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Chapter Four. XML Conquers the World (An... > FrontPage: Noncompliant by Design

FrontPage: Noncompliant by Design

A third product in the category, Microsoft FrontPage, is little used by professionals but widely used by semi-professionals, possibly because it comes bundled with other Microsoft products. Professionals in the public sector might find themselves stuck using FrontPage because the budget doesn't allow for an “additional” web editor.

“We already own a web editor,” the bean counters might tell you. They're wrong. FrontPage is not a visual web editor. It is an IE page editor.

Although Microsoft makes standards-compliant browsers, its FrontPage tool spews proprietary markup and code, generating sites that look and work right only in Internet Explorer. FrontPage's nonstandard output is not due to ineptitude. The bug is a feature, although not one designed for any user's benefit.

In court testimony, Microsoft's Bill Gates admitted he'd sent a memo directing that the Office software group, which includes FrontPage, stop working to make its documents interoperable with other products (that is, stop making them standards-based). Gates did not want competitive products to be able to open, save, and edit Microsoft-generated documents. As a result, if you use FrontPage to design or develop websites, you pretty much guarantee that they will only look and work right in Internet Explorer.

There is some hope. In July 2002, UsableNet announced that it had integrated its LIFT accessibility tool into Microsoft FrontPage (www.usablenet.com/frontend/onenews.go?news_id=45), thus encouraging FrontPage users to author accessible sites. (LIFT is also incorporated in Dreamweaver MX.) Although it's no guarantee that standards compliance is next for FrontPage, this newfound emphasis on accessibility is at least a small step in that direction.

For the time being, however, if you want to create standards-compliant, accessible sites, your best options are authoring by hand in a text editor or using Dreamweaver or GoLive. Use FrontPage only if you're prepared to edit by hand almost every tag and attribute that product generates.

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