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Request for help with FrontPage!

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 09:02:11 -0500
To: "Web Accessibility Initiative" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, "KristineBradow" <kbradow@ece.eng.wayne.edu>, "\"Charles \(Chuck\) Oppermann\"" <chuckop@MICROSOFT.com>
Cc: "ChrisWilson" <cwilso@MICROSOFT.com>, "EileenBonfiglio" <pinesnet@putergirl.com>, <megazone@megazone.org>, "JamieFox" <jfox@fenix2.dol-esa.gov>
Message-ID: <000501bf6418$1ce62220$1aac66a7@151877>
Dear Group,

I need help again.  (Another non-theoretical problem this time.)  I am
hoping you can bail me out as you have so often before.  Charles Munat is
quite correct that I use this list as an extension of my brain.  Sometimes I
embarrass myself, but mostly it has be very rewarding.  When I posted my
question about the apparent correlation between validity and accessibility I
had only some half-formed ideas about what the implications might be.
Charles has done a great deal to move that discussion forward.  I hope the
dialogue continues.  In the meantime, I am now dealing with harsh cold
reality that might benefit from the intertwining of validity and
accessibility.  This is all happening much quicker than I had expected.

Short of hand-coding each page after the fact, has anyone had success
getting Microsoft FrontPage to produce pages that are accessible and/or
valid?  What are the techniques / strategies / configurations required?

Is FrontPage 2000 any better (with regards to stands compliance) than the
previous versions?  The product literature at URL:
http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/2000/chklist.htm#html
mentions "HTML Source Preservation" as a new feature (that FP 97 and 98 did
not have).  I would guess that this is implemented by proprietary code
escaped by comments.  Such a strategy, of course, would not work for getting
the requisite DOCTYPE statement at the beginning of the file!  I could not
find any reference to "validation" or "accessibility" on the FrontPage
pages.  I am hoping (probably irrationally) that I just missed them.  I have
taken a superficial look at some of the sites linked to from Microsoft's
"FrontPage Gallery", but found no examples that were EITHER accessible OR
valid.  I will continue to explore FP2K, but as time is of the essence, I am
asking for your help now.  If any the Microsoft people here could get send
me the FP2K trial (beta?) ASAP I would be most appreciative!  (Snail mail
address is below.)

More details follow, feel free to stop reading, but if you are going to
respond to the list, please constrain yourself to answering the questions I
ask -- no matter how strongly you feel that I am raising the wrong issues!

Anyone responding to this should probably take the time (I did) to review
the archived threads:
"Microsoft FrontPage"
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-ig/1998AprJun/0218.html
"Can WYSIWYG editors produce clean code"
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-ig/1998AprJun/0159.html
so that we don't rehash material that has already been extensively covered.

This is CC'd to folks who were fighting with FP (almost) a year ago.  I am
hoping they have had some successes since, but I would also be interested in
hearing from you if you gave up with FrontPage in frustration!

Background:

I am saddened to say that web authoring responsibilities are being taken
from me and given to a secretary.  There are some very good reasons for
this, and the idea has been in the works for a while, so I am not actually
fighting the change.  I had hope that my successor would be more skilled,
but in lieu of that, I expect to have fair opportunity to get her set up.
She has little interest and motivation in doing the work, so her personal
commitment to accessibility and validity is quite minimal.  Fortunately, I
work with an agency that, if nothing else, gives frequent lip service to
accessibility, even if that message does not always work its way into the
trenches.  I am sorry to have to admit that if the "worker bees" don't buy
into a policy, that policy is rarely implemented because frequently
enforcement is lax by middle and upper management.  Adding to this situation
is the fact that, as with many bureaucracies, decisions are often made at
the top (probably for some good reasons) which have fairly disastrous short
and long term consequences.  One of those decisions is that our parent
agency -- and therefore us too -- is standardizing on Microsoft brand
products...

In the meantime, this might buy me year (and maybe by then Microsoft will
fix their product) -- but it might get me no time at all, I am advocating
strongly that we settle for Allaire ColdFushion.  I picked ColdFushion only
because of the good press it has gotten on this list.  I will only have one
shot at non-Microsoft product, so I am aiming high.  I want something that
can handle tasks from start to finish and is scaleable, hence my preference
for ColdFushion -- which can do not only the WYSIWYG editing, but also the
actual serving of dynamic pages should our needs grow to that point.  This
is why I recommended ColdFushion over HoT MetaL Pro or Dream Weaver, which
have also been positively reviewed here.  If I have made a terrible choice
here, please let me know ASAP.  Odds are, I can pull a switcharoo on my
"pointed haired boss" since basically anything-but-FrontPage sounds the same
to him.  That is, if I am allowed to buy anything but FrontPage.  My
practical WYSIWYG experience is limited to Netscape Composer and Adobe Page
Mill.  I found both to be okay (their broken code is not too hard to fix)
for initial layout (and spell checking), but do most of my work with text
editors.  I have given some time to earlier versions of FrontPage and have
used the HTML export features of Word and WordPerfect.  All of those
experiences were exercises in frustration.

I have little illusion that eventually my agency will be using FrontPage.
The argument that it produces invalid and inaccessible code will only get me
so far.  I really don't mind acquiescing to the powers in Redmond.  I am a
realist and, as State Employee, have an extremely high tolerance for
frustration.  My subtle campaign to turn us into a Linux shop have gone
nowhere at all, but I didn't really expect it to.  Given all this, my strong
preference would be to fix, counteract, and/or work-around the problems with
FrontPage.  I could settle for accessibility if I can't get validity, but
given the more fluid nature of the former, and unambiguous yes/no state of
the latter -- and taking into account who will be doing the actual work -- I
*REALLY* want valid HTML 4.  I can put adequate time into setup and
configuration, some time into training (not enough though, for example, to
teach HTML), but almost no time into follow-up, monitoring, and policing.

Yes, it is a far from ideal situation.  I will do what I can to change it.
For now, these are the circumstances.  If it helps, consider this an essay
question, and work within the parameters of the exercise.  It usually does
not help one's grade to respond, "This question is wrong.  What you should
be asking is..."  Please answer to my plea for help in the context I have
asked for it.

Granted, I am trying to solve the wrong problem.  The long term objective
SHOULD be to make people care and to educate them about the issues.
Learning HTML ain't that hard.  Hand-fixing code is not unreasonable.  Blah,
blah, blah.  None of that helps me.  Please write me off the list if you
feel obliged to comment on these tangential meta-problems.

Given the situation as I describe, can anyone provide advise on how to
configure and setup a FrontPage workstation so that it facilitates the
creation and publication (posting) of accessible and valid HTML documents by
non-technical personnel?  One thing I do plan to do is to set up template
documents that include "referrer" links to the W3C Validator.  That strategy
is, of course, worse than useless if Front Page is not able to create
documents that validate.  One of my proposed sample documents is at URL:
http://www.dors.state.md.us/template.html
I will also endeavor to disable the program propensity (if it has it) to
generate "default" ALT tag content.  What else can I do?

Thank you all for your time.

Sincerely,
Bruce Bailey
Webmaster for the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Division of
Rehabilitation Services (DORS)
Maryland Rehabilitation Center
2301 Argonne Drive
Baltimore, MD  21218-1696
410/554-9211
http://www.dors.state.md.us/
Received on Friday, 21 January 2000 09:04:14 GMT

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