This whole pile of information comes from me being emailed the following question after telling someone not to use FrontPage. “Shane, do you have a recommended list of HTML editors we should be using with Sharepoint?”
FrontPage (FP) is the recommend and only editor for SharePoint. I am just not a fan of its uncontrolled/unplanned usage. In the hands of a trained professional it can used to accomplish some tasks otherwise impossible but, it is a last resort. Most things can be done using the standard SharePoint user interface. If large scale, consistent, or more complex changes are necessary then I recommend the use of custom site definitions. Only in extreme cases do I recommend the use of FP. Here is a list of reasons why I don’t like the use of FP.
1. UnGhosting – This causes a page to be broken from the default template connection and stored independently in the database. This has a performance penalty (See Mike Fitzmaurice blog http://blogs.msdn.com/mikefitz/archive/2005/09/15/467821.aspx) and causes you to lose the ability to do site wide changes later. More information on ghosting you can read http://www.devx.com/dotnet/Article/27673.
2. Upgrading – Down the road when you do choose to do upgrades you will have unique challenges around each page that you have edited with FP. You will be at a minimum redoing the work. If you use Site Definitions you also will have to deal with them at upgrade time but, if you are consistent in your site definition you will be able to create a mapping file to automate the upgrade.
3. Lack of control – If you let whomever would like use FP to make changes then you will never retain a consistent brand or look and feel. Maybe one page will have the navigation bar on the bottom of the page the next page will have it on the left. How will users find things? The out of the box pages may be considered ugly (I like them) but at least they are consistent. Once a user get used to finding things on one site they will know how to find them on the next. If people start changing things on a whim then all bets are off.
So yes FP is the only HTML editor for SharePoint but fortunately you normally don’t have to use it. Any type of color, branding, or look and feel changes should be made using style sheets, templates, themes, site definitions or more pratically a combination of those. The only reasons I do use FP is:
1. Data View Web Part – Just awesome. Allows you to view that business data you have in databases right in SharePoint without in work on the users part. It can do lots more but I will let you go elsewhere if you want more info. http://www.sharepointblogs.com/vandest/archive/2006/03/14/5460.aspx
2. Modifying Navigation – You can edit the links in the nav bar of a site using FP without unghosting. Remember when you open a site with FP as long as you don’t have to hit save to keep your changes you haven’t unghosted your site.
3. Backup/Restore – You can use FP backup/restore to move sites around. It really is just a graphical view of smigrate.exe. More info on how to move the site from Microsoft. http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/office/office2003/maintain/bureswss.mspx
I hope this helps clear up the age old question why I feel you should use FrontPage sparingly and yes I do expect people to disagree with me but such is life. J