Developers will today get their first chance to play with a web-layout and -design tool Microsoft hopes will lure developers from Adobe's Dreamweaver.

Microsoft will release an early, CTP (Community Technology Preview) version of Expression Web Designer, one of three tools designed to compete with rival Adobe's extensive web-design portfolio.

Microsoft hopes the Expression toolset - which includes Expression Graphic Designer and Expression Interactive Designer - will lure some of the creative types that build websites using Adobe tools such as Dreamweaver and Flash.

Interactive Designer is a 3D animation and graphics tool, and Graphic Designer 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 CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) in Web Designer. CSS is the standard technology Web designers use to create modern website layout. Microsoft enables web designers not only building pages using CSS but also managing the underlying code using the program. This process 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.