Developers are set to get their first chance to play with Microsoft's new web design tool later today. The company is ready to release a Community Technology Preview of Expression Web Designer, one of three new tools designed to compete with rival Adobe's Dreamweaver.

Microsoft hopes the Expression toolset - which also includes Expression Graphic Designer and Expression Interactive Designer - will lure designers away from Dreamweaver and Flash.

Interactive Designer is a 3D animation and graphics tool, and Graphic Designer is a painting and illustration tool. Microsoft expects to have the entire Expression suite available by the end of the year.

Wayne Smith, product manager for Expression Web Designer at Microsoft, said that the only tool comparable to Expression Web Designer for web designers right now is Adobe Dreamweaver. But he highlighted Web Designer's support for ASP.Net 2.0, the latest version of Microsoft's technology for building web-based applications and services, as a differentiator between the tools.

"[Dreamweaver] supports ASP.Net version 1.1, but only to a fairly superficial level," he said. "We have deep support."

Smith also stressed Microsoft's effort to support standards such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) in Web Designer. CSS is the standard technology web designers use to create modern website layout. Microsoft enables designers not only to build pages using CSS but also manage the underlying code, which can be a hassle for developers, Smith said.

"If you have a complex site, you will end up with lots of CSS code, and managing it becomes an important part of the developer's job to keep the site clean and make sure the styles you've used make it work correctly," he said.