What Is Microsoft FrontPage Used For?

By Scott Shpak

Two men are at work on their laptop.
i XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images

FrontPage was an early innovation in Web-authoring software. Creating Web pages requires manipulation of computer code while meeting protocols of both the Internet itself and those of servers and browsers. FrontPage performed these manipulations in the background and brought a visual element to programming, simplifying the job of building a site, even for those without programming skills.

The FrontPage History

The FrontPage story dates back to 1994 and a startup called Vermeer Technologies Inc. The company recognized that the Internet provided much of the infrastructure needed to create a powerful, visual authoring tool for Web page and website creation, so it created FrontPage. Microsoft purchased Vermeer in January 1996 as a way to add Web creation to the Microsoft Office product line. The last release of FrontPage was the 2003 version, succeeded by Microsoft Expression Web in 2007.

The Power of WYSIWYG

FrontPage used a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" design philosophy with a Word-like interface to mask the details of hypertext markup language necessary for Web design and to make it easier for people without programming skills to design pages. Templates and themes gave a starting point for customization that helped maintain design consistency throughout a website. Tables and layers enabled simple manipulation and layout of elements, and common chores such as interactive button creation were integrated. FrontPage supported Macromedia Flash to include video and animated content.

Behind the Curtain

HTML code was still fully available for programmer-level editing, assisted by features such as IntelliSense technology, which monitored a variety of code entry formats and suggested statement completion consistent with current code. FrontPage supported split screens, so that programming changes could be viewed in design mode simultaneously. Coding languages besides HTML could also be opened and edited, many with IntelliSense support. Windows Server databases could be connected and edited through FrontPage as well, enabling two-way active data sharing through a FrontPage designed website.

FrontPage Successors

Although FrontPage 2003 remains an effective Web authoring tool, Microsoft no longer supports it with updates or technical assistance. The Microsoft Expressions products are undergoing the same fate, except for some purchased or subscribed versions, although Expression Web 4 can be downloaded free and is supported by the Microsoft community forums. At the time of publication, Microsoft recommended Visual Studio and Blend for Visual Studio as the most effective and powerful replacements for FrontPage, but they require some programming knowledge.