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What's this thing called MS FrontPage?

NOTE: These tutorials naggingly push upon readers that they SHOULD ALWAYS master the MANUAL creation of HTML web pages, the HTML Tags within, AND tag "attributes" as a precursor to advancing to one of the many wysiwyg HTML Editors. Regular feedback over the years attests to the reality of this proposition even from some who admittedly jumped in and eventually had to work backwards!

Only mentioned here for most simple understanding and knowledge before starting, another "type" of web site often mentioned is a "Cold Fusion" web site. The basic difference between Cold Fusion and Microsoft's FrontPage Extensions is that MSFP is really just an add-on to the server system whereas Cold Fusion "becomes" the server system - so to speak.

The latter is VERY expensive both for hosting costs and the PC software used to create Cold Fusion sites. Extended use of Cold Fusion offers very complex and graphically clever database reporting components etc and I suggest is really only for some big corporate sites.

So, if you have read the page on "CGI-BIN" and "CGI" and "Perl" then with that in mind it's the best place to start regarding Microsoft's FrontPage WYSIWYG HTML Editor.

Understanding that the CGInterface of a web server is a sort of controlling gateway to "server side" programs (between the severs actual operating system and a sites CGI program), then it is easier to understand MS FrontPage, how it works, and as many eventually find out how to ignore it when wanting to progress to bigger and better things via the nuts&bolts of a web site.

When you order a web site WITH MSFP Extensions you get a web site which inaccurately but for the sake of understanding, has two CGInterfaces - so to speak.

1) Complex software is installed on the server which while running looks for "user installed" (uploaded) MSFP components on a web site - often referred to by Microsoft as "bots!!" - whenever one of those bots is called from within the HTML code of a web page being processed and returned to the browser by the server.
2) In effect, MSFP Extensions take precedence over the servers CGInterface when ever MSFP "bots" are called.
3) ALL web pages have to be uploaded directly from the MSFP WYSIWYG Editor. When doing so each "bot" involved is activated via special files updated each time a site or one page is "posted" via MSFP.
4) Using BOTH MSFP AND PERL CGI on the same site can cause BIG problems for inexperienced webmasters using a site with MSFP Extensions - more below.

In fact because of "4" above many hosts will not activate both even if requested.

To some degree MSFP overcomes the "other?" complexity of creating user interactivity via CGI programs by including same AS YOU EDIT your PC based site via the Microsoft FrontPage HTML Editor. In other words MSFP has a lot of inbuilt CGI type stuff.

Note: A full tute specialising on MSFP is beyond this sites resources. There are many other tute sites covering MSFP use in detail if you need to go beyond the software manual - which last obtained with MSFP 2002 upgrade was pretty bleak attuned more to being created just to give a printer a job!

Inbuilt Resources
Except for very experienced users though and use of the advanced Pro versions of MSFP, using much of the MSFP inbuilt quick and nasty (my view) web site designs has created a plethora of similar or look-alike web sites.

However that aside Microsoft FrontPage can seem a godsend to many budding webmasters.

For those wanting to show how few people visit their individual pages their is an inbuilt page hit counter display "bot".

BASIC Forms can be produced even with rudimentary javascript "input checking".

A site search "bot" can be activated with visually manageable pleasing results - except it will include every page including test pages and and other junk too!

...and others which will expand from upgrade to upgrade.

Included in the versions range is a FREE version (express), very simple in options but no worse than any other freebie.

So that just about does it as an introduction to what Microsoft FrontPage is about.

And don't forget one of my other "nags" throughout the HTML tutorial. As a webmaster and therefore a web designer of sorts, install as many VARIOUS BROWSERS as you can get a hand on, and old to latest, so you can catch and correct any display incompatibilities as a result of different WYSIWYG editor inconsistencies - as we say in Aus; "Sol, oils aint oils".

MSFP and Perl CGI CLASHES - what MSFP tutorials don't tell you.

Good ol' MSFP like any other major interface on a PC or server etc takes control and needs to do it all its way - end of story.

Therefor as "3" above you must post (upload) your site VIA MSFP if using MSFP. The most common and readily available CGI programs are "Perl" CGI programs (scripts).

Once you activate a sites files and directories via MSFP posting it also of course takes control of the CGI programs, their dat files and auxiliary libraries. Each previously carefully installed as the correct file type (Binary/ASCII TEXT) and on the more popular Unix type servers given definite "permissions" the files and directories can be changed by MSFP so resulting in CGI program crashes (it only takes one to be damaged).

One work around is to MAKE SURE MSFP on your PC does NOT contain a copy of the cgi-bin in your PC based MSFP site. Place it elsewhere on your PC. IF using MSFP to "download" the site FROM the server, then ALWAYS delete that CGI-bin directory from the PC site so it will not be conversely "posted" by MSFP.

If a later version of MSFP does allow site DIRECTORY CHOICE before "posting" the site then USE IT and avoid the CGI-bin That would be another way to get around it.

Just posting single pages should not be a problem. BUT AS YOU CAN SEE it all takes extra conscious effort and hosting companies do NOT support user installed CGI of any kind mainly because of such problems caused by the unaware - they just don't have the time.

If only the Microsoft geeks wrote their programs to ONLY involve its (MSFP) own "bots" etc in a CGI-bin then these problems would not occur - note:opinion: Bill G supports ongoing development of Perl so don't blame him per se as many do just because he's wealthy with successful products WE like to buy!! It's just a few geeks that need to look from outside the square.

Besides the inbuilt design toys why are CGI programs better than MSFP Extensions.

I once, or my sample VizBook guestbook program did, received a simple entry from a woman saying it did nothing her MSFP guestbook did.

Heh. What a giggle. That person had not taken any notice of the program specs which at the time was rating the most versatile available popular free to use guestbook in the world. I can understand people wanting to defend their own choices but ONLY when they understand the choices.

IE: If you want a choice of site hit counter, or page only hit counter like the MSFP bot, and want an admin interface to manage it and perhaps have access to a viewer to look at daily hit records in various ways so as to track visitor preferences, only display counter on one page the rest "hidden", and more then CGI programs are the only way to go.

IE: If you want to supply visitors with a site search capability again with admin interface, report pages designed to display via your own templates, ability to define just which pages get indexed (most important) and soforth then again CGI programs are the way to go.

I mention just those two because they are also mentioned above. Not only do you have access to thousands of programs both free-to-use and paid registered with varying levels of security, complexity, and self management, you can even hire programmers to write programs for your own needs - albeit latter is mostly for commercial sites as it is expensive if using "real" programmers.

FTP - or eventually not using MSFP "posting"
IF at a later time you do as many do and move away from the MSFP "bots" then all you need is to know how to use a proper FileTransferProtocol program. Then you take over full control of all page, image, CGI, sound, etc files plus the directories within the web site. Any existing MSFP Extensions will be ignored. That process can be a gradual one too IF you take "posting" precautions mentioned above for CGI-bin stuff.

You can still use MSFP to create the web pages; just don't include "bots".
  

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