Four and 1/2 stars
Platform: Windows 95/98, NT 4.0
Verdict: An easy-to-use interface and an array of productivity
shortcuts make this a leading tool for Windows-based HTML programmers
and web page designers.
List price: $99 with manual; $89 for electronic; upgrades
Allaire, 888-939-2545, 617-761-2100, or www.allaire.com.
HTML code and creativity may sound contradictory to some designers,
but fine-tuning HTML code manually has distinct benefits for Web site
developers. You can accelerate page downloads, make the code compatible
across platforms, and integrate more easily with other software such
as databases. When something goes wrong (and it will!), you have a
better chance of identifying and fixing the problem if you understand
the HTML foundation of a page.
you don't need a Web-authoring program to write or edit HTML--the
humble Windows Notepad or Macintosh SimpleText suffices. But professional
Web developers soon crave shortcuts, more robust features
and greater control. On the Windows side, Allaire's HomeSite 4.0
is the place to turn. Its time-saving automation and other sophisticated
features make it well worth the modest price tag.
of HomeSite 4.0's most impressive features is its interface, a flexible
but carefully assembled system of nested toolbars and window tabs
that are easy to understand and use. The narrow left-hand window
is the place for file and project management; Help; and the vastly
improved Site View. The right-hand window is your main workspace,
where you toggle between the HTML code; a preview that uses HomeSite's
internal browser; and the new Design View. The Design View is Allaire's
nod to those times when a WYSIWYG editor can save time for even
the most grizzled of code warriors. It's a visual mode that lets
you work with a selected set of page elements, such as tables, text
blocks, and forms. However, it is not a fully-functioned
as other WYSIWYG editors.
bars are arranged across the top of the program's window. I was
particularly pleased to see that HomeSite 4.0 makes the browser-safe
color palette more prominent than in 3.0. The color palette is now
accessible via a new icon and a pull-down menu on the main tools
weakness is the continued absence of a tool to automate image-map
creation. I was also disappointed that HomeSite 4.0 can't create
customizable lists of multiple fonts, although you can work around
this shortage by writing your own set of customized tags. Multiple-font
lists are important when you specify typefaces other than a browsers'
default font. Because you can't count on a viewer having any one
font (particularly when your site will be viewed by both Mac and
Windows machines), it's smart to list a first, second, and third
choice when specifying fonts.
the other hand, HomeSite 4.0 has added a host of new features that
are quite robust for a program best known as a text-editor. In addition
the Tag Tree, which helps you visualize a page's structure.
4.0 is also the first program I've seen that includes shortcuts
(called a SMIL Pack) for the new Synchronized Multimedia Integration
Language (SMIL), which is used by RealPlayer G2 and is becoming
an important standard for online presentations. HomeSite 4.0 also
provides color-coded support for high-end languages like Perl and
DHTML. The Style Editor for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a great
improvement over 3.0's more basic CSS Wizard. I also liked the new
Code Sweeper feature, which can eliminate extraneous code introduced
by other HTML authoring programs.
this upgrade offers significant new features, HomeSite's main strength
continues to be its shortcuts for hacking code quickly, complemented
by its customizing capabilities. And HomeSite 4.0 provides all of
these capabilities within a surprisingly accessible interface that
keeps as many commands as possible readily available. If you're
serious about developing Web sites on the Windows platform, HomeSite
4.0 is solid, professional, and designed to enhance your performance.
It could easily become the tool you depend on most.