REVIEW MARCH 28 , 2001
Creature House Expression 2

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The Flash output itself is quite small. A large animation can be as little as 4 KB, which is actually smaller than most JPEG images. The price of this is quality. You lose all detail in bitmap strokes, and there's no way to change the settings to allow for larger file sizes for better images. Vectors, of course, come out just fine.

On the import side, you can insert any bitmap object, and you can also import Photoshop files with layer and alpha information intact. You can also import any vector object and copy and paste between applications that support Illustrator AICB (Adobe Illustrator on the Clipboard) format, although other illustration programs to not accept bitmap data included in Expression's strokes.

Performance and usability
I found working in Expression 2 to be quite easy, Icons are usually familiar and at least understandable, and there's popup text to tell you what each tool does. I only had to refer to the manual once, which was when I wanted to figure out how to add animation to the composition. That was easy enough to find in the online help (under the Help menu on the Mac), which is a duplicate of the printed documentation.

All of the tools in Expression 2 are likewise accessible and logically organized. Fully expanded, tools can take up quite a chunk of screen acreage, and you can't dock palettes within one another. (You can close up the ones you're not using.)

In terms of performance, this program cleverly draws a black and white representation of your stroke while it's being drawn, rendering it out only when you let go of the mouse. Nevertheless, performance does get bogged down (screen redraw lags) about the time you hit 20 paths with bitmap strokes under the default memory allocation of 48 MB. Increasing the memory partition improves performance proportionally. One nice performance feature, though, is that you can continue to work even as other potions of the screen continue to redraw.

The bottom line
Expression 2 is an excellent complement to an illustration system. If you currently use Illustrator or Freehand and want to add more creative possibilities to your work, Expression 2 is definitely worth a look. While this program has Flash capabilities, it is not a full-featured Flash animation tool by any means. But it does offer some very nice vector capabilities that no other program can match. We give Expression 2 a buy recommendation.

Expression 2 is available for Macintosh and Windows for $149 for the boxed version, $139 for the download version. (During the introductory period, you can buy the download version and have the CD shipped to you at no additional cost.) Upgrades for owners of previous version of Expression run $99 for the boxed version, $89 for the download. For more information, visit http://www.creaturehouse.com.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, Digital Media Designer, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Plug-in Central, Presentation Master, ProAudio.net and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.
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