Life after FPSE (Part 2)

Following up on my last blog post, today's blog post will discuss some of the highlights and pitfalls that I have seen while transitioning from using the FrontPage Server Extensions to publish web sites to WebDAV. It should be noted, of course, that FTP still works everywhere - e.g. Expression Web, FrontPage, Visual Studio, etc. As the Program Manager for both WebDAV and FTP in IIS I can honestly say that I love both technologies, but I'm understandably biased. <grin> That said, I'm quite partial to publishing over HTTP whenever possible, and Windows makes it easy to do because Windows ships with a built-in WebDAV redirector that enables you to map a drive to a web site that is using WebDAV.

To set the mood for today's blog, let's have a little fun at FPSE's expense...

No-FPSE

A Few Notes about Migrating FPSE Web Sites to WebDAV and Backwards Compatibility

To start things off, I wrote a detailed walkthrough with instructions regarding how to migrate a site that is using FPSE to WebDAV that is located at the following URL:

Migrating FPSE Sites to WebDAV
http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=108347

I wrote that walkthrough from the point-of-view that you might want to preserve the FPSE-related metadata in order to open your web site using a tool like Visual Studio or FrontPage. Neither of these tools have native WebDAV support, so you have to map a drive to a WebDAV-enabled web site in order to use those tools, and the instructions in that walkthrough will lead you through the steps to make the FrontPage-related metadata available to those applications over WebDAV.

The part of that walkthrough that makes backwards compatibility work is where I discuss adding settings for the IIS 7 Request Filtering feature so that FPSE-related metadata files are blocked from normal HTTP requests, but still available to WebDAV. (These metadata settings are all kept in the folders with names like _vti_cnf, _vti_pvt, etc.)

It should be noted, however, that if you are not interested in backwards compatibility, the steps are much simpler. In Step 1 of the walkthrough, you would choose "Full Uninstall" as the removal option, and all of your _vti_nnn folders will be deleted. If you've already removed FPSE from a web site and you chose the "Uninstall" option, you can remove the _vti_nnn folders from your site by saving the following batch file as "_vti_rmv.cmd" in the root folder of you web site and then running it:

dir /ad /b /s _vti_???>_vti_rmv.txt

for /f "delims=;" %%i in (_vti_rmv.txt) do rd /q /s "%%i"

del _vti_rmv.txt

It's worth noting, of course, that this batch file can be pretty disastrous if run in the wrong web site, as FPSE will no longer be able to access any of the metadata that defined your web site. Any content stored in folders like _private, fpdb, _overlay, etc., will all be preserved.

Getting to Know the WebDAV Redirector

Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 both ship a first-class director, making it easy to use WebDAV sites across the Internet as though they were local shares. Using the WebDAV director is as intuitive as mapping a drive to any UNC share, you just specify the drive letter and the destination URL:

MapDrive

If you prefer, you can also use the command-line to map a drive to a WebDAV site:

net use * http://www.example.com/

Enter the user name for 'www.example.com': msbob

Enter the password for www.example.com: ******

Drive Z: is now connected to http://www.example.com/.

The command completed successfully.

Rather than repeat myself any more than necessary, I wrote the following walkthrough for anyone that plans on using the WebDAV redirector:

That walkthrough discusses how to install the redirector if necessary, how to map drives to WebDAV sites, and how to troubleshoot any problems that you might see.

Microsoft Expression Web - Using a WebDAV-enabled Editor

One of my favorite publishing features in Expression Web is that it has native WebDAV support built-in, so it doesn't have a dependency on the WebDAV redirector in order to work with a WebDAV-enabled web site. If you're currently using Expression Web to open a web site using FPSE, the change to WebDAV should be fairly seamless. If you're currently using FrontPage, the Expression Web team has put together a whitepaper that describes the differences between FrontPage and Expression Web, which is available from the following link:

That being said, when opening a WebDAV web site in Expression Web, you simply enter the HTTP URL the same way that you would if you were opening a site using FPSE:

Expression-Web-Open-Site

When you first open a web site using WebDAV, Expression Web will prompt you whether to edit the web site live, or edit locally and publish your changes later:

Expression-Web-Edit-Live

Once your live web site is opened, the WebDAV editing experience is what you would have expected from using FPSE:

Expression-Web-Edit-Page

Summary

So in closing, I've presented a few things to consider when working with WebDAV instead of FPSE. Using the WebDAV redirector makes working with WebDAV sites as easy as working with network shares, and using Expression Web is by far the easiest way to edit WebDAV sites.

Life after FPSE (Part 1)

Today's blog post will be the first in a series of blog posts that I intend to write about my experiences with putting together a Windows Server 2008 machine without using the FrontPage Server Extensions (FPSE) for any web publishing. The main goal of this series is to describe some of the highlights and pitfalls that I have run into while transitioning away from FPSE.

Over the years I've seen the users of FPSE broken down into two groups: those that love FPSE and those that hate FPSE. So before anyone thinks that I fall into the category of people that hate FPSE, in this first part of the series I will explain a brief bit of my history with FPSE.

My Personal Background with FPSE

In late 1995, Microsoft bought a little-known Massachusetts-based company named Vermeer Technologies, Inc., which really only had one product: FrontPage 1.0. (Incidentally, that's where all of those _vti_nnn folders that FPSE uses come from: the "vti" stands for Vermeer Technologies, Inc.)

frontpage-1.0

FrontPage was quickly transitioned into the Microsoft array of Office products, and Microsoft realized that they needed someone to support it. With that in mind, four of my coworkers and I started a FrontPage support team in Microsoft's Product Support Services (PSS) organization. The following photo shows what the five of us looked like "way back when..."

robmcm-frontpage-startup-team

Note: My hair is much shorter now. Open-mouthed smile

The First Microsoft FrontPage Version

Back then we supported both the FrontPage client and FPSE. Two coworkers specialized on what was then a small array of Windows-based servers (WebSite, Netscape, etc.), while another coworker and I specialized on the wider array of Unix-based servers, (NCSA, CERN, Netscape, Apache, etc.) At first FPSE was 100% CGI-based, but Microsoft soon released Internet Information Services (IIS) 1.0 for Windows NT Server 3.51 and we provided an ISAPI version of FPSE when FrontPage 1.1 was released in early 1996. In either case, FPSE was often somewhat difficult to configure, so a couple of my coworkers and I used to spend our free time searching the Internet looking for servers that were using FPSE incorrectly, then we would call them and offer to help fix their web sites for free. (Support was different back then, wasn't it? Open-mouthed smile)

frontpage-1.1Windows-NT-Server-v3.51-boxshot

FrontPage Gains Popularity

Industry acceptance for FrontPage and FPSE grew rapidly through the releases of FrontPage 97 and FrontPage 98. During that same time period Microsoft released IIS 2.0 through IIS 4.0 for Windows NT Server 4.0, where I switched from supporting the FrontPage client and refocused my career to work exclusively with FPSE and IIS. Over a short period of time a couple of coworkers and I became the escalation point for all the really difficult FPSE cases - so chances are good that if you were using FPSE back then and you had a problem then one us us probably helped you fix it. Sometime around this period Microsoft decided to scrap internal development for the Unix version of FPSE, so Microsoft contracted Ready-to-Run Software, Inc., to port FPSE to Unix.

frontpage-97frontpage-98Windows-NT-Server-v4.0-boxshot

FrontPage Grows Up

The next couple of years saw the releases of FrontPage 2000, FrontPage 2002, and FrontPage 2003, where FrontPage did its best to move away from a simple web authoring tool into more of a feature-rich developer tool. During that same time period Microsoft released IIS 5.0 for Windows Server 2000 and IIS 6.0 for Windows Server 2003. Through all of these releases I slowly transitioned from an escalation team member to writing content, where I wrote or edited hundreds of Knowledge Base articles about FPSE and IIS for Microsoft's support web site. I also worked extensively with several members of the IIS product team in order to get some much-needed changes into FTP and WebDAV.

frontpage-2000frontpage-2002frontpage-2003
Windows-2008-Server-Box-ArtWindows-Server-2003-Standard-Edition-angled-boxWindows-2008-Server-Box-Art

What was interesting about the release of FrontPage 2003 is that Microsoft did not release a version of FPSE to coincide with that release. This decision was based on the fact that the product team that was responsible for FPSE was also responsible for SharePoint, and they decided to drop FPSE as a separate product in favor of SharePoint. What this meant to FPSE end users was - FPSE was being slowly phased out in favor of SharePoint, or in favor of competing publishing technologies like WebDAV or FTP.

The End of FrontPage

After the release of IIS 6.0 I accepted a position as an SDK writer on the IIS User Education team, and a short time later I found out that the Product Unit Manager for IIS, Bill Staples, was looking for someone to take over web publishing in IIS 7.0 on Windows Server 2008. Bill and I had already had several discussions on the subject so I volunteered for the position, and for the last few years my life has been happily consumed with shipping FPSE, FTP, and WebDAV for Windows Server 2008.

During this same time period, however, Microsoft ended the line of FrontPage products; the team responsible for the FrontPage client splintered into the groups that now make the SharePoint Designer and Expression Web products, and the FPSE product team was now focusing exclusively on SharePoint. This situation meant that no one that worked on FPSE in the past was available to work on a new version for Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008, which left FPSE users in a predicament if they wanted to upgrade their operating systems. With this in mind, the IIS product team decided to contract Ready-to-Run Software, Inc. again in order to port the Windows version of FPSE to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Even then, though, FPSE's days are numbered.

Summary

So, the short end to this long story is that I've been around the FrontPage Server Extensions in one way or another ever since the very beginning, and I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In my next post, I'll discuss using WebDAV instead of FPSE.

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/