Microsoft Expression Media Review

This is a little odd – a major new Microsoft release for the Mac that has received virtually no advance fanfare or publicity. Microsoft may be feeling threatened by the software giant that was created when Adobe merged with Macromedia, so it’s been trying to get a foothold in the design field with a new software suite called Expression Studio, which contains a variety of web-design and graphic design tools. Most of those tools only run on Windows PCs, but Expression Media is available for the Mac and was quietly slipped into the Media Edition of Office 2008 recently. It’s also available as a standalone program for about £240.

Expression Media is based on iView, an old Mac program that Microsoft bought way back in 2006. It’s an asset-management program that allows you to catalogue and organise large collections of digital media files. Of course, Adobe and Apple have Lightroom and Aperture, which provide similar asset-management features for photographers. However, Expression Media allows you to organise diverse collections of digital photos, video and audio files.

Any file that you import into Expression Media becomes part of a ‘catalogue’. You can create multiple catalogues for different projects that you’re working on, and files within each catalogue can be organised and sorted by using keywords or ‘metadata’ such as creation date, author or the ‘EXIF’ data taken from a digital camera. You can browse catalogues by viewing thumbnail previews of all your files, or take a closer look at individual files using the program’s full-screen Light Table mode.

There are some basic photo-editing tools within Expression Media. More useful, though, are the program’s batch conversion facilities, which allow you to convert image files, video clips and audio files into a variety of different formats. The fact that Expression Media is a Microsoft product comes in handy here, as it works well with PC formats such as WMV (Windows Media Video), which often prove troublesome on a Mac.

OUR VERDICT

Expression Media doesn’t offer digital photographers any important features that are likely to tempt them away from Aperture or Lightroom.

However, the program’s ability to work with audio and video files as well as digital photos means it could prove useful for multimedia work that involves the use of many different types of media files drawn from a variety of sources.

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