Microsoft Unveils FrontPage 2000; Manager Describes Principles Behind the Product

As general manager of Microsoft’s FrontPage Product Unit, Andy Schulert is responsible for design and development of Microsoft FrontPage, but his involvement with FrontPage goes much deeper than that. He has been there from the beginning.

Schulert joined Microsoft in January 1996 following the acquisition of Vermeer Technologies, Inc. Schulert was Vermeer’s third employee, joining the company in July 1994, and he wrote the original architectural specification for FrontPage. He has been a key contributor to all five releases of FrontPage.

As Microsoft was preparing to unveil the final feature set and direction of Microsoft FrontPage 2000, the latest version of the world’s best-selling Web site creation and management tool, PressPass asked Schulert to share his thoughts with our readers. This letter to customers is his response.

Dear FrontPage Customer,

As we prepare to release FrontPage 2000, the fifth version of our product since its introduction in 1995, I can’t resist taking a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come in just the last three years. As one of the first employees on the FrontPage team, I’ve had the satisfaction of working on this product since the very beginning.

When we started, back in 1994, the general public had never heard of URLs, and the only people creating Web sites were technically savvy Webmasters who painstakingly hand-coded HTML. We knew there had to be a way to include mainstream computer users in the Web revolution. As we thought about our product, we came up with four key goals — and they remain our guiding principles to this day.

  1. First, we decided that Web site creation should be accessible to anyone, like desktop publishing. To help make that possible, we used the popular Microsoft Office applications as models for designing features that would be familiar to the broadest set of users.

  2. We also saw that the Web’s real power — as indicated by the very word “web” — is not in individual pages, but in collections of pages that form Web sites. So we invested in both a WYSIWYG page editor and a Web site management tool from the very beginning.

  3. Next, we predicted that Web sites would be created and maintained by teams, rather than individuals, so we designed a client /server architecture to enable remote, multi-user authoring and management.

  4. Finally, we wanted to provide our users the ability to add advanced Web technologies to their site without programming. So we incorporated features — such as the ability to save form results — that enabled interactivity right out of the box with just a few mouse clicks.

But even more important than these principles has been the role that you, our FrontPage customers, have played in guiding the evolution of this product. Over the years, our customers have contributed essential input to our development efforts, and industry editors have reviewed our work thoughtfully, helping us to see where we could do even better. In fact, FrontPage 2000 was developed with direct input from nearly one hundred customer site visits, a survey of more than 1,100 users, dozens of editorial product reviews, tens of thousands of newsgroup comments, and more than 4,000 wish line requests. On behalf of the entire FrontPage team, I’d like to thank you for your part in making FrontPage a better product.

Looking forward to the release of FrontPage 2000, we’re really focusing on ease of use by integrating the FrontPage Editor and Explorer, and implementing shared Office menus and toolbars. We’re also making site management easier with 14 new reports that will help users diagnose and fix problems to keep their sites running smoothly. Of course, we’re continuing to incorporate the latest technologies, such as database integration and cross-browser Dynamic HTML. And one of my favorite new features isn’t really a FrontPage feature at all: Office 2000 applications can now open from and save directly to FrontPage Web sites, greatly simplifying collaborative Web development.

We have put in a lot of hard work and long hours since the early days back in 1994, but the nearly two million FrontPage users make it all worthwhile. With FrontPage 2000, we continue to deliver on our original dream of Web site creation and management that is easy enough for the average Microsoft Office user, but powerful enough to satisfy the demanding Web professional. That has been our goal from the beginning, and I want to thank you for helping us reach it.

Best regards,

Andy Schulert
General Manager
Microsoft Web Authoring Unit