I have used Front Page for most of my website development. At
one point I started using Dreamweaver, as most people I
talked to, and posts in most of the forums on the Internet,
praised this product. I have tried out Dreamweaver MX 2004,
and I must say that I am not as impressed with it as I
thought I would be.
I researched this issue on the
Internet quite a bit, and I found that most people tended to
praise Dreamweaver and put down Front Page. However, with a
little reading it quickly became apparent that people were
usually comparing Dreamweaver to versions of Front Page
prior to Front Page 2003 (most often Front Page 2000). While
earlier versions of Front Page had issues (I have used Front
Page 98, 2000, 2002, and 2003), the latest release of Front
Page came with significant improvements. There was also a
lot of Microsoft-bashing and snobbery in the opinions, which
essentially rendered them useless.
One thing I must say to give this page context. I don't
have hugely complex websites, with database access, PHP,
layers, complex formatting needs, and so on. I have kept
them fairly simple. So, what is on this page should be read
with that in mind.
Criticizing Front Page: Here's how I found most people
criticize Front Page:
- Comparing Dreamweaver with Front Page 2000, an older
version, and not with Front Page 2003.
- Comparing results produced from Dreamweaver with
results based on Front Page templates (give me a break
... pre-canned templates are hardly a fair basis to
judge any product).
- Snobbery 1: People who just plain hate Microsoft
products and/or Microsoft
- Snobbery 2: "I'm a serious web developer so I use
- Snobbery 3: People who don't use any WYSIWYG editor,
but do all their coding by hand in HTML and think
everyone else should
Criticisms about Front Page, that aren't really valid
any more with Front Page 2003:
- Bloated HTML code: earlier versions of Front Page
definitely inserted useless excess HTML. Front Page 2003
is much better. You want to see bloated code? Save a
page created in MS Word as HTML. Now that's bloated
- Lack of features that are present in Dreamweaver: layers,
templates, snippets, tag selectors, browser
compatibility checks, HTML optimization, understanding
code lines are numbered, and more. Front
Page 2003 now has all these features.
Okay, so lest you think I am a Microsoft-praiser, I'm
not. I look for what works and what doesn't.
Problems I have experienced with Front Page 2003:
- The only real problem I experience with Front Page
2003 is a constantly recurring and highly annoying error
regarding temporary files. It happens when open a page for editing
that uses include pages. I have to repeatedly
hit "Ok" in a message box perhaps 5-10 times.
- I find all those "_vti_cnf" folders to be
irritating. Why can't Front Page keep track of the
website structure without them??
- A quick note about Front Page 2002: Don't use this
version - it's terrible! Very buggy and unstable. Stick
with Front Page 2000, or upgrade to Front Page 2003.
Here's some of the problems I experienced with
Dreamweaver, and some of the things I don't like:
- Pages based on Templates: Often if I edited the HTML
directly, within an Editable Region, I received a
message that I was working in a "Non-Editable Region"
and was offered a dialog box asking if I wanted to save
my changes. Invariably, if I said yes, I wanted to save
my changes, the changes were discarded. This would
repeat if I tried again. The only way to get out of this
non-error was to close the file and re-open it. Then I
would be allowed to do the exact same edit I had
previously tried. After experiencing this error over and
over again, I got pretty fed up!
- Dreamweaver is a memory hog. Sometimes if I had a
few programs open (Outlook Express, couple of Windows
Explorer windows, Front Page, and an image editor), Dreamweaver
would act strangely. Most
often the file/folder list bar would start flickering, and I
would have to wait for it to stop before I could do
- I found it difficult to highlight rows of a table
which had editable rows, on a page based on a template. The highlight simply wouldn't
encompass the rows when the the mouse was dragged down.
- Dreamweaver doesn't always update links in pages and
text fragments when they are copied/cut and pasted to
another page in another folder. Same for when I
cut-and-paste files to another folder. This is very rarely or
never a problem in Front Page 2003.
- Cannot drag-and-drop files between folders in the
- The program takes a while to start up (a minor
- In the design view the table info tags get in the
way. I don't know what they are actually called, but I
am referring to the bars across tables that show the
table width. With these displayed, they sometimes cover
up the row below, and that row or cell cannot be selected
directly in design view. I have to go click somewhere
else, then come back to click inside the cell.
- The program freezes up regularly, and sometimes
subsequently crashes. I have almost never had Front Page freeze
or crash (with the exception of Front Page 2002)
The features I like best about Front Page:
- Include files - these are the equivalent to "Library
items" in Dreamweaver.
- Maintaining links within the site: Front Page does
an excellent job of this.
- Program starts up very quickly.
- The Format Painter, which works just like the same
tool in Word and Excel.
- It's easy to have several sites open at once.
- Spell checking as you type; right-click to see a
list of suggested changes - select one instantly. This can be turned off
if you find it annoying.
Ares in which I think Front Page 2003 still needs
- The feature that Dreamweaver has whereby when you
want to create a link to a file within your site, you
simply drag from an icon to the desired file and
"presto" the link is created. Very nice feature of
- The HTML it generates is still messy, not nicely
laid out and indented in a consistent manner
- A feature that would highlight invalid or unmatched
(open) tags. Dreamweaver has this and it is very nice.
- When you go to add a hyperlink, the files list box
that comes up should be in the typical "tree" format.