how to win a 60 day trial disc of Expression Studio!) after the jump.

Ed has a long history of working with design software (he used to work with Adobe, so he knows his stuff) and a firm background in HTML and CSS. Ed became a “Softie”, or Microsoft employee, seven years ago to work on the launch of the digital note-taking application, One Note. It almost goes without saying that this is a guy who has a passion for creative products and better yet, knows how to make them a reality.

Since the Expression Studio 3’s release in September of last year, Ed has become part of the team planning for future releases and the business group (you know, how to make the dollars). He also makes sure to follow user feedback and communicate with the development teams to include the features designers want in future releases. This communication between users and developers is a daily process.

However, Ed did let me in on some features already within Expression Web and other Expression Studio tools that can enhance designers’ jobs or hobbies and make them a whole lot simpler. A particularly useful feature is the SuperPreview plug-in, which allows users to preview their website at any stage of its development in multiple browsers at once while staying within the Web 3 interface.

As designers and developers alike will agree, testing how their site renders in multiple browsers can be a pain. SuperPreview is designed to streamline the process of browser testing and make it feel more like a natural part of the design process rather than a chore designers loathe.

While this next feature isn’t within Web 3, it’s been designed to integrate with it almost seamlessly. Expression Blend 3’s Sketchflow feature is a prototyping tool geared towards helping designers get their ideas into motion as quickly as possible. Be it a single app or an entire website, it can be prototyped using Sketchflow’s tool set.

It’s made possible by allowing users to draw out the basic layouts of their apps or web pages using the Sketch tools and then letting them introduce interactivity to their early designs through Behaviors (we’ll have more on the specifics of Expression Blend in a later post). You can then take these foundations and use them as the basis of your final product as they are in reality Silverlight or WPF projects with a minimal UI. Just polish them up (after some testing and optimization, of course) and they’ll be ready to go.

I wouldn’t use the word “feature” to describe Expression Encoder 3 as it would sell it a bit short. This program, included in the Expression Web package, allows for an intuitive and comprehensive way to encode video of various formats, edit it within the programs editor and publish the final product within a Silverlight player to your site.

The most impressive feature (now it’s appropriate) of Encoder 3, aside from supporting popular formats like Quicktime, AVI and MPEG, is the ability to edit your video by adding cuts, captions, titles and even advertisements. A neat feature I found is the A/B Compare tool which lets you preview your encoding output in two formats at once using a split screen to see which codec is best for you and why.

Check out the Expression homepage for more information and the xIQ blog for tips, tricks and how-to breakdowns on how to get the most out of Expression Studio 3. Interested in what the other Microsoft Student Insiders are up to? Look no further!

One last thing (I promise), leave a comment on this post with a link to a site that you think shows amazing design and we’ll choose one lucky guy or gal to receive a free 60-day trial disc of Expression Studio 3! Be sure to check back this Wednesday the 10th to find out if you won!

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