Microsoft has unveiled the latest version of its FrontPage web authoring application, adding improved XML support.
The software giant claimed that FrontPage 2003, part of Microsoft Office, will be the first commercially available What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation (XSLT) editor, in which users can work with live data to build dynamic websites.
In the WYSIWYG editor, users can create XML data-driven websites connecting to XML files, web services and OLE DB data sources, according to Microsoft.
FrontPage 2003 supports a set of WYSIWYG tools for creating and editing XSLT data views, including support for styles, sorting, filtering, grouping and conditionally formatting data.
Users can connect multiple data sources and use the results of one database query to filter the data supplied by an XML web service.
The product will ship with prebuilt web packages, including a web log application.
FrontPage 2003 is designed to remove the need for coding with server-side scripting tools such as Java, Visual Basic development system, Visual C#, Visual Basic Scripting Edition and ColdFusion.
"We have made a big investment in supporting XML throughout the products in the Microsoft Office System to unlock customer data," said Jean Paoli, an XML architect at Microsoft and one of the co-creators of the XML 1.0 standard with the World Wide Web Consortium.
"The FrontPage 2003 WYSIWYG editor lets you define how XML following customer-defined schema should be formatted on a web page."
Microsoft claimed that data-driven solutions that in the past took days or even months of hand coding, could be accomplished in hours with FrontPage 2003.
But if the company is hoping to bridge the credibility gap that FrontPage suffers with web professionals it may be disappointed, commented Tony Lock, senior analyst at Bloor Research.
"Microsoft needs to get over the ['professional product'] image more than just adding functionality to gain credibility among the professionals and against leading-edge tools," he said.
"The WYSIWYG XSLT editor is the most visible side of the new release. It is something that may even put off the professionals. The key is: does it increase productivity and maintenance? Microsoft needs to get people to try it in anger."
But Lock welcomed the new web logs. "Easy production of web logs is important," he explained.
"Microsoft needs to use its presence to encourage more use of web logs in the real world - not just creating them but making something of the information and maintaining them."
Additional reporting by Peter Williams.
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