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Kool Tools: Microsoft Expression Media 2

Volume Number: 24
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: Kool Tools

Kool Tools: Microsoft Expression Media 2

by Dennis Sellers

Along with the release of Office 2008 for the Mac earlier this year, Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (best known as the Mac BU) also released a Mac version of Expression Media 2. If you need to visually catalog and organize media elements, you'll find the software useful.

With Expression Media 2-based on the iView MediaPro software Microsoft bought in June 2006-you can create visual databases (or "catalogs") of media containing references of up to 128,000 files per catalog. You can store the catalogs just about anywhere (on shared folders, CDs, hard drives, DVDs, etc.) and use integrated search tools within Expression Media to keep track of them.

Like all well-behaved Mac apps, Expression Media 2 supports drag and drop. You can drag and drop documents, images, fonts, and more into a thumbnail-based visual catalog. Expression Media 2 implements hierarchical tagging and supports file system integration features, such as automatic synchronization and folder watching. You can search and sort media by a variety of criteria-and even rename media files and folders directly within the software.

Expression Media 2 supports standard metadata formats like EXIF, IPTC, and XMP, as well as Nikon D40X, Sony's A100 RAW format (for geotagging functionality) and Microsoft's emerging JPEG-XR standard-and can generate a thumbnail for most of them. Data can be exported into a variety of formats, as well.

The software offers five different views for reviewing images, listening to music or watching movies: List, Thumbnail, Media, Lightbox and Slide Show. You can also choose up to six files to compare side-by-side in full screen view.

The Image Editor lets you perform a variety of editing tasks, such as cropping, red-eye removal . creating duotones and adjusting color balance. There are also several built-in auto enhancements for touching up images, as well as support for built-in color profiles for keeping colors accurate and consistent across your workflow.

With Expression Media 2, you can extract and preview images from your digital files. And you can import or export, add or edit metadata from those files for searching and sorting.

Expression Media 2 lets you publish and distribute media with cross-platform slide shows, video, and web galleries. The software comes with several templates. You can use them as they are - or tweak 'em to your heart's desire by modifying the timings, grids, transitions and audio playback.

After you've done a lot of work, you don't want to risk losing it. Expression Media 2 has features for archiving and backing up your media files, folders and catalogs to CD, DVD, hard disk or any mountable volume. Volumes can be unmounted after import, so you can use the Microsoftware to catalog CD-ROMs and other offline media.

Most of the software's features can be applied in a "batch" to different elements. Expression Media also has scripting capabilities that can be integrated with third-party application and tools.

Your media doesn't have to be online (e.g., in a mounted volume) to use the software. Even when your originals are offline, the software's visual catalogs allow you to browse, search, and annotate your assets.

Your work can be viewed by anyone who has the cross-platform, free Expression Media Reader. You can also output to outputting to contact sheets and web galleries. A recent update also added multi-monitor Light Table support. This means you can have the Light Table (for processing and rating images and other files) open on one monitor while the catalogue and tools are open on another.

Microsoft's Expression Media feature does a bit of a dance around something that's already accomplished by iPhoto or Aperture, but incorporates it into the suite and allows the user to employ some basic web graphics and simple photo manipulation. This is something that may be useful if you are using a workflow, particularly that integrates with the Microsoft Office 2008 workspace.

Expression Media 2 is for Expression Media 2 is available either separately for $199 or as part of the full Expression Studio 2 for $699. The Studio bundle also includes Expression Web 2 (a web site design tool), Expression Blend (a design tool for creating user interfaces), Expression design (an illustration and graphic design tool), and Expression Encoder (which lets you import and encode video files, produce live webcasts, enhance media with watermarks and advertising, and publish with Microsoft Silverlight).

Qualifying iView MediaPro customers and owners of other qualifying products, can upgrade to Expression Media for $99. Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Media & Expression Studio customers can upgrade to the full Expression Studio 2 for $349. A fully featured 30 day free trial for Expression Media 2 is currently available for download here: http://www.microsoft.com/expression/try-it/default.aspx

Then there's Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition (which lists for $499.99), which is a bundle of the standard edition of Office and Expression Media 2.

Expression Media 2 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.5. It's a Universal Binary, so it runs natively on both PowerPC and Intel Macs. If you're using it with 10.5 ("Leopard") you can preview your files without opening them thanks to support of the QuickLook technology.


Dennis Sellers is a long time journalist. He started in the newspaper business, but has been in the online journalism business for the past 15 years. He's the editor/publisher of Macsimum News (http://www.macsimumnews.com)

 
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