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Religious Tolerance logo

Evaluating Microsoft's® HTML editors>

Our painful experiences with Microsoft's®
FrontPage® & Expression Web®
programs

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Our painful experience with Microsoft programs:

This website first went online in 1995-APR. It was about the 6,000th website and was started during the infancy of the Internet. By 2010, there were about 90 million websites online. 1

We originally wrote the HTML coding for this website using an ordinary text editor. Upgrading to an early version of FrontPage® -- a web authoring program by Microsoft -- was a tremendous improvement. Unfortunately, the program came with bugs to work around. We purchased each FrontPage upgrade as it became available, naively hoping that some of the more obvious bugs in the program would have been fixed. Not so. They seemed to be carefully preserved from version to version.

We also updated our operating system hoping eventually to find a stable version of Windows. We frequently wished that Microsoft would bring out a version of Windows with half the functionality and twice the stability of previous systems. Finally, Windows XP arrived with lots of features and stability! Unfortunately, new computers by 2008 came with Vista, which users should have avoided if at all possible. Finally, they brought out Windows 7 that appears to be what Vista should have been like.

Microsoft abandoned FrontPage in favor of a new program Expression Web sometime in 2006. According to their essay "The future of FrontPage" -- which we accessed on 2008-JUL-20 -- Expression Web "...will be launched in the second half of 2006." 2 Apparently they think so little of FrontPage users that they have not even bothered to update that essay in two years.

After many years of working with FrontPage, we had developed workarounds that handled most of the bugs. But when we updated to Expression Web, a whole new bunch of bugs surfaced. Perhaps the most serious when running under Vista Home Premium are:

bullet The program terminated itself frequently and rarely ran for more than a few hours at a time without crashing. Failure happened at one of two times:
bullet When opening another HTML file for editing, or
bullet When relocating of the cursor to another place in the text and tried to enter new text.

bullet I later concluded that many of these failures may have been caused by an incompatibility of Expression Web with Ipswitch's WS_FTP program. It seems that the former often crashes when both are running.

bullet The program has an import function that allows the user to download an existing website from the Internet for editing. Unfortunately, it downloaded only about 60% of the essays on our site. The rest have to be handled manually.

bullet When it downloaded our site it couldn't interpret most of the ©, ®, and similar symbols. They were replaced with a square box symbol: © Each box had to be manually found and corrected.  With almost 4,400 essays in our website at the time, this was not a trivial task.

bullet On a similar note, using the Symbols option on the Insert pull down menu allows one to insert all kinds of symbols into the text. But when uploaded to our server, the symbols are shown as a string of characters resembling Arabic more than English.

bullet Occasionally, when saving an essay, the program would seize up for 20 minutes or so, while it roamed through the entire site, making unknown changes to every file -- a very unsettling experience.

Webmasters deserve better software.

I downloaded a free 30 day trial of Expression Web 2 in the hope that some of these problems had been corrected. (We are very slow learners, ever hopeful.) There does not seem to be any significant improvement over the original version in terms of reliability and usefulness. It seems to have been a slight improvement in that it failed about twice a day.

I downloaded a free 30 day trial version of Expression Web 3. I could not get it to install. The file downloaded properly, but when I ran the setup program, it generated two programs (setup.exe and Xsetup.exe). the latter consumed a steady 25% of my CPU power, and ran overnight without actually creating anything.

This was the point that pushed us over the edge and prompted us to search for an alternative to Expressions Web.

Fortunately, Microsoft allows owners of various competitive programs to switch to Expression Web by paying only the $99 upgrade price. Their list of programs includes various Adobe and Quark programs. Taking a cue from Microsoft's list, I decided to investigate Adobe's Dreamweaver CS3 (a.k.a. Dw) as a replacement for Expression Web.

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References used:

  1. "June 2008 Web Server Survey," NetCraft, at: http://news.netcraft.com/
  2. "The future of FrontPage," Microsoft, at: http://office.microsoft.com/

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Copyright © 2008 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2008-JUL-20
Most recent update and review: 2010-AUG-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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