Frontpage Isn’t Just For Novices Anymore


The last version of Frontpage I used was Frontpage 2.0 back in… 1997? Lisa Wollin, a Microsoft programmer writer, nicely
summed up some of my Frontpage complaints on her blog
yesterday:

When I write code, I want it to look the way I formatted it to look because I did it
ON PURPOSE. When I put in a line break, I want a line break. When I DON’T put in a line break, I DON’T want a line break. Very simple, but FrontPage just didn’t get it. This, of course, is a very simplistic view of what previous versions of FrontPage have done to code. I’ve heard of situations where FrontPage would delete whole portions of code that would then have to be rewritten. Argh!!

Well said.

This review
brought back some other Frontpage complaints I used to have:

  • Many Frontpage features require Frontpage Extensions enabled on the
    server. This usually entailed using Windows NT and IIS, much buggier than Windows 2003 and IIS 6,
    which today are many times more reliable. NT and IIS weren’t mature products and not very stable. And this was before security was on Microsoft’s radar.
    Most web hosts also
    charged more for these Extensions.
  • Lots of useless
    <meta> tags
    baked into the HTML it generated. Not as fat as

    Office HTML
    , but I remember it bothering me a lot.

In short, Frontpage was for novices, and did a lot to annoy anyone who knew
HTML.

One of the nice things about working at Microsoft is you can download
and try out any software the company makes. So, I’ve had a chance to play with
Frontpage 2003, and I love it.
What a difference 7 years makes!

Things to stand out:

  • The HTML it generates is very clean.  In fact, the code is better than
    what I would write myself. For example, I always forget to close my </p>s.
  • Frontpage 2003 incorporated Visual Studio’s wonderful IntelliSense.
    IntelliSense is smart code auto-completion. It’s very helpful yet doesn’t get in
    the way.
  • Speedy. I’m probably just as fast in Frontpage as I am in Notepad. The extra stuff doesn’t get in the way or slow the program down.
  • Frontpage estimates download times at various connection speeds. I’m using DSL
    at home, but I can see right away how long it would take someone to download
    at 28k or 56k a page I’m authoring.
  • Very easy to add some canned DHTML effects.

My favorite Frontpage 2003 feature is the new Split View:


Like the name suggests, it splits the window in half.  Type code in the top pane and the
bottom pane automatically updates to show what you’ve done. Or be super
WYSIWYG in the bottom pane,
like drag links and pictures around, and the code in the top pane
updates instantly.

It does this all while respecting my changes; no unexpected code changes. Very cool.

I used to be a super "Notepad snob" (or actually a
VIM snob), and I still prefer plain text when
editing
pages with heavy SSI
(like my personal site) or pages with other
server-side gunk like ASP.NET. But, for pure HTML, I can’t imagine using a
plain text editor anymore. I use Frontpage to author all these blog posts.

Anyone have other favorite HTML editors? I haven’t used anything other than Frontpage
or plain text editors to edit HTML in a while.


Comments (7)

  1. Dreamweaver – I think the split page stuff is actually ‘borrowed’ from Dreamweaver since it had this function a while ago. I haven’t tried Frontpage recently (as you point out it did have a tendency to think itself smarter than you…)

  2. That HTML re-write thing is the default behaviour for any Microsoft HTML editor for a while. Take Visual Studio .NET, for example. I never switch to design view since it will surely reformat all the hand coded HTML almost all the time (This behaviour is promised to be vanished in Whidbey. I’ll believe when I see it). Maybe they both share the same code base.

    Back in the day, when there was no Dreamweaver, people accepted this behaviour withouth complaints. And then Dreamweaver showed us just how a true WYSIWYG editor should be, with version 3. I still use Notepad for simple editing, though.

    And for what obscure purpose does VS.NET add a height attribute to <TD>s with even a single touch of a mouse button to the edge?

  3. Lisa Wollin says:

    Wayne, you are so right. FrontPage 2003 took great strides forward and is now a very competitive application for the Web developer sphere. FrontPage doesn’t stomp on the code anymore, with only minor exceptions.

    Anyone who hasn’t tried FrontPage recently, should give 2003 a test drive. (http://www.microsoft.com/office/frontpage/prodinfo/default.mspx)