Saturday, June 07, 2008

Vermeer/FrontPage lives in Sharepoint Wiki

This is a story of recursion and the rise and fall and rise of software. I'm one of the few people that could spot this particular example.

It began with Vermeer, later known as Microsoft FrontPage. I knew it well, even the Macintosh versions. Once, before it started drinking sterno and snorting meth, FrontPage was a software classic. I still use FP 98 on my XP box, there's never been anything better at creating hypertext documents.

FrontPage had a terribly swift decline after FP 98, but even in its debauched state it was the forgotten father of two bits of software - the early versions of Sharepoint and today's version of Sharepoint Designer.

I don't use SP Designer, but I use Sharepoint 2007 - a lot. Even on deep inspection there doesn't seem to be much of FrontPage left in the newest version. SP 2007 is an unspeakably awful document management system and file server, and a very clever implementation of a list/table manager.

Oh, and it includes a Wiki built on extensions to the list manager.

The Wiki is where the recursion comes in. As I worked with it, stringing together hypertext documents and switching between list and web views, the deja vu hit. I'd worked this way before.

The Sharepoint Wiki, I realized, maps very easily onto the actions and interactions of Vermeer/FrontPage. It's not as powerful or as quick to use as FP 98, but it's more approachable for novices and it doesn't require a thick client on each desktop.

So a shadow of FrontPage lives on, buried deep within Sharepoint.

Oh, and now I can explain to young folk the appeal of the original Vermeer/FrontPage. It's the super-powerful toolkit you wish you had for your Wikipedia writing.

Update 9/26/08: I had occasion to copy and paste a very long FrontPage document into a Wiki item. It rendered suspiciously well. I know Sharepoint Designer is a descendant of FrontPage, and that Sharepoint Wiki articles are editable using SharePoint Designer -- so maybe it's not surprising that Sharepoint Wiki is very accepting of FP HMTL. You really do feel the inheritance.

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