A new version of FrontPage, Microsoft's popular Web development tool, is due out sometime this summer. Code-named FrontPage 10 during development, version 2002 is actually the tool's fifth iteration. With it, newbie Web builders can create fairly sophisticated sites--with database integration and discussion boards, for example--without any coding. The new app has a few fresh features that make it worthy of an upgrade, as well as an e-commerce add-in that's perfect for small businesses. A new version of FrontPage, Microsoft's popular Web development tool, is due out sometime this summer. Code-named FrontPage 10 during development, version 2002 is actually the tool's fifth iteration. With it, newbie Web builders can create fairly sophisticated sites--with database integration and discussion boards, for example--without any coding. The new app has a few fresh features that make it worthy of an upgrade, as well as an e-commerce add-in that's perfect for small businesses.
Microsoft adds Usage Analysis Reports to its already robust site-management reports, making it easier to compile and view your site's traffic data. Of course, your server has to support FrontPage Server extensions for this feature to work. When you generate a report via the View Â· Reports Â· Usage menu, FrontPage accesses your server's log file and compiles the information into the easy-to-decipher reports, including options for pie charts or other graphical aids. You have several options for breaking down the data, including the number of monthly, weekly, or daily page hits your site receives. You can also generate reports detailing your users' operating systems, browsers, referring domains, and search strings. These traffic reports are enough reason to upgrade to Microsoft FrontPage 2002.
None of the other new features in Microsoft FrontPage 2002 are compelling enough on their own to warrant a switch from another tool, especially if you already use powerhouses such as DreamWeaver or Homesite. But a few of FrontPage's new functions are definitely cool. For example, the Photo Gallery (Insert Â· Picture Â· New Photo Gallery) helps you create a photo-rich Web page in a few different nifty layouts by just filling out a few dialog box options. All of the thumbnail images, target pages, and links are created automatically. Definitely handy, but only those who need to create a photo album will take advantage of this feature.
By the same token, not too many professionals will have much use for Automatic Web Content (Insert Â· Web Component). This feature adds dynamic content to your Web site, such as news headlines from MSN, MSNBC, or bCentral. But with all of the affiliate programs available on the Web, this service doesn't really impress us. And the new PowerPoint-like drawing tools seem targeted to those creating personal Web sites, not those who have a professional graphics team at hand.
Using the interface
Microsoft FrontPage 2002's Office-like interface is pretty similar to FrontPage 2000's. Users still have quick access to code via a button at the bottom of the document screen, while added features such as Page Tabs help you switch between multiple open pages. Other interface improvements just seem to clutter the screen real estate. For example, you can now enter a question into a new input field within the main window to access the related Help file. But it was never that hard to access Help in the first place. It is, after all, one of the main menu options.
Selling products and collaborating
One of the best new features of Microsoft FrontPage 2002 is actually an add-in, the bCentral Commerce Manager. With a bCentral account, you can create a catalog, process credit card orders, and track your orders through its Order Manager. There's also the SharePoint Team Services feature, which helps you create an entire intranet where team members can share information and documents. Users can add and edit the content straight from within their Web browsers, so this is a boon to any business.
The stand-alone price for Microsoft FrontPage 2002 will probably be close to 2000's $149, but Microsoft FrontPage 2002 will be available first on May 31, 2001 as part of Office XP (the Standard edition will set you back $479, $239 for a version upgrade). Still, Microsoft FrontPage 2002 is a solid Web editor, especially for those who deal with a lot of Office content and want to work in that environment. The app does make short work of menial tasks such as generating site reports or hooking up a database, but many of its features target the beginning Web builder. Still, if you're already using FrontPage 2000, the Usage Analysis Reports alone are a great reason to upgrade.