I’m worried about my website (www.tessmakovesky.com).
This might sound odd. It exists, it’s paid for, I remember to renew both the domain registration and the hosting every year (if, usually, rather at the last minute). I enjoy fiddling around and coming up with new designs, some of which get used, most not. And I update the thing regularly with my latest news, book releases, events, works in progress and so on.
And it’s those last two items on the list that may be under threat. Because my software is hopelessly outdated and (I suspect) rapidly coming to the end of its life. I’ve used that old stalwart, Frontpage Express, for donkeys years and it’s served me well. It doesn’t do all the bells and whistles of a ‘proper’ web authoring program, but it does the basics easily and well, and is a dream to actually use. But it’s been unsupported for over a decade, and looking increasingly flaky under Windows 10. Every time Win 10 updates itself another piece of older software bites the dust, and it can only be a matter of time before Frontpage Express joins the list.
I’ve been caught out by some of those deaths (including Wordperfect on my laptop) so this time I was determined to get ahead of the game and switch to something that was more up to date. Other Half has mentioned Bluegriffon as a good alternative so yesterday I downloaded the free version and settled down to get my head round it.
It wasn’t easy. Bear in mind that I’ve been using computers for over 20 years, and web authoring software for most of that time. I’m well used to dipping in, finding out how the basics work (open/close, print, save) and generally finding my way around. But not with this. It was hopelessly non-intuitive and I couldn’t see how to do the most simple tasks: change the page background, re-size an image, use larger fonts for headings. Every step required a search on the internet, because Bluegriffon’s own user manual and help facility is… wait for it… disabled unless you pay for it.
Luckily there are some helpful people out there and after searching and reading various blog posts and forum entries I stumbled my way to a poor copy of my existing webpage. It had hardly any of the same features, looked thoroughly amateurish, and had taken me the best part of two hours to produce. And then I found that there is no way to position a table horizontally on the page, or to assign different attributes to individual cells in the same table. At that point, I metaphorically threw the whole thing out of the window and spent the rest of the day in a massive sulk.
Once I’d calmed down I turned to Google for alternatives. After all, millions of people still operate their own personal web sites; there must be a means to design and update them. Mustn’t there? Well, I was surprisingly wrong. There is one hugely expensive, complex program out there in the shape of Dreamweaver. It does far more than I need and I question the point of paying several hundred pounds for software that I will only ever scratch the surface of. But after that, there really isn’t much else. A few html coding packages which don’t have “wysiwyg” capabilities (a must for me since my html programming is pretty basic); a handful of other programs which don’t do half of what Frontpage Express did and cost twice as much. And Linux, but I can’t use that anyway since it won’t run half the software I do use (Word, Wordperfect) and seems to screw with Windows 10.
I may be being weird here but it strikes me that computers are getting ever more powerful, but actually doing less thanks to software that’s becoming ever more ‘nailed down’. The cynic in me suspects that Microsoft is rapidly heading in Apple’s direction, with operating systems that will only accept MS software, or software that’s licensed to run on MS, at huge end-user cost. And everything else is simply too small to be useful, or doesn’t work very well, or is gradually ceasing to exist.
In the meantime, I’ll keep on using Frontpage Express every last second that I possibly can. But it’s not impossible that within the next few months I may have a website, bought, paid for, and nicely designed, which is impossible to actually use. And that seems like a really silly state of affairs.