The Best FrontPage Extensions Hosting: Who’s The Best For Your Site? [Updated: 2018]
What You’ll Learn
In short, the answers to these questions:
- What was Microsoft FrontPage?
- What were its groundbreaking features?
- If I have an old FrontPage application can I find hosting for it?
In this article, we’ll explore a bit of the history of FrontPage and I’ll give you options for hosting.
Better yet, I’ll share solid site builder alternatives to the defunct FrontPage, and, I’ll share my hosting recommendations to get you started.
What Was Microsoft 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 1996, it was part 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.
FrontPage Server Extensions were a component of Microsoft FrontPage’s web design software. Each FrontPage server extension was used to enable advanced features.
Extensions allowed FrontPage site owners with no programming experience to add functionality to their sites.
What Was FrontPage’s Appeal?
In the early days of the web, most websites were created in text editors. But right at the turn of the 21st century, software companies began to develop What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors, similar to basic desktop publishing applications.
FrontPage was a breakthrough product. It was popular in many circles, including with corporations seeking to develop their own intranet sites using departmental staff with no coding knowledge. Image courtesy of Microsoft.
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.
Acquisition of a Company for FrontPage
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 to publish a website.
It also introduced the idea of templated design, making it easier for users to create consistent layouts. It even became popular as a corporate intranet builder: any staff person could learn to use it.
FrontPage Hosting Features
FrontPage allowed its users to publish dynamic content to a domain, hosted on either a UNIX or Window server. 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.
What Do You Get?
Specifically, FrontPage Extensions gave you:
- The ability to create an intranet or extranet website 100% in WYSIWIG
- Collaborative editing on the same website files 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 domain
- “Dynamic Web Templates” — users could duplicate a page design, speeding up site development.
- “Intellisense”– This was Microsoft’s nascent code completion tool, that would highlight code typos and suggest tags.
- Split pane view — WYSIWIG on one side, code on the other. (Introduced in 2003)
- 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.
What Were FrontPage Server Extensions?
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).
Image courtesy of Microsoft
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.
FrontPage’s Ground-Breaking but Flawed Features
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.
The FrontPage accessibility detector. Image courtesy of Microsoft
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, Microsoft FrontPage included support for ASP.net and VBA macros.
Microsoft FrontPage Alternatives
The best course of action is to:
➝ Stop using discontinued and deprecated Microsoft products, including FrontPage.
➝ Start using a modern hosted site builder.
However, I realize some readers may have a unique reason for needing a site builder and host that resembles FrontPage as much as possible. So here are 3 options for you:
Host Your Own Server
If you can’t find FrontPage support, you can support it yourself by hosting your own virtual server. In my opinion as a developer, this is the worst option.
The server extensions that are required to host a website that was built using FrontPage do not work with modern web servers.
This means that even if you have the technical skills to set up your own server, you’ll have to use old server operating systems. Your website will not be secure or high performance.
Microsoft Expression Web 4
Microsoft phased out FrontPage in 2006 and launched 2 alternatives in its place: SharePoint Designer and Microsoft Expression Web.
If you’re trying to create a new website, and are used to FrontPage, Microsoft Expression Web is the most natural alternative.
It’s free to download and works similarly.
In 2010 Microsoft added HTML5 schema support to Expression Web 4. Image via WhoIsHostingThis.
To publish a website or updates, you create an FTP account through your hosting control panel. Then plug those details into Microsoft Expression Web when you click the “publish” option in the software.
Following that, you can upload your website files to your domain through the included FTP program.
The downside is that Expression Web is not being updated any further, so again, you’ll be stuck in the situation of having obsolete software in the future. The good news is that no special server extensions are needed for Expression Web, so this is less of a big deal when it comes to finding hosting.
Microsoft SharePoint Designer — for Intranet Sites Only
This software shares more features with FrontPage Explorer than Expression Web, but it’s designed specifically to publish SharePoint sites, not general websites.
If you’re building an intranet instead of a web presence, it could work.
A screengrab from SharePoint Designer. Image courtesy of Microsoft.
Note: in 2015 Microsoft discontinued SharePoint public websites. On March 31, 2018, Microsoft will delete any remaining public SharePoint sites.
Your Best Option for Replacing FrontPage: A Modern Site Builder
If you’re willing to invest a bit of time learning, the best option for you is to:
- Find a web host that provides a site builder, or,
- Find a site builder you like that has hosting built-in.
Some examples of web hosts that provide site builders include:
iPage offers multiple pre-built site designs to get you off to a fast start. These are all customizable.
Site builders let you build and publish a site using a simple drag-and-drop interface. They’ll be much smoother and faster to use in the long run than FrontPage ever was.
A good one will offer you a templated modern design with a wide range of features, including e-commerce functionality and loads of pre-built components and features like:
- Pre-built design templates
- Pre-built Image galleries and slideshows
- A variety of ways to display your content
- Pre-built contact us pages
- Built-in SEO features
- Easy ways to customize the colors, fonts, logo, and other features of your site
- An easy way to create 301 redirects
- Animation – from basic to somewhat sophisticated
- DIY forms including appointment setters, travel booking, email newsletter sign-ups, and more.
WordPress With the BoldGrid Site Builder
WordPress is a free content management system (CMS) that can be intimidating.
Some hosts give you a free copy of BoldGrid, which essentially turns WordPress into a site that you can edit using a drag and drop interface.
You can easily choose a pre-built modern site template. And you can customize it as you like.
You can start with a pre-built BoldGrid theme template, then customize it. Image courtesy of BoldGrid
BoldGrid is compatible with any web host that meets modern standards for supporting WordPress.
It’s powerful, simple to use, and comes with plenty of professionally designed themes.
My Top 3 Host Picks
Here are 3 hosts that I recommend. You can use BoldGrid with any of these hosts. But you’re not restricted to using BoldGrid as a site builder.
InMotion Hosting is one of the few hosts that give customers a free copy of BoldGrid.
In addition, InMotion Hosting has 24/7 support, and a huge number of high-quality tutorials and help articles. If you run into issues, you can get find solutions.
SiteGround is another web host provider with great support, they have an extensive knowledgebase full of guides. You can use BoldGrid with SiteGround. But SiteGround also offers their own custom drag-and-drop website builder, which is easier to use. You also get a free domain.
It’s worth noting that SiteGround is one of only 3 web hosting companies officially recommended by the WordPress organization.
Finally, the budget option is Bluehost. It comes with a free domain (and unlimited subdomain sites if needed) on every hosting package, as well as unlimited disk space and bandwidth on most packages.
You can install WordPress or another CMS using the one-click installation script tool in your host account. It also comes with the Weebly site builder, which is one of the best site builders out there. Like SiteGround, Bluehost is one of the 3 web hosting companies officially recommended by the WordPress organization.
Summary: Microsoft FrontPage Host Service Options Today
This Microsoft support article summarizes the current situation with FrontPage Extensions:
- The company no longer supports FrontPage Extensions on Windows Server 2000
- It supported them on Windows Server 2003 but ceased support in July 2015
- Extensions on Windows 2008 are supported by a different company, Ready-to-Run Software
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a hosting plan that still supports Microsoft FrontPage Extension software. As far as we know, iPage was one of the last hosts to finally pull the plug.
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