Interested in designing a web page/site without all the hassle of writing HTML by hand? Intimidated by Microsoft Front Page (FP)? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not as daunting a task to build good pages with Front Page as one might think.
Being a JAWS user, I find that Front Page is readily accessible and in fact, have used it to build the pages at my new web site. Now that I’m done with the shameless promotion, let’s move on to talking about Front Page.
First, one caveat. In all my experiences with FP, I have noticed that the publishing feature seems riddle with errors that have nothing to do with accessibility, JAWS, Window-eyes, or whatever screen reader you use. It simply is (in my opinion, and mine alone) an unreliable way to get your pages to the host location. Using Internet Explorer’s FTP capability, or a program such as FTP Explorer is my method of choice for uploading my files to the hosting site.
The Two Views in Front Page
By default, FP opens in what is called the page view. Essentially, this is a view in which you see none of the html code. The page view, more exactly, acts like a word processor. You simply type your text and away you go.
This does, naturally, call for issues of styles (headings and other considerations) and formatting capabilities. FP has all that and more. I’ll get into that in just a bit.
By pressing Ctrl-Page Down, you move into the HTML view. This shows all the html code that FP has added as you create the page. This is handy if you want to check the code because something isn’t quite as you like it, for whatever reason, and if you’re handy at HTML writing, you can change/fix it for yourself.
There is, in a technical sense, a third view I ought to mention at this time. After you have done enough work on a page: slecting colors, backgrounds, images, etc, you can tell Front Page to display it in your default web browser. To do this, press Ctrl-Shift-B, and your page will open up for you to see as it would appear on the web. In my case, Internet Explorer displays my pages, and I can get a feel for whether I like the page or not as it is written.
About Adding Styles
(Note to JAWS users: If you check the MS Front Page help files and find the Ctrl-Shift-S (apply a style) keystroke, do not use it. I have found that, at least for me, this crashes Front Page and causes JAWS to require restarting to read the screen properly.)
While there are a good number of things about Front Page that work well with JAWS, some of the keystrokes Microsoft built into FP don’t work totally as well as some would hope.
For example: I just attempted to build a list for a page I am going to add to my site. I was endeavoring to include seven items, but when I looked at my progress in IE, it had only included two in the list. The remaining five were given paragraph formatting. I had to go into the HTML view and fix this.
That said, let's move on to something that does work…if you know how to do it…and it works well.
FP gives you the ability (naturally) to add links (URLs) to your pages. If you’re concerned about an easy way to add alt tags to the links, just type the text you want, where you want it, for your alt tag, highlight that text, and press Ctrl-K to add the link. FP will prompt you for the www address, not including the HTTP because FP assigns this by default.
So, for example, if you were linking to my page, you could type something like “this is the home of Alan Wheeler”…highlight the Alan Wheeler for your Alt-Tag, press Ctrl-K and type www.alanwheeler.org and press enter.
I am still learning Front page, admittedly, so there are things I haven’t tried yet. I could sit here, and write a list of all of FP’s different keystrokes, but that would not be terribly original as MS has them listed in the help files.
So, as I continue to learn, I will write follow up articles on Front Page and let you know what does and what doesn’t work for me.
In the mean time, play with it yourself and see what you can come up with for your web site. You might find yourself doing things you didn’t think you could.