Why FrontPage XP?

May 5 21:00 2002 Richard Lowe Print This Article

I must admit that I use ... ... quite a bit. It's notthat I am ... fond of the product, it's just ... has a very simple, ... WYSIWYG (What You See IsWhat You Get

I must admit that I use Microsoft FrontPage quite a bit. It's not
that I am particularly fond of the product,Guest Posting it's just that
FrontPage has a very simple, easy-to-use WYSIWYG (What You See Is
What You Get) editor. This is especially true of it's support for
tables and lists. In fact, I'd venture to say that FrontPage has
by far the best WYSIWYG editor on the market.

I began using FrontPage many years ago, when it was a free add-on
to Internet Explorer called FrontPage Express (if there was a
paid version available at the time I didn't know about it). One
day I remember receiving a copy of Microsoft Office with a
demonstration disk for FrontPage 97. It sounded interesting so I
tried it out.

The product was very nice, and even that early in the HTML editor
game it was in many ways superior to what we have on the market
today. However, on the downside, FrontPage 97 crashed a little
more often that I would have liked (but hey, it's a Microsoft
product, so I was used to this and didn't really think much of it
at all) and it had this annoying habit of thinking it knew better
that I did.

The entire Office suite has this problem: the products try very
hard to prevent you from doing something that is not "correct".
In FrontPage, for example, there are times when it will not allow
you to resize a table for no apparent reason. The program simply
seems to think it's a dumb idea and will not let you do it.

FrontPage 98 was a vast improvement over the previous version,
and I quickly upgraded. By now, however, I was learning a bit
more and had discarded many of the features that the product
offered. First to go was templates - these are a great idea but
the implementation, quite frankly, sucks. Not only is the style
of any FrontPage site created from templates so recognizable that
it screams "amateur" to everyone, they simply do not buy you very
much in the way of ease of web site creation. Templates seem
designed to limit a person into a specific, Microsoft approved
style of web site design, and that design is, well, stupid.

Next to get thrown out was the automatic upload feature. You see,
FrontPage has a wonderful feature (well, it would be wonderful
except ...) which will upload all of your changes (and only your
changes) to your web site. Unfortunately, the implementation is
completely lame. FrontPage will not transfer CGI and perl
routines in ASCII, and thus the upload feature cannot be used on
a web site which uses CGI. To top that off, the upload feature is
so awesomely slow that it's possible to believe the design
specification required the slowness to be built into the product.
It's so slow that it's hard to believe this could have happened
by accident.

Hover buttons are a great looking feature, but as with many other
FrontPage extras the implementation is lame. The form handling of
FrontPage is so poorly implemented that I found it completely
unusable and installed my own CGI routines (thus leading to the
issue described in the previous paragraph). The dynamic HTML
features are quite simply awesome, but again the implementation
is lame.

So one by one the really powerful features of FrontPage have
proved themselves to be too limited, slow or poorly implemented
to be of use.

However, the WYSIWYG editor is wonderful, so when FrontPage 2000
was released I was fairly excited. And FrontPage 2000 was a vast
improvement over the earlier versions of the product. In fact, I
believe the entire Office 2000 suite was as close to perfect as
it could get (besides an occasional bug). In my opinion,
Microsoft should have stopped development on the entire suite at
that time, as there really is nothing useful to add. I know in my
own workplace my users probably use about 5% of the suite's
capabilities, and the remaining features are more than enough to
satisfy the occasional power user.

I was looking forward to the upgrade to Office XP. I don't know
why, since I basically am not using the product all that much
anymore. I simply use FrontPage 2000 as a WYSIWYG front end, then
go in an edit the HTML code by hand where necessary. In fact,
lately I've been finding myself switching back to good old
FrontPage Express more and more often.

Nonetheless, I looked forward to the new product (I mean
FrontPage 2000 was a very good upgrade after all) and eagerly ran
to my desk with the new copy the day it arrived. The upgrade went
in easily and quickly ...

And within 2 hours the product had been removed from my system. I
believe this is the quickest uninstall on a major product that I
have ever done.

Now keep in mind that I did not perform a feature-to-feature
comparison between the two products. I was going to do so, but
FrontPage XP did not even pass the initial first look. The
product was that horrible.

It wouldn't even render my pages properly. My site is handled
perfectly well by every browser that I've checked it in and by
every single other editor I've tested. There is absolutely
nothing unusual about it in any way. Yet FrontPage XP could not
show the pagers properly.

The product had even more "FrontPage-isms" than before, and it
was slow. Very, very slow.

So I will be brief and finish up this article quickly. I wouldn't
recommend anything about FrontPage XP, and for that matter, the
complete Office XP suite to anyone. I have no idea why anyone
would accept this product for free, much less pay for it.

To be very crass about it, I kind of view these products
(FrontPage XP and Office XP) as the equivalent of expensive
working girls. Sure, you will have fun, but it will cost you a
fortune, you will catch a virus or two, you may get worms, and
you'd be much better off staying at home talking to your wife or
girlfriend.

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Richard Lowe
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