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What's New in FrontPage 2003

When you tell your geek friends that you're using FrontPage to create your Web site, you're likely to get disparaging looks, if not outright howls at your Web naiveté. The truth is, FrontPage has a tarnished reputation with most Web professionals. Older versions of the program spat out messy and overloaded HTML code, which meant that pages would take a long time to load in most Web browsers or not even load at all. Also, up until now, a FrontPage author couldn't collaborate on a site with people who used other Web development tools, such as Macromedia's Dreamweaver. Microsoft has been listening to the complaints and has actually addressed a lot of old shortcomings in the new version. The 2003 release introduces an HTML cleanup tool that helps alleviate the bloated code problem, and FrontPage is now on speaking terms with other Web editors.

Here are some of the new features you'll find in FrontPage 2003:

  • HTML Split view lets you see the visual layout of a page (Design view) alongside its HTML code (Code view). Viewing both sides of the page simultaneously like this is a great way to learn HTML. Plus, whenever you highlight an element in Design view, FrontPage highlights the corresponding HTML code.

  • HTML Cleanup is a new and most welcome addition to the program. The Optimize HTML feature clears out extraneous code created by the program. The result? Faster page downloads.

  • Quick Tag Selector displays HTML tags that are active while you're working in Design view. This handy toolbar saves you the trouble of switching to Code view and having to search through heaps of HTML. Use it to select and edit HTML tags with a simple click.

  • XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a coding language that's a lot like HTML except it holds data instead of Web page content. In a way, XML is like an all-text database, which makes it very flexibleno special software necessary. Not surprisingly, its popularity is growing fast. FrontPage now recognizes XML as a data source. (As long as you have the right software on your Web server, that issee Publishing Your Site.)

  • Macromedia Flash is now better integrated into FrontPage, which lets you drag Flash movies directly onto your Web page.

  • Find and Replace can help you find items within HTML and also do more complex searches based not only on specific text, but even patterns of text.

  • Expanded publishing options include the ability to publish via FTP and Web-DAV. (Turn to Setting Publishing Prefferences if you can't wait to find out what these are.) Previously, FrontPage publishing worked well only with Microsoft-compatible Web servers. Thanks to improved FTP options and the addition of WebDAV, a FrontPage-authored site can now venture out of Microsoft-land and live on any Web server. (As long as the site is plain vanilla with no special FrontPage functionalitybut more on that later.) A side benefit is that FrontPage now works more smoothly with other editors such as Macromedia's Dreamweaver.

  • Browser compatibility tools now include the ability to design your pages for specific browsers and preview them at different screen resolutions.

  • Layout tables can help you structure and design your page. Microsoft created this feature as an improvement on the traditional HTML table. Unlike their predecessors, these new tables give you pixel-precise control over page layout.

  • Dynamic Web Templates feature editable as well as noneditable regions. In other words, you can limit the damage a colleague might do by granting rights to edit only certain sections of a page.

  • Themes are prepackaged visual element collectionslike color, font, and page backgroundthat let you automatically standardize the look of a site. FrontPage now applies themes using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). You'll read all about CSS in Cascading Style Sheets. For the moment, all you need to know is that CSS helps pages download faster and look better.

  • Accessibility Checker is a new feature that lets you make sure that visitors of all abilitiesincluding the visually impairedcan read and use your Web site. The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) sets the accessibility standards that FrontPage's checker uses. Since it's difficult to check pages produced by FrontPage in the W3C's online code validator, this is an especially welcome addition to the program. You can read all about this tool in Testing Your Site.

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