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FrontPage Includes for fun & profit

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Tuesday February 21, 2006 )

I’m a FrontPage fan, unashamedly so. I feel that FrontPage is often rubbished simply because it’s a Microsoft product. I’ve heard the arguments about added server overhead and crappy code, but really, any extra load on the servers of today is minimal and later versions of FrontPage can produce quite clean code.

I’m still using FrontPage 2000 – why? because it does everything I need it to :). Don’t let anyone tell you that FrontPage is useless when it comes to sites that are over a few dozen pages. The main section of Taming the Beast.net consists of many hundreds of pages these days, all maintained via FrontPage.

The only thing I’ve found with FrontPage publishing is that if your web contains many large image files (in the couple of hundred kilobytes range each), there can be issues with publishing timeouts.

FrontPage has some really neat features that can help with maintaining large sites, such as shared borders. Shared borders are usually common elements such as menus, headers and footers.

I’ve never really used this feature as I find it a little restrictive; instead I use FrontPage includes, which achieve the same and then some; plus FrontPage Includes are just as easy to use as long as you start out your web correctly; i.e. create a template first with your include components and then start creating a site.

Aside from their use for navigation components throughout a site, FrontPage Includes are great for adding advertising/announcement boxes to appear on multiple pages. It’s an especially handy feature if your advertising is changing regularly – by updating a single file, you update all the pages the ad appears on.

Here’s how to use FrontPage Includes…

– On a new page, create the advertisement or announcement – just a simple table with borders does the trick. Create it in the center of the page and be sure not to leave any blank lines underneath it; you just want the table. If you’re not using Cascading Style Sheets, then apply any formatting you wish.

– Save the page into a separate folder that you’ll use specifically for ads and/or announcements. This just helps to keep things tidier. Be sure to give it a name that’s relevant to the content you’ll have in it to make it easy to recognize; e.g. email-marketing.htm.

– Open a page where you want to insert the ad in normal view

– Click where you want the ad to appear

– On the FrontPage menu bar, go to Insert/Component/Include page

– Navigate to the page that contains the item you wish to include

– Click OK, done!

Your advertisement/announcement will now appear on the page. Repeat the process on other pages you wish for it to appear on and publish up to your server.

As mentioned, this makes life so much easier when you want to change the content of your ads and announcements – just update a single file and the changes will appear on every page where the include is! You can even use this feature for your Adsense code.

If you’re interested in learning more about FrontPage Includes, check out my FrontPage tutorial which comes with a free practice template, plus a primer on CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS is another easy to learn technology you can use to dramatically decrease web development and ongoing maintenance time.

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