Product review: FrontPage fulfils promise of simple site creation

FrontPage 2000, which Microsoft launches locally 10 June, delivers on its pledge to give both end-users and Webmasters a simple way to create Web sites that house Office 2000 documents. At the same time, it requires minimal effort to deploy, is easily customisable, and is so simple to use that little will be required of IT support staff. Further, its features and usability are generally on par with products such as Macromedia's Dreamweaver 2.0, Adobe's GoLive 4.0, and NetObjects' Fusion 4.0. Therefore, professional developers can confidently select FrontPage for many site development jobs.

Features that were incomplete in the Beta 1 release that I reviewed worked well when I tested this shipping version. For example, in the beta version, database functions were not available at all. In this version, however, FrontPage's database publishing feature automatically created a Microsoft Access database and then populated the table with information from a Web page form. Similarly, its site and content management tools eased authoring and page updates.

FrontPage 2000's integration with Office 2000 is quite smooth. To test integration, I dragged and dropped Word 2000, Access 2000, and Excel 2000 files to a FrontPage Web site. These files were accurately converted into HTML and when I later revised the source documents, the FrontPage Web site was automatically updated. Further, I effortlessly inserted Excel spreadsheets and charts into pages using FrontPage's new Office Spreadsheet and Office PivotTable components.

As with the beta version, integrated editing and site management saved me a lot of effort because I did not have to switch between separate applications. Further, the interface overall is clean and understandable, which gives FrontPage an advantage over other products, such as GoLive.

Professional designers will appreciate that FrontPage 2000 does not alter HTML code. Plus, I was able to edit Microsoft Active Server Pages and Extensible Markup Language from FrontPage 2000, which eliminates the need for using another editor. The only elements missing are layout aids, such as grids, which competitors such as NetObjects Fusion do offer. Likewise, GoLive and Dreamweaver provide more Dynamic HTML effects and slightly more control over how layers move and react. Nevertheless, for building the vast majority of business Web sites and intranets, FrontPage 2000 gives you all you could want.

Microsoft FrontPage 2000

Pros

+ Pixel-precise positioning and layering+ Preserves imported HTML+ Easy database integration+ Open and save Office 2000 documents to a FrontPage Web site+ Improved publishing functions+ Nested sub-Webs feature lets you manage varying levels of site access+ Supports 16 languagesCons- None significantCost: $199; Upgrade: $99Platforms: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0 Microsoft 13 2058 http://www.microsoft.com/australia/ms.htm

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Mike Heck

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