FrontPage 97 with Bonus Pack

FrontPage 97 is a complete Web management suite that includes an HTML editor.

Jonathan Chau

March 31, 1997

5 Min Read
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Attention to the details pays off

In the November issue, I reviewed thethird-generation Web browsers from Microsoft (Internet Explorer--IE--3.0) andNetscape (Navigator 3.0). Although both browsers are excellent Web clients,neither product lets you create HTML pages. For that purpose, Microsoft andNetscape released new versions of their HTML editors, FrontPage 97 and NavigatorGold 3.0. Both products are Web authoring tools, but neither is just an HTMLeditor: FrontPage is a complete Web man-
agement suite that just happens toinclude an HTML editor, and Navigator Gold is a superset of Navigator'scapabilities. T.J. Harty reviewed Navigator Gold in September 1996 ("Choosingan HTML Editor"), so I'll focus on FrontPage 97.

FrontPage 97 with Bonus Pack
FrontPage 97 is a great starting point for Web neophytes, and an advancedand robust Web development platform for experienced Web authors. The packagecomes with everything you need to author and administer a Web site; the basepackage consists of the what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSYWIG) HTML editor(FrontPage Editor) and a site-management tool (FrontPage Explorer). The BonusPack components include Microsoft Image Composer, IE 3.0, and Personal WebServer (PWS--a Windows 95 version of Windows NT Workstation's Web server). Ifyou are using Internet Information Server (IIS), you can choose to not installFrontPage's PWS and just install the server extensions for IIS.

FrontPage 97 ships on one CD-ROM that includes multiple language versionsof the product. Like all Microsoft products, FrontPage 97 lets you select whatto install and what to leave out. I recommend installing the entire package toreally see what it can do.

I found a lot to like in FrontPage 97. If you thought the FrontPage 1.1Getting Started manual was a little on the lean side, you'll like FrontPage 97's235-page manual, which covers nearly every feature in the software. For Webmasters who want to test their pages in a Web browser from within the editor,FrontPage 97 has a toolbar button that loads works-in-progress in a browser ofyour choice. Like the old saying goes, this product has something for everyone.

FrontPage 97 feels right at home on your desktop and integrates with yourexisting applications. When you install FrontPage, it places an Edit button onthe IE 3.0 toolbar while adding Office 97 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access) andVisual J++ (VJ++) buttons to FrontPage's toolbar.

The FrontPage 97 Editor not only looks like an Office 97application; it is an Office 97 application. This compatibility reducesthe learning curve considerably, so you can build an entire Web site as if youwere working in Word. By carrying over Word features such as a multilevel undoand spell checker, Microsoft guarantees that FrontPage 97 will be easy to learnand even easier to use.

Using the program is one thing, but building an attractive and functionalWeb site is another. To help you focus more on content than design, FrontPage 97includes a comprehensive set of high-quality page templates and wizards, rangingfrom press releases to search pages to bibliography sheets. In a little morethan an hour, I created a medium-sized sample Web site, that included featuressuch as frames, site searching, forms, and a discussion forum.

Unlike its previous version, FrontPage 97 now supports IE 3.0-specifictags, such as sliding text marquees, and background colors for tables, videos,and ActiveX controls. The editor supports Java applets, so you can insertobjects without having to write the code yourself.

One of my pet peeves is graphics-intensive Web pages that take close to aneternity to load over a dial-up connection. Often, Web designers don't realizehow slowly a Web page loads, because they have no way to test speed unless theydial up remotely to try it. FrontPage Editor now includes a download indicatorin the status bar. It tells you how long the currently loaded page (graphics andall) will take to download on a 28.8 Kbits per second (Kbps) connection. Ofcourse, this indicator assumes that you have a clean connection and that theserver has ample bandwidth, but it's usually a good gauge of how long a pagewill take to transfer.

FrontPage Editor also includes several graphics options. These optionsinclude the ability to make GIFs transparent or interlaced directly from theeditor.

Database connectivity is becoming increasingly prevalent on intranets andthe Internet. FrontPage 97 lets you connect Open Database Connectivity (ODBC)databases to your Web pages, using a search engine as a front end.

One of FrontPage 1.1's highly touted features was the ability to build anentire Web site (links and all) without writing one line of HTML code. But ifyou wanted to hand-tune your code, you had to load the HTML document in anothereditor just to modify the raw code. In contrast, FrontPage 97 lets you edit HTMLsource code directly, going so far as to color-code tags for clearer legibility.

Site management is a time-consuming task that usually requires a programseparate from your HTML editor. FrontPage Explorer uses a flowchart-like diagramof your Web site to show the links among pages, as you see in Screen 1. Byshowing you what works and what doesn't, this logical grouping scheme makesmanagement easier. If a link is broken, you can see the separation in FrontPageExplorer, rather than testing each link by hand. For consistency with theWindows user interface (UI), the FrontPage 97 Explorer includes a folder view,showing the directory structure of your server's Web storage directory.

Whereas FrontPage 1.1 let you import documents into a Web, you couldn'timport an entire Web site into FrontPage Explorer. In FrontPage 97, you can pullyour existing Web site into FrontPage Explorer, which lets the program sort thefiles into separate directories.

A unique application in FrontPage 97 is Image Composer. I say unique onlybecause graphic editors are usually sold separately, rather than bundled with anHTML editor. Image Composer takes a novel approach to image manipulation becauseit lets you work with non-orthogonal shapes, rather than the rectangular imagesother image editors use. With this capability, you can layer images one on topof the other, creating the appearance of one solid image. Screen 2 shows threeseparate images and Screen 3 show how Image Composer's Sprite technology mergesthese separate images into one layered image.

In designing FrontPage 97, Microsoft paid attention to the little details.Typed URLs automatically become links, and you can drag and drop files directlyinto FrontPage Explorer. The sum of these details not only makes a difference,but it's also enough to make FrontPage 97 a must-have for any Web author.

FrontPage 97

Microsoft206-882-8080Web: http://www.microsoft.com/frontpagePrice: $149

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