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FrontPage Server Extensions are a component of Microsoft’s FrontPage Web design software. They enable advanced features without the need for advanced programming knowledge on sites designed in FrontPage.

Microsoft FrontPage was a popular website editing tool that offered What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) creation of HTML content. When it was launched in 2003, it was one of the first generation of web design tools aimed at home users. Despite being replaced by SharePoint Designer, FrontPage extensions are still needed for some older websites.

Why Use FrontPage Designer?

In the early days of the web, most websites were created in text editors. Some people still hand-code HTML to this day. But in the early 2000s, software companies began to develop What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors, similar to basic desktop publishing applications.

For Microsoft, this was a no-brainer. The company already had Microsoft Office under its belt, and FrontPage was the ideal addition to the Office family. Microsoft bought Vermeer Technologies Inc in 1996, specifically to get hold of FrontPage, which it rebranded and paired with Office.

The main advantage was ease of use; FrontPage required no knowledge of HTML. It also introduced the idea of templated design, making it easier for users to create consistent layouts.

FrontPage Hosting Features

FrontPage allowed its users to add dynamic content to a website. Basic animations, interactivity and multimedia could all be added using the on-screen interface. This was a powerful addition to the web designer's toolkit, even though the results seem basic compared to the websites of today.

Specifically, FrontPage Extensions gave you:

  • Collaborative editing on the same website and/or same web server
  • Remote updating of websites and web content from any computer, anywhere in the world
  • The ability to add forms and search boxes to a site
  • The ability to count the number of page views and display that as a hit counter

This sounds fairly tame by today's standards, but without FrontPage, this was difficult to achieve if you didn't code.

In the background, FrontPage required the web server to have IIS Extensions installed to power these interactive features. These extensions later became known as FrontPage Server Extensions (FPSE). Without them, a FrontPage website would not render correctly. FrontPage Extensions can be installed on Windows or UNIX servers, but they have been criticized for their security problems.

Some features were ahead of their time, despite being flawed. The accessibility checker in FrontPage helped designers to check that their code would run correctly. Ironically, Microsoft has never had the best reputation for standards compliance, but this was a step in the right direction at least. In its latter years, FrontPage included support for ASP.net and VBA macros.

FrontPage Today

Microsoft phased out FrontPage in 2006, launching SharePoint Designer in its place. But FrontPage Extensions were last updated in 2002. They are still needed for FrontPage websites developed using the software. The Extensions are also used by Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and 2008.

Early versions of SharePoint Designer retained many of the quirks of the FrontPage software. In later versions, it has been modernized.

This Microsoft support article summarizes the current situation with FrontPage Extensions:

  • The company no longer supports FrontPage Extensions on Windows Server 2000
  • It supports them on Windows Server 2003, but only until July 2015
  • Extensions on Windows 2008 are supported by a different company, Ready-to-Run Software

Some hosts do still support FrontPage and have the necessary extensions installed. This legacy support should keep older sites ticking over. However, Microsoft has also discontinued all support for these extensions on Linux servers, so don't expect hosts to offer this support forever.

FrontPage Alternatives

If you're a novice web designer, and you haven't created a site before, we wouldn't recommend using FrontPage - and neither would Microsoft - since it's now out of date. There are newer alternatives that are just as easy to use.

Many hosts provide site builder tools that allow you to build an attractive, professional website in your browser, without the need to download any software. Often, site builders are bundled in to shared hosting plans, or offered as a separate product.

FrontPage Extensions Frequently Asked Questions

Our Latest Blog Posts On FrontPage Extensions

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