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Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003 review: Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003

FrontPage 2003 offers an easy introduction to Web site creation, especially for users of other Microsoft apps.

Susan Glinert
3 min read
Microsoft FrontPage 2003
Microsoft FrontPage 2003 is a Web site design and management application that ships with some versions of the Microsoft Office 2003 suite and is also available as a stand-alone program. It's easy to work with FrontPage, thanks to its visual WYSIWYG editor, wizards, drag-and-drop editing, and generous assortment of templates, clip art, and fonts. As part of the Microsoft Office family, FrontPage 2003 has an interface that will look familiar to users of other Microsoft products. FrontPage's excellent hooks to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Photo Editor will allow you to painlessly integrate snippets from other programs. But bear in mind that some of the features, such as form processing, themes, hit counters, database features, bulletin boards, security, search forms, and subwebs, will work only if your host ISP offers FrontPage extensions. And if you want the latest in cutting-edge Web technology, Macromedia Dreamweaver MX is a better but pricier choice.

The working area of FrontPage 2003 is a central display braced by panels on either side. A folder list on the left lets you choose the pages you wish to edit. The multifunctional panel on the right presents themes, help, clip art, behaviors, table design, and other items that you can insert onto a page. The central area features a Split view that simultaneously displays windows for design and code. Changes made in one window are automatically reflected in the other, providing an excellent way to check the effects of design tweaks and coding. Tabs at the top of the display allow you to navigate through the entire site or individual pages. Crafting tabbed pages is easy with FrontPage. Two panels help with this task: the "Layout tables and cells" panel lets you insert and format new tables, while the Cell Formatting panel adjusts the appearance of individual cells.


Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003

The Good

Microsoft FrontPage 2003 offers an easy-to-use WYSIWYG interface, tight integration with Office, a bountiful assortment of templates and fonts, and a helpful code editor.

The Bad

Microsoft FrontPage 2003 lacks a manual, and some sites may not display properly in browsers other than Internet Explorer. ISPs must have FrontPage extensions to enable some features.

The Bottom Line

If you need a midlevel Web site design app, Microsoft FrontPage 2003 is a good choice, but professionals should use Macromedia Dreamweaver instead.

FrontPage's interface is compact and efficient and a pleasure to work with.

If you need an easy introduction to Web site creation, Microsoft FrontPage 2003 will suffice. While the friendly wizard-and-template approach is fine for simpler Web sites, this app is neither easily customizable nor adaptable to more complex site creation. That said, FrontPage 2003 allows you to insert Web components such as MSN maps, Java and ActiveX elements, and hit counters. You can drag and drop content directly into the work space. You can also preview pages in multiple browsers, check a range of resolutions, and edit your list of preview browsers.

Table layout is especially easy to tinker with in FrontPage 2003.

Although FrontPage is designed primarily for WYSIWYG editing, you can hand-code via the exceptionally capable editor. We especially like the IntelliSense feature, which anticipates your next move by autocompleting common bits of code and providing drop-down lists of available parameters. IntelliSense works for a variety of code snippets, such as Java, JavaScript, VBScript, ASP.Net, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations), and plain old HTML. Coders will appreciate the automatic indents, HTML tag matching, and optional line numbering. FrontPage also offers an Optimize HTML tool that removes unnecessary code litter.

If your company has standardized around XML, you'll find good support in FrontPage 2003, which lets you use XSLTs to define how XML pages will display. And while FrontPage uses a fair amount of Internet Explorer-specific code for special effects such as Word Art, thumbnails, and some Web components, it doesn't check for compliance with Web standards, so your page may not be compatible across the entire browser spectrum. Finally, live, data-driven Web site features, such as XML collaboration and the Data Source Catalog, require Microsoft SharePoint Services to function. Even so, more recent and robust tools such as Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 or Adobe GoLive CS2 offer even more database and multimedia functions.

As for technical support, you're on your own: there's no manual, so you'll need to invest in a good third-party book to get the most out of FrontPage 2003. Microsoft offers two support requests for free, after which it charges you about $70 per incident. We have used the phone support several times and found it to be decent, though not outstanding. On the other hand, Microsoft's Web site offers a formidable selection of help, tips, add-ons, and discussion boards, which were far more helpful than the direct call we made to technical service.


Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 7Support 6
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