Microsoft Monday released its first preview of a professional Web design tool with which it hopes to challenge market leader Adobe.

The first Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Expression Web Designer is now available as a free 230MB download. Expression Web Designer matches up against Adobe's Dreamweaver, which it acquired last year after buying Macromedia.

Microsoft will also release the latest CTPs for Expression Interactive Designer, a Flash-like tool, and Expression Graphic Designer, which combines Photoshop and Illustrator-type capabilities.

Wayne Smith, product manager for Expression at Microsoft, stressed how different the Web design software is from Microsoft’s earlier entry in the Web design space, FrontPage.

"This product has been built from the ground up to adhere to modern Web standards," he said. "It’s nice to be able to step back and build a fresh new engine and not have to fix, bend or tweak an existing tool."

FrontPage is being phased out, with its features being made part of Web Designer as well as SharePoint Designer 2007, which will be part of the upcoming Office 2007 suite.

Expression Web Designer will include reporting and management tools. Designers can get reports on whether Cascading Style Sheets on a site are resulting in errors, whether the site is accessible to handicapped Web users and how many errors users of older Web browsers are encountering when viewing the site, said Smith.

Expression Web Designer is expected to be released by year's end, Smith said. The other two Expression tools, because they rely on technologies in the Windows Vista operating system, won’t be released until 2007 at the earliest.