Some of us are old enough to remember the early days of the World Wide Web, when we had to hand-code our websites and there were no such things as ‘grid layouts’ or ‘responsive design’.
In this stone age of web development, many companies launched so-called WYSIWYG HTML editors that allowed you to build websites in a more intuitive (i.e. less code-heavy) way. One of the earliest WYSIWYG editors was Microsoft’s FrontPage.
During its 7-year lifespan as a software product FrontPage went from being a time-saving darling of budding web developers to being widely despised and ridiculed for the bloated code it churned out.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Microsoft quietly retired the FrontPage brand name, but it still sees widespread use today. In fact, some developers use it daily. Because, believe it or not, FrontPage still has many uses.
Build HTML Emails
First and foremost, FrontPage is hands-down, bar none, the most effective HTML editor for emails. Due to the wide variety of email clients out there, each with their own peculiar HTML rendering engines, it is notoriously difficult to code HTML emails in such a way that they display correctly in all email clients.
But a HTML email coded in FrontPage is very likely to render correctly in pretty much all email clients out there. That’s because the code generated by FrontPage is so arse-backwards – virtually no CSS, layouts based on tables, and font tags up the wazoo – that even the most pernickety rendering engine will be beaten in to submission by the tsunami of bloated and redundant HTML so that it has no choice but to display the email exactly as intended.
When it comes to building HTML emails, there really is no better editor out there than FrontPage.
Test Websites for IE6
Secondly, FrontPage has a built-in preview function that allows you to view the page you’re building as if it was rendered in a browser. That browser being Internet Explorer 6.
Yes, FrontPage 2003 uses the IE6 rendering engine for its preview function. (Or, if you’re lucky enough to use the older 2000 version of FrontPage, it might even be IE5!) That means it’s basically a perfect IE6 browser testing tool. Now why on earth you’d need to test webpages in IE6 is an entirely different question.
But if for some inexplicable and most likely utterly retarded reason you did need to build webpages to function correctly in IE6, FrontPage is an ideal testing tool. If it works in FrontPage’s preview, it’ll work in IE6.
Slow Down Your PC
It will come to no surprise to anyone that FrontPage, being the product of Microsoft’s Office division in the late nineties and early naughties, is a hopelessly inefficiently-coded monstrosity that will severely slow down even the most modern of PCs.
Now, you may not see this as a useful feature, but trust me it is! Whenever you need to convince your company’s IT department that your PC needs an upgrade, just run FrontPage on it and show your IT guys how horrendously slow your PC responds to even the most basic of interactions.
Your IT department will be unable to comprehend how a modern PC running only one piece of office software can behave as if it’s trying to calculate Pi to the 10 billionth decimal and simultaneously converting a thousand PSDs in to PDFs with Photoshop. The only logical conclusion is that your hardware is outdated and an upgrade is required. Voila, a brand new upgraded office PC will be all yours, courtesy of Microsoft FrontPage!
So there you have it, three highly convenient use cases for Microsoft’s ancient FrontPage product. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not handy to have! If you know of any other effective uses for FrontPage, please do share them with us in the comments.
Barry Adams is a seasoned SEO pro whose experience includes consulting for dozens of SMEs and in-house SEO work for two massive multinational corporations and a large regional newspaper. Currently he’s the Senior SEO guy at Pierce Communications in Belfast, where he deploys his skills in aid of some of the Emerald Isle’s biggest brands.