Monday, June 15, 2009

I Miss FrontPage

Generally speaking, I don't get nostalgic. I'm not searching craigslist for a rotary dial phone or trying to figure out if there's a way to make the serial port dock on my Palm III work with Windows 7. But I am a practical person, and when something works well, I like to hang onto it.

In 1998, I had designers using the DOS program Autodesk Animator Pro on occasion. I had snatched the software on a 5.25" floppy disk from an employer back in 1989. While it was dated in many ways, every once in a while, it was the best tool for the job - unmatched by Photoshop and other media tools of the day. FrontPage seems to becoming another tool that might be worth keeping around for years to come.

While there are many WYSIWG HMTL editors, few managed site context as simply or elegantly as FrontPage does. And site management is really what I'm looking for. Site navigation is like the header in a text document. I don't want to manually edit it across every page. I don't want to have to think about whether this is page 6 of a 9 page document. Similarly, I don't want to manually rewrite the navigation links at the top of every page, every time I add a page to the site. And this site-centric functionality is lacking from in Coffee Cup, Coda, Espresso and many other alternatives to whatever it is that Adobe is charging a fortune for these days.

I'm not looking for the imaging power of a Photoshop nor the functional capabilities of whatever Flash is called these days. I'm just looking for a WYSIWYG editor that manages a bit of navigation, and I think it's worth about $30. But I must be alone in the market, because the options seem to be live without it or spend a fortune on functionality that I'll need only a few times per year.

I tried Microsoft Expressions - the FrontPage replacement. But it's basically a page editor designed for coders, not a site editor designed for me, and it is selling at a price that makes me question whether they are actually interested in selling single copy. Essentially, the working assumption at Microsoft these days is that if you use MS-Office, you don't need any site management tools, if you are a C# programmer, you need free ones in the form of SharePoint Designer, and if you are designer without coding skills, well, here's a pretty version of the one we give to developers at a cost so high, we can be sure you won't actually close the deal.

Someone ought to be able to make a few bucks selling a site management editor. In the meantime, I've gotta dig through a pile of CDs that I should have thrown out years ago. Cross your fingers that I run across a version of FrontPage.

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