MS FrontPage

What FrontPage Does

In the early days of the Web, anyone who wanted to create a site had to know HTML, the programming language of the Web. While HTML (short for Hypertext Markup Language) is relatively simple, learning it can still take a fair amount of time.

Some companies like Microsoft saw an opportunity to make Web site creation easier and more intuitive. FrontPage provides lots of guidance and assistance to both beginning and advanced Web authors. Simple menus and toolbars let you create complex page elements with one click of the mouse. For example, instead of needing to write out a line of HTML to insert a picture, FrontPage lets you do this with just a click of a toolbar button. Behind the scenes, the program takes your commands and converts them into HTML. Even someone who's never heard of HTML can create an entire Web site. FrontPage handles the dirty work.

FrontPage also helps you picture what your Web pages are going to look like while you're creating them. As you insert pictures and text, they appear in FrontPage more or less as they'll eventually display in a Web browser. You may hear people refer to FrontPage as a WYSIWYG (pronounced wizzy-wig) editing program. WYSIWYG stands for "What You See Is What You Get." In other words, FrontPage shows you what you're creating as you work, which isn't possible if you're writing out HTML code like people did back in the dark ages of the last millennium.

Of all the things FrontPage brings to the table, this visual working mode is really the core benefit. But by no means is that the whole story. FrontPage offers many other powerful and time-saving tools, including:

  • Site management. As a site gets bigger, keeping track of hyperlinks, image files, and outdated pages can turn into a logistical nightmare. FrontPage helps you tame the monster you created. The program's tracking tools and reports do things like find broken links and help reorganize your files. You're bound to use these site management tools again and again.

  • Site publishing. Of course, you can create, edit, and manage a Web site with FrontPage, but at some point, you're going to need to get it off your computer and out onto the Web. That's where FrontPage's publishing feature comes in, which lets you upload your site to a live Web server. The key benefit? You won't need to buy separate software for this purpose.

  • Templates and wizards. FrontPage has, for better or for worse, just about automated the creation of pages and sites. In some instances, the program creates an entire Web site at the click of a button, and all you have to do is slug in the text and images you want to use. While the results aren't going to win any design awards, the program has helped even total greenhorns get started quickly.

  • Collaboration tools. Often, multiple people work on the same Web site. How do you avoid confusion over who's working on what? FrontPage provides tools that track tasks and unfinished pages. Sometimes, as the number of content contributors increases, so do a site's unexpected errors. To help you avoid slipups, the program includes additional collaboration aids, like dynamic page templates, which allow you to protect certain areas of a page from a careless colleague.

  • Integration with Microsoft Office. You may need to move files or portions of files from other Microsoft Office programs into FrontPage. As you might expect, the program handles this easily, which is especially helpful if you're collaborating with coworkers who are using Microsoft Word or Excel.