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What alternatives are there to FrontPage?

Any ideas about a program to build a personal site that might be
somewhat easier to use than FrontPage (and perhaps cheaper, as well;
the 2003 ver. seems to be going for about $150 or so)?

Easy and cheaper? Unfortunately, probably not.

It’s been while since I looked at the current crop of HTML and Web
Page Design tools. There are many.

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There are two classes of web page tools. I don’t know if these terms are official or common, but I’m coining them anyway:

  • Web Page Design Tools: or perhaps “WYSIWYG” (what you see is what you get) editors. In these tools, you operate on a page that kinda-sorta looks like it will when you publish it on the web. Much like a word processor you bold things, you italicize things, you change fonts and sizes, and the tool takes care of the HTML encoding that is used to represent all that.

  • HTML Editors: in these tools, you operate directly on the HTML yourself. The tool provides assistance, perhaps in the form of auto-complete or syntax validation, and of course includes a quick preview mode to see what you’re working on looks like, but ultimately you’re writing HTML directly.

“FrontPage has a long and somewhat negative history …”

FrontPage is in the former category, a WYSIWYG editor.

FrontPage has a long and somewhat negative history, primarily because the HTML that it generates, particularly in early versions, was pretty bad. By that I mean that, yes, it would look like you wanted in most cases, but the actual encoded HTML that you likely didn’t see was not bloated, convoluted and much, much larger than it needed to be. The result was pages that were slower to download, and easily visually broken.

Fortunately, recent versions of FrontPage have become significantly better at their HTML generation.

In addition, FrontPage defined a set of “extensions” that needed to be installed on your web server in order for many features to be functional at all.

As you may or may not be able to tell, I’m not a huge fan of FrontPage, but not for it’s usability – which I find is pretty much OK – but for it’s technical characteristics.

Unfortunately, the same feeling applies to most of the other WYSIWYG players as well.

DreamWeaver is, by far, the big player in this space. It’s probably easier than FrontPage, but it’s definitely not cheaper. From what I’ve seen, if you would want to be a professional web designer, this is the tool to use.

I’ve never used it myself, but have taken over management of a few web sites that were created using it. I have to say that the HTML created was, much like FrontPage, overly complex and obtuse (though, admittedly, that may not be important to everyone).

osalt.com is a site that lists open source alternatives to commercial products. Specifically searching for open source alternatives for FrontPage returns many possibilities. It’s difficult to get a good read on exactly which of the alternatives is really the most appropriate, but it should be a simple matter to download and try several to see which is most appealing to you.

There are other commercial alternatives as well, should you want to spend a little time researching ’em. The site msboycot.com lists several alternatives to FrontPage.

(Speaking of boycott: when it comes to HTML authoring, even though you can save in HTML format, Microsoft Word is simply not a viable option. The HTML generated by Word is horrific. Worse, in many ways, than the original versions of FrontPage. Please don’t even consider it. Smile)

So what DO I use?

To begin with, I don’t use a WYSIWYG editor – I write in HTML. Call me a control freak, or anal-retentive, but I try to keep things as small, clean and organized as I can within reason. So I skip the whole FrontPage / DreamWeaver class of applications entirely.

Some years ago I actually wrote an article What HTML Editor Should I Use? where, after a period using HTML Kit I landed on TopStyle as my HTML editor of choice. I’ve been using it ever since, and am in fact writing this article using it.

The fact is that any text editor can be used to write HTML, since it’s just a text format. It’s not uncommon to see the somewhat humorous “Created in Notepad” on some web sites – humorous since Notepad contains no help for writing HTML or anything else – it’s just text and only text. And yet if you like, you can do everything you need using it.

Many more functional text editors offer features like syntax coloring, so you can get a sense of how the format is being parsed, and can see many errors quickly as you type. Once you get into true HTML or CSS editors like TopStyle, you’ll find features that actually help you write, check and clean up your HTML, as I mentioned before.

I’m curious what other people are using. If you have a favorite HTML/Web authoring tool that I haven’t mentioned, or just want to amplify or refute a statement I’ve made above, leave a comment.

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54 comments on “What alternatives are there to FrontPage?”

  1. While not cheap, I’d definitely go for DreamWeaver if you can’t edit your own code. It’s slightly complicated, but produces the best results and, for WYSIWYG editors, is astoundingly feature-full. I haven’t used it for a few versions as I got more and more accustomed to writing my own code, but I don’t exactly think it would have suddenly started sucking.

    Reply
  2. Kompozer is a free WSYWYG HTML editor and very easy to use. It’s not full featured but it produces relatively uncomplicated HTML. To get more complicated stuff I edit the HTML and add CSS and Java script.

    Reply
  3. One very good alternative is Visual Site Designer by CoffeeCup.. I used the trial version and it really looks promising.. They have other supporting software like Form and Menu Builders.. Basic price is only $50 but you can get a deal for buying supporting software as well..

    Reply
  4. Word was a great HTML generator up through Word 97. I used it for years and got HTML code that was almost as good as I could create by hand.

    With Word XP, they added XML support and the Save as HTML option went to crap. For years, I kept a copy of Word 97 installed along with Word XP just for saving a document as HTML.

    I finally gave up and started using PDF for everything. (I create documents for my WebCT courses, not websites.) Since switching to PDF, I have not looked back to HTML.

    On those rare occasions when I need to generate HTML, I use Wordpad (I know, no checking) unless I need a table. I find those tedious to do by hand so I fire up Frontpage, which I like to do the tables.

    Reply
  5. i prefer notepad ++. it is good for html, php, javascript, and even windows shell scripts (batch files).

    and, yes, occasionally a plain text file.

    Reply
  6. Kompozer for original page lay-out, boring stuff. Notetab for tweaking, updating and fixing the validation problems.

    Reply
  7. After using nothing but Front Page for nearly 10 years, I tried CSS/Joomla and can’t see why a lot of people rave about it. It definitely is not WYSIWYG and using tables and images are a nightmare. Give me Front Page and a bit of HTML any day. If you don’t believe how good it can be, have a look at my website, http://www.yachtbroker-charters.com Not bad eh?

    Reply
  8. GVIM, an updated vi clone for writing plain html. For WYSWYG, you may want to look at ActiveState Komodo Edit 4. Free version is very powerful.

    Reply
  9. If you are a know-nothing about HTML or WYSIWIG and are determined to learn, start with Dreamweaver. You will find older versions on eBay sold very cheaply. I purchased my first copy for $15.
    The advantage is that you can do anything with Dreamweaver, and it is a standard. You learn, over time, to use the best software in HTML, and then you can upgrade to the newest versions if you can justify the cost after you learn how to use the older, cheap, used version.
    Otherwise, NotePad is a good and cheap software because you gain an understanding of how HTML or WYSIWIG works. Notepad is available cheaply or free… but is no less frustrating than DreamWeaver… all webpage design learning is difficult until you invest the time.
    Many people have the mind and the time it takes to learn the software. However some who learn technical aspects well do not have the artistic or creative talent it takes to put images and colors together on a screen.

    Reply
  10. I think CoffeeCup software offers a good, relatively inexpensive alternative. They offer some “free” stuff, too. You can do slide shows with music and some visual effects too, with some of their offerings. (I stick to Dreamweaver, which while old, still works for me.)

    Jim

    Reply
  11. I recommend Microsoft Expression Web Version 2.

    Microsoft replaced FrontPage with Expression Web which is now in Version 2.

    If you are a K-12 Student or the Parent of a K-12 Student you can qualify to buy
    Expression Web Designer v2.0 English Academic Edition for around $50 — Microsoft’s price for Regular Full Version is $299.95 so that’s a real Bargain.

    It has built-in FTP program.
    It loads as a choice on Internet Explorer so that when you go to your website in Internet Explorer
    Now if you click on the MenuBar- File and then from the dropdown menu there will be a choice of
    Edit with Microsoft Expression Web 2

    Click that choice and Expression Web opens with a copy of that webpage downloaded inside Expression Web and ready for editing.

    You will be asked for your login username and password. (this is what will allow you to upload a changed file)

    Just make your changes and click File – Save and the new changes will be uploaded to your website. It makes it almost like you are doing everything on your own computer. Most new users that I recommend to get this REALLY like it.

    You can even Download for free a 30-day Trial copy of Expression Web at: http://www.microsoft.com/Expression/products/RedirectToTrialWeb.html

    And there’s more…

    Online Training (much of it is videos now) for free:
    http://expression.microsoft.com/en-us/cc197140.aspx

    And you won’t have to learn a lot of html or css to get started. Just pick up a little as you go along.

    You can even use Expression Web without having a website and create and save webpages to your computer. Later get setup with a domain name and hosting account and Publish your pages to your website.

    The only thing that stops you from getting started TODAY is YOU.

    Do It Now.

    John Wilson

    Reply
  12. My choice of HTML editor: Arachnophilia. And I still use the old 4.0 version, dating from 2001! This is because author Paul Lutus got p***ed off with the (then) new activation feature in Windows XP and decided to program future versions in Java so as to be portable between several OSes. The result was that they became clumsy and heavy, but the old Arachnophilia 4.0 is incredibly fast, easy to use, feature-rich (especially if you make non-English Web sites with accented letters), and can even do a search/replace in *all* opened documents at once.

    For WYSIWYG editors, I think Dreamweaver is really the best, but if possible I’d let it design a basic layout and tidy up the resulting HTML code to make it lighter.

    And finally, before uploading the final results, I shrink everything with HTML Shrinker, eliminating all white spaces and the like. It may not make much difference in this broadband era, but it might still make the page load faster in older browsers and computers.

    Reply
  13. FrontPage has been discontinued as it was, I believe. Microsoft has replaced it with (built new from the ground up?) Expression Web. Curious, have you given that a spin? Any opinion on it?

    Reply
  14. I’ve used HTML Kit and TopStyle for years, and still prefer them to anything else for creating, editing and maintaining my sites. However, both apps require a modicum of know-how that many new site builders will not yet have. For those with absolutely no know-how at all, I recommend Viviti. It’s free, it’s fast and achieves excellent results – even if you’ve never had ANY site building experience. You really CAN create an entire site from scratch in 5 minutes – and it WILL look professionally made. Even if you do know how to code, Viviti is a valuable tool that I’m sure you’ll find plenty of uses for. Check it out at http://viviti.com/

    Reply
  15. Does nobody use Serif products? Have a look at WebPlus (there’s even an older FREE version to let you see what can be done). We have even used it in schools to get students into web design.

    Reply
  16. I use Kompozer, but I’m running Ubuntu Linux and only have Windows in a VM for client work.

    I’m looking at Bob McKean’s site using Firefox and it looks fine, so I’m not sure what DSU is seeing.

    Reply
  17. I use the free Visual Web Developer from Microsoft. It’s a scaled down version of Visual Studio. Amazingly, it’s totally FREE!

    Reply
  18. Used Netscape composer (free) (WYSIWYGET) years ago. Easy to use and result viewed in all browsers well. I am sure it’s still available on the net with a quick search.

    Reply
  19. I’ve used Front Page and found it somewhat restrictive. I’ve used Dreamweaver 3 and 4 and still use Dreamweaver 4 for much of my stuff. I just can’t justify or afford anything in the way of an upgrade. I’ve recently started using KompoZer 0.7.10 the latest version and am writing a manual for use with our local SeniorNet group. It’s a good editor is freeware and is based around the old NVU editor and encased inside the Firefox one. It can be a very good WYSIWYG starter kit.

    Reply
  20. I started creating webpages in my spare time about 11 years ago in Notepad, with many File -> Save -> swap to browser -> Refresh per page, got Frontpage 98 one day and while I still used Notepad to clean up the code the lenght of time creating a page took was a lot less.

    Using FP2003 These days when the need arises, like the split view option, being able to see the code and the preview at the same time.

    I’ve tried CoffeeCup and Dreamweaver and end up back at FP, but that’s just my opinion.

    Reply
  21. Leo – Thanks for all you do!

    Allaire Homesite, version 4.5 still, never found I needed to update (don’t know what version they have now). I use it for my business website. I find it’s easy to use and easy to learn new things.

    Reply
  22. I use Coffeecup software at coffeecupsoftware.com. I’m an amateur and I’ve had good results with this program. It’s very user friendly.

    Reply
  23. –quote–
    I’m looking at Bob McKean’s site using Firefox and it looks fine, so I’m not sure what DSU is seeing.
    –quote-

    My bad. NoScript was turned on…. 🙂

    Reply
  24. Coffee Cup can wind up being a little expensive if you buy everything. But it has a few really cool tools.

    Reply
  25. I started writing web pages when all one had was the use of a word processor and native HTML code. Then I switched to Netscape for creating pages, then to FrontPage through 3 versions. The latest (and last one) is by far the best one. Word and Word Perfect create web pages but with ungodly code. I still use FP 2003 and a simple text editor to create pages for a couple of web sites I maintain. I can’t justify buying DreamWeaver for the amount of work I do.

    Reply
  26. I use 3 free html editors. I tend to borrow the templates and change it around so it saves a lot of time. They are: NetObjects Fusion, Personal Webkit, and SoThink HTML Editor. I’m just trying to get into the web designer business and I can’t afford Dreamweaver. I do not believe in websites with too many bells and whistles myself especially if you’re going to have an e-commerce site. By the way, these three programs I mentioned earlier, only SoThink allows you to edit the html coding in program. You could do View source code, copy and paste.

    Reply
  27. My HTML editor of choice is; Araneae. It is free for home use and has lots of help available in a Quick Clips side bar. I also like that it has a quick launch button that lets you view your page in your browser of choice.

    dwh

    Reply
  28. Thanks Leo for all your articles. People in the Bahamas, like me enjoy reading them also.

    I’ve designed several websites in WebPlus X2 ($79.95, older versions are less). I’ve found it to be an extremely capable program, especially if you like DTP software. I don’t know much about how clean or how lean the HTML code is. I don’t know the under-the-hood stuff, I’m a WYSIWYG kinda guy.

    Reply
  29. Leo I’m amazed that you don’t know that MS FrontPage has been replaced by MS Expression Web which has a great user interface and also an HTML code checker. For my money anyone who designs web pages in HTML has no interest in the artistic merits of the site, when I’m designing I’ll change the layout many times until I’m happy. Doing this in code would be a real ball breaker. Dreamweaver is probably the tool of choice.

    Reply
  30. Using Outlook Express as an HTML editor to Create a Web Page.

    Begin the normal process of initiating an email:
    Open Outlook Express (OE) >> Create Mail >> Format >>
    Rich Text (HTML).

    Utilizing any and all (mix & match) of OE’s many available features,
    create your web page in its final form as if you were ready to
    publish it. Only don’t send it, of course.

    Remember, you get to choose backgrounds, picture/graphics
    insertion, font and font size, style, color etc.

    When you’re satisfied with your creation, click on the Source tab at
    the bottom, select all (Ctrl+A), copy (Ctrl+C) and paste into a text
    editor – Notepad probably is the most convenient – and File >>
    Save to the location of your choice. When you name the file be
    sure to use html as your file extension (name.html).

    That’s all there is to it.

    Reply
  31. Despite Leo’s warnings, do I actually have an alternative to MS Word generated HTML? My students have literacy problems so I want to record each sentence and allow them to click on an icon to hear the text. I don’t want them to have to control click, or get warning messages. On my set up Word generated HTML appears to work better than ordinary documents.

    Reply
  32. I use FrontPage 2003 and find it ever so easy to use even though I am new to making web pages. There are heaps of free templates around if you cant be bothered starting from scratch. As far as the code goes, the pages I have made load super fast, although I admit they are not too fancy. Depends what you want to do In guess.

    Reply
  33. I taught myself web design with Microsoft Expression Web (I use Expression Web 2 now), but I also have Dreamveaver CS3. I find Dreamweaver a little less user friendly than the EW2 (really lol). Either way, I still bought books to teach myself too – it’s not as easy as you might think. However, I now maintain my company website myself, and my Group’s site.

    Reply
  34. Try Nvu. its a free html editor, wisiwig and souc e code. Advaneced options for experinced webmasters and easy to use iterface for fresh people

    Reply
  35. I have to agree with Antoine Neely. Serif’s Web Plus X2 is a great Web page design software that does all I need.

    Reply
  36. 12 years ago I created websites using DOS edit and notepad, but then discovered frontpage saved a lot of effort and time. For the last few years I have been using Dreamweaver MX and Dreamweaver v8.

    Reply
  37. Hey, just catching up! Anyone ever used Eversoft Firstpage? It’s really easy to use, has a lot of extras and features, and the results are very nice. A slight (5 second) “nag” asks you to buy the more robust version, but I find the free version sufficient for almost any purpose.

    Reply

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