Using Microsoft Frontpage with EDatCat

The notorious WYSIWYG editor will work fine....with a little adjustment.

- Ellison Belt

Jan 11, 2000- I've had several inquiries as to whether or not FrontPage can be used with EDatCat. The answer, in short, is yes. However, given the ticky-tacky nature of FrontPage, a couple of adjustments need to be made.

We are all aware of the advantages of using a WYSIWYG (pronounced "wizzywig" and stands for "what-you-see-is-what-you-get") editor to design layout for web sites. In recent years, the WizzyWig (c'mon- it's easier than spelling out the acronym) has made even the most modest of creative minds a web guru. A WizzyWig allows you to place objects and text on your page visually- much like MS Word, Publisher, and other familiar desktop applications- without dealing with HTML code. However, the problem with WizzyWigs is the fact that the software has to to your code-thinking for you. The software must be able to determine what it thinks you meant to do rather than what you actually do (a mouthful, I know). This is generally no great hassle...in fact, it is quite helpful to many novices. However, the all-knowing WizzyWig tends to trip and stumble a bit when it is presented with advanced code or tags. Ah yes, therein lies the rub.

The flexibility of EDatCat is built around a system of shortcuts and functions. The shortcuts, which are simple tags such as %%item%%, are placed within the HTML code of your EDatCat templates. These tags, or shortcuts, call data from your EDatCat database. For instance, if you are working on your product detail template, you place the shortcut %%item%% where you want the product name to appear. All in all, EDatCat has about 40-something shortcuts and even lets you design your own. It is the use of these shortcuts that gives you such great control over the presentation of your online catalog.

When you use FrontPage to design and customize your EDatCat templates, the WizzyWig nature of FrontPage just does not take kindly to these shortcuts when they are contained within variables of certain tags. For instance, if you place the %%picture%% shortcut directly on the page, FrontPage will look the other way...no questions asked. However, if you should be so bold as to place the %%picture%% shortcut in an image reference tag (e.g.- watch out!), then FrontPage will assume that you meant to place the HTML code for the percent sign instead of the percent sign itself. So, instead of the example above, you'll get:

told you so

Man, what a headache. Everytime you save your template, change editing modes, or take a drag on that Camel, FrontPage will change this code. So, how do you work around that? Pipe down, Watson, it ain't no thang...

In order to outsmart the WizzyWig, you have to save your template in a more relaxed application, such as the ever-drab but oh-so-useful NotePad. Since most of you are probably saving your templates with a .txt extension instead of a .html extension anyway, this is very simple. In the FrontPage Explorer, rather than double-clicking the template to open it, right-click it and choose "Open With" and "NotePad". This will open your template in NotePad. Copy your code over the to the HTML view of the FrontPage Editor, and edit away! You can change editing modes all you want. FrontPage will still change those shortcuts buried within HTML tags, but don't panic. When you get ready to save your template, go to the HTML view of the FrontPage Editor, copy your code (only the part you need for your template), and paste it back into NotePad. Then, scan through that dirty HTML and remove those FrontPage SNAFU's, and then save your template in NotePad.

Wah-lah....all there is to it!

By the way, ever noticed how people get sort of embarrassed when it is discovered that they use FrontPage as their WizzyWig? It's amusing. Personally, I use FrontPage a good bit. I happen to enjoy the layout and design of the program. There are others that are much better and more robust- MacroMedia DreamWeaver and NetObjects Fusion, to name a couple- and they do not harm your code to the extent that FrontPage does. But for those loyal FrontPage followers, be not disparaged...you can still use it to customize your EDatCat templates.