FrontPage Review
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This is a brief review of Microsoft's FrontPage 98 . The current version is FrontPage 2003. Note: Microsoft has introduced a new web authoring tool called Expression Web and will be transitioning away from FrontPage and FrontPage Server Extensions by 2008.

Key Features, Strengths, Weaknesses and Applications

bullet Microsoft FrontPage (FP) is really four or five tools in one. One tool is a WYSIWYG HTML editor that automatically generates HTML code as you position and add graphics and text on the page. The editor also offers templates for generating your own web pages and a minimum set of included graphics. FP is also a tool for administering and viewing a web. It generates hierarchical and graphical representations of a web that helps you visualize the web while you maintain and build it. In addition, FP is bundled with a personal web server. FP is also bundled with server extensions that allow the web site developer to automatically incorporate "bots" into the web environment. These bots do not require CGI programming to implement. They allow the developer to easily include search engines, discussion databases, database queries, automatically maintained tables of contents, etc. as a part of the web site. Obviously, the bots are not functional if supported server extensions are not installed by the ISP. FP also allows developers to construct their own templates for users. Finally, FrontPage is an excellent prototyping tool, allowing your web to be constructed, tested and debugged remotely. FrontPage even includes a To Do List and a simple TCP/IP test utility. In addition, FrontPage is now bundled with Image Composer, a powerful image composition program that allows use of sprites to create hybrid images limited only by one's imagination.
bullet Strengths: Table support. Support for highly customizable frames and "hotspots"/image mapping. Good Netscape/Explorer 4.X/5.X compatibility. Ease of use, power, flexibility. The ability to develop and maintain a complex web site. However, like any well designed tool, the creativity of the developer determines the quality of the final result. FrontPage does however liberate the developer from the more mundane tasks without sacrificing power. Web Bots provide instant CGI like functionality with no additional programming.
Some of the new features of FrontPage 98 as compared with previous versions:
bullet ActiveX Control Support
bullet Dynamic HTML Support
bullet Support for channel definition files
bullet Support for over 50 professional design themes that allow consistency across page and site (Banners, bullets, wallpaper, etc.).
bullet Navigation view that allows easy and consistent creation of navigation bars and more control over the web site's organization.
bullet Shared borders
bullet AutoThumbnail support
bullet Support for advanced text effects and page transitions/animation
bullet Improved image editing tools, including beveling
bullet Improved outlining/table of contents generation facility
bullet Improved site text search facility/WebBot
bullet Improved form/e-mail interface features
bullet Additional server extensions to allow broader ISP support and new functionality
bullet Create webs with or without a server
bullet Cross web find-and-replace
bullet Cross web spell-checker
bullet Hit Counter support
bullet Database connectivity
bullet Faster support With ISAPI extensions
bullet HTML source editor/Improved preview function.
bullet Improved drag and drop capability
bullet Internet Explorer tag support/Integration with IE 4
bullet Internet Composer 1.5 image editing program/Web clip art and photo library (Sprites)
bullet Java Applet and Netscape Plug-In support
bullet JavaScript and VBScript authoring support
bullet Menu customization
bullet Office 97 integration
bullet Preview in browsers of choice
bullet Resize Image
bullet SSL support
bullet Text Import Converters
bullet Thesaurus and Spell Check
bullet Integration with Microsoft's Version Control Control
bullet Improved WebBot features, improved frame support, improved page layout features/templates
bullet Stronger table customization support
bullet Weaknesses: Though style sheets are supported, Front Page is still not up to the standards of a desktop publishing or a full featured word processing tool. The Web Bot library is still somewhat limited and third party developers have not fully seemed to embrace the idea of custom Web Bot development. Some animation effects only supported on IE 4. Weak support for preview of pages under different screen resolutions. However, overall FP 98 is one of the strongest tools of its kind- a tool that along with Visual Studio can be embraced by the Web Professional and standalone by the average computer user. Further, all this come at an extremely reasonable price.
bullet Applications: Development and maintenance of personal and commercial web sites. Useful for intranets where employees will develop and customize their own pages. Powerful enough for commercial use.


Copyright Lowell Greenberg

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