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Enhancements to Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003

Office 2003

Martin WP Reid

February 2004

Applies to:
    Microsoft® Office FrontPage® 2003
    Microsoft Office SharePoint™ Portal Server 2003
    Microsoft Windows® SharePoint Products and Technologies

Summary: Read an overview that outlines the changes to Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003 including new XML support, further support for Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies, plus enhanced object support and more. Learn about new security features and deployment options. (11 printed pages)


What's New and Exciting?
Working with Code
XML Support in FrontPage
Object Support for Other Features
Implementing Security in FrontPage Applications
Other Enhancements to FrontPage


Microsoft® Office FrontPage® 2003 offers significant changes from previous releases, meeting and exceeding the standard expected for working with Web sites. Once considered the tool for casual Web site creators, the latest version of FrontPage evolves into one of the leading Web site design and development tools on the market today. This document provides an overview of the new features specifically aimed at the development community.

In addition to the changes within FrontPage 2003, this document also explores the interaction of FrontPage with Microsoft SharePoint™ Products and Technologies. It is while using FrontPage with SharePoint Products and Technologies that you see some of the more enhanced features, such as building XML data-driven Web pages.

Note   Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services is available from the Microsoft Download Center. The information in this article that applies to Windows SharePoint Services also applies to Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, which is built on the Windows SharePoint Services platform.

The latest version of FrontPage adds new tools, yet much seems familiar. FrontPage streamlines the interface and all the familiar menu items are still available. FrontPage still provides many wizards and templates; you can still use the Database wizards and themes are available but improved. FrontPage also continues to use standard Office and Windows dialog boxes for many things, such as text formatting.

What's New and Exciting?

Topping the list of new and exciting features are data-driven Web sites, available when working with SharePoint Products and Technologies, and XSLT WYSIWYG formatting. FrontPage is the first WYSIWYG XSLT-authoring tool in existence. FrontPage provides native support for classic Active Server Pages (ASP) and ASP.NET, as well as a new link into Oracle databases (OLE DB providers must be available on the server for Oracle and DB2 data stores). New design tools, including Table Layout mode, themes for cascading style sheets, and dynamic Web templates, all help to improve the development experience. With this release, Microsoft FrontPage Server Extensions is no longer emphasized. You can still use FrontPage Server Extensions if required, but the optimal solution is to use Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies. FrontPage Server Extensions come into their own when you are using FrontPage in large-scale data-driven environments. It is possible to install FrontPage with various configurations, depending on the type of work you want to complete. For more information about server configurations, see FrontPage Server Configuration Options and Features.

Exciting new or improved features include split-screen coding views, improved editing tools, pre-packaged scripts and behaviors available from the main menu, XML and object support, Web Parts, lists, and improved security through Windows SharePoint Services, libraries for cascading style sheets, usability tests, and deployment aids.

Working with Code

The new user interface (UI) facilitates working directly with the underlying code and HTML. A new split-screen option divides the Design window into Design and Code panes, allowing great flexibility during coding. Figure 1 shows the new split view.

Figure 1. Working in split view

You can also work solely in code view by clicking Code above the status bar. In split view, FrontPage propogates changes made in design view to the Code window and changes you make in the code view are available in design view simply by pressing F5 or clicking in either view. This way, you have a real-time view of how changes affect the page.

Editing Code

FrontPage uses the coding engine from Microsoft Visual Studio® .NET. Consequently, all the features of the Visual Studio .NET engine, including IntelliSense, are available in FrontPage. IntelliSense can help reduce coding errors and increase productivity, optionally providing both tag and code completion, IntelliSense works with HTML, cascading style sheets, XSLT, Microsoft JScript®, Microsoft Visual Basic® Scripting Edition (VBScript), JavaScript, and ASP.NET. FrontPage also provides a Quick Tag editor to allow fast access to individual elements and other editing controls without scrolling through documents. Figure 2 shows the Quick Tag editor. The new Go To function brings you directly to specific-function code stubs within the editor, yet another great time-saver. In addition, you can edit many files, such as JScript, standard text files, and VBScript files within code view, removing the need for external editors. FrontPage gives you complete access to all the code editing tools, such as Find and Replace and the Quick Tag editor.

Figure 2. The Quick Tag editor

You can even edit pages with server controls, created using Visual Studio .NET, directly within FrontPage, working with the server control objects. You can create additional server controls within the FrontPage environment.

Using Scripting and Behaviors

FrontPage also includes several Jscript behaviors directly available from the main menu. There is no programming required; simply point, click, and select the required behavior from the Behaviors task pane to have fully functioning behaviors inserted into the Web page. Figure 3 shows the Behaviors task pane and the Insert Behavior menu.

Figure 3. The Behavior task pane

XML Support in FrontPage

FrontPage makes it easy to work with XML files, including Data-Driven XML Web sites using Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies as the application server for FrontPage. When working with standard XML files, FrontPage provides a toolbar to format and validate the XML file.

Object Support for Other Features

In addition to building standard Web sites, FrontPage 2003 introduces many improvements for building and working with SharePoint Products and Technologies and XML data-driven sites. Although you must have a server computer running Microsoft® Windows Server System™ and SharePoint Products and Technologies to use these feature, you are not limited to building typical SharePoint sites. You can also create enterprise-spanning data-driven Web sites on separate virtual servers (without SharePoint Services enabled) based on Active Server Pages (ASP) or ASP.NET or create custom Web Parts for use on SharePoint sites.

FrontPage includes some solutions out of the box. Web Parts are one of the features available right away. Figure 4 shows the Web Part task pane.

Figure 4. A Web Part task pane

Using Web Parts

A Web Part is a modular unit of information that consists of a title bar, a frame, and content. Web Parts are the basic building blocks of a Web Part Page. A Web Part is the combination of a Web Part Description file (.dwp) and a Web Part assembly file (.dll). All Web Parts are custom Web server controls. They provide a reusable component that you can customize to store and display content from a number of sources, such as XML, SQL data, or server-side script files.

Using the Data View Web Part to Create XSLT Views on XML Data

The ease with which you can build XML data-driven Web sites when using SharePoint Products and Technologies as the application server for FrontPage is amazing. You are no longer restricted to working with relational databases; now you can work with any data source that you can transform into XML. Using a few clicks of the mouse, you can build rich XML data-driven sites connecting directly to SharePoint sites, documents, calendars, and SharePoint lists stored on a server running SharePoint Products and Technologies. But that's only the beginning of the XML data-driven Web sites story. You can also pull data from databases, Web services, server-side scripts, and well-formed XML documents. Once the XML data is available in FrontPage as an XSLT view, you can format the data using the FrontPage WYSIWYG design window. When creating these views, all of the changes are made to the XSLT code in a WYSIWYG environment, making FrontPage one of the first WYSIWYG XSLT editor available in the market.

Note   Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services is a free downloadable component of the Windows Server System, and is a requirement for building XML data-driven Web sites. SharePoint Products and Technologies is also available as part of the service pack upgrade to Windows Server System.

FrontPage uses XSLT to transform XML data into HTML code, which allows you to format the data using familiar WYSIWYG design tools. FrontPage transforms data using XSLT and stores it as either XML files or connection strings pointing to XML data sources. The ability to format XSLT using a graphical tool is a major timesaving feature.

Using Conditional Formatting

FrontPage also provides conditional formatting of XML, allowing you to change the appearance of individual rows of data or of individual data items. Figure 5 shows the Conditional Criteria dialog box for an XML file exported from Microsoft Office Access 2003.

Figure 5. The Conditional Criteria dialog box for an XML data file

Using the Data Source Catalog

On a server running SharePoint Products and Technologies, when working with data sources including XML, OLE DB Sources, and data from a SharePoint site or list, FrontPage creates a data source catalog in which all the data used within the site is available. The Data Source Catalog task pane provides instant access to previously-defined data sources. You can also reuse data source catalogs contained within other SharePoint sites. The data source catalog populates automatically with XML files and SharePoint lists and Document Libraries within the current site..

Connecting Web Parts to Build Solutions

In addition to working with a single Web Part, such as a Data View Web Part, you can connect Web Parts together, perhaps to display customers and orders placed. Figure 6 shows two connected Data views using this technique.

Figure 6. Connecting Web Parts

Similar to many traditional FrontPage features, a wizard-driven approach creates the connection between the Web Parts. In the example in Figure 6, FrontPage is used to add two database connections to the data source catalog providing category data and the other providing product information. The Web Part Connection Wizard provides the means to create the connection between the two Web Parts using a primary/foreign key relationship. In Figure 6, clicking on a CategoryID, you only see products in that category in the detail Web Part.

Customizing SharePoint Lists and Views

You can work with standard SharePoint lists easily using FrontPage 2003. To create a new SharePoint list, on the Data menu, click Insert Data View. In the Data Source Catalog task pane, click Create new SharePoint List. The SharePoint List dialog box opens, offering a choice of list types to create. Figure 7 shows the dialog box. A wizard is also available to walk you through the creation process.

Figure 7. Creating a SharePoint list in FrontPage

Working with an existing list is just as easy. FrontPage adds existing lists automatically to the data source catalog and you can manipulate them directly in FrontPage. From the Data Source Catalog task pane, you can add filters, sorting and Grouping and also remove fields from the source.

Creating Web Packages

A Web package permits you to export a FrontPage Web site into a single file and save it locally. The files to export within the package can originate either locally or on the Web server. Once saved, you can import the Web package into a new SharePoint site. Web packages provide a unique way to move entire Web sites, including dynamic sites such as sites based on the .NET Framework, to other servers, or to package and write to CD-ROMs to transfer or share with other developers.

Implementing Security in FrontPage Applications

When working with XML data-driven Web sites, SharePoint Products and Technologies implements security, such as groups and users and their permissions. In addition to the security features available with SharePoint Products and Technologies, you can to take advantage of the security features of Windows Server System. This dual approach to security, using application and operating system security, permits you to build robust, secure, data-driven applications. Figure 8 shows the User Management Web pages for managing users and their permissions on a SharePoint site.

Figure 8. Managing users on a SharePoint site

You can manage FrontPage security best by the use of the built-in security features of both Microsoft Internet Information Services 6.0 and Windows SharePoint Services. Although there are features within the Remote Site View, including the ability to mark files you do not want to transfer to the Web server, it is recommended that you manage security directly on the server. SharePoint Products and Technologies provide several additional security features. For more information about security in SharePoint Products and Technologies, see the Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services Administrator's Guide.

Other Enhancements to FrontPage

In addition to the major changes already outlined, Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003 offers several other improvements. Themes now use cascading style sheets rather than HTML, making pages smaller in terms of file size and easier to manage. Code snippets are available for use within your Web pages and you can create and add additional code snippets to the code snippet library. Interactive images, such as rollovers, are available at the click of a mouse without having to write image swap code for the images by hand. File optimization is also available allowing you to clean up the HTML of files both locally and on the Web server. Full accessibility checking of Federal Section 508 guidelines is also available, including a range of site management reports that you can run from within the FrontPage environment.

Deploying Applications

FrontPage 2003 also offers major improvements to file management, both in terms of working with the local site structure and deploying applications to the Web server. Figure 9 shows the publishing tools for new Remote Web sites. The Remote Web site view supports file synchronization in both directions. You can create filters to show files not to publish, out of date files, and files in conflict. The new Remote Web site view also supports working with DreamWeaver users on the same site; WebDav file protocols are available when using a server running WebDav.

Figure 9. The Remote Web site publishing tools


Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003 has improved dramatically from previous versions. The latest version of FrontPage introduces many new tools and code changes, from using cascading style sheets for themes, right up to working with XML data-driven Web sites using SharePoint Products and Technologies as the application server. These enhancements contribute to positioning FrontPage at the forefront in Web development tools. By using dynamic Web templates effectively, you can write the code behind pages and mark up the functionality and then pass the page off to a designer who can brand it using a dynamic Web templates without fear of breaking the underlying functionality. Changes to the interface, the new Design pane, IntelliSense using the same engine as Visual Studio .NET, the ability to work with Oracle, DB2, and Microsoft Access 2003 and Microsoft SQL Server™ all combine to improve your experience with FrontPage and help you make amazing, and amazingly simple, Web pages.

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