Network Web Design: Tools of the trade put to the test

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The Independent Culture
IF YOU sit still in this business, events will rapidly overtake you. But that's not always a bad thing. Last week, I had planned to do a review of Web design software but then decided to talk about the state of Web design, recapping events for the New Year. So my reviews of GoLive's CyberStudio and Macromedia's Dreamweaver were delayed until today. In the small space of a week, everything changed when Adobe Systems, the largest provider of imaging software technologies, acquired GoLive, including its assets, chief among which is CyberStudio.

Adobe has its own Web design software, HomeSite, but, although it was an early contender, it never really caught on. CyberStudio, on the other hand, is the top-selling Web design software for the Mac (it is currently a Mac-only program).

So, while Netscape and Microsoft square off for the hearts of Web surfers, Adobe and its chief rival, Macromedia, battle for the hearts of Web designers - both offering a suite of programs to get you from concept to product quickly and attractively. Macromedia offers Freehand, FireWorks and Dreamweaver. Adobe offers Illustrator, ImageReady, PageMill and, now, CyberStudio.

A few months ago I reviewed Adobe and Macromedia's bit-map software (Net address: www.independent.co.uk/net/980817ne/story5.html), but what about the Web design software? Let's take a look.

CyberStudio Professional Edition 3.1, pounds 250

www.golive.com

CyberStudio started life as a complete HTML creation package that has evolved to include JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets and Dynamic HTML capabilities. It includes these tools in an easy-to-use environment with all of the various tags conveniently located and alterable from its various palettes, which allow you to see those changes as you make them.

You can work in Layout mode that provides wysiwyg capabilities, Frames mode for editing the frames content of the page, Source mode for editing the raw HTML source, and, finally, Outline mode, which is really useful for seeing the structure of a Web page.

CyberStudio checks your code and predicts download times as well as alerting you to potential problems in various browsers, not to mention checking all of your links to ensure that they are valid. You can add new tags or change the attributes of existing tags as new standards become available.

CyberStudio also includes an excellent FTP client and site management tools. Various options allow you to manage your site and even selectively upload only those files that have been changed since the last upload. The feature list goes on and on, but almost everything that you could want to do with a Web page is possible using CyberStudio.

Dreamweaver 2.0, pounds 299

www.macromedia.com

While CyberStudio started as an HTML program that integrated DHTML components, Dreamweaver started as a DHTML program that has integrated more and more HTML components. Dreamweaver is primarily a wysiwyg layout program that allows you to preview the final results as you create the page. Although you can view the HTML code with the press of a button, Dreamweaver relies upon third-party software to provide rigorous HTML editing capabilities. For the Windows version, this is Allaire's Homesite program (www.allaire.com) and for the Macintosh version Dreamweaver uses BBEdit (www.bbedit.com).

One really handy feature of Dreamweaver is the "Cleanup HTML" command, which will go through the HTML code and eliminate redundant or unnecessary tags. Not only does this look a lot more professional, it can also save a lot of download time by making your code more compact.

Dreamweaver includes a bevy of other tools and utilities such as FTP and site management, as well as the ability to create templates that separate the content from the design. Dreamweaver is also ready to tackle new Web technologies such as XML (Net address: www.independent.co.uk/net/981005ne/story6.html) without blinking an eye.

Macromedia has worked hard between releases to turn Dreamweaver from a simple DHTML generator into a fully featured Web design program, and the results are quite impressive.

Recommendation

Before the release of Macromedia Dreamweaver 2.0 just a month or so ago, the choice was clear: GoLive CyberStudio was the hands-down winner. However, with this current release, Macromedia has taken great strides towards balancing that picture.

Still, CyberStudio comes out ahead on several crucial features. First, Dreamweaver's lack of an integrated HTML code-editing system is a major turn-off, and its other features do not fully make up for this shortcoming. Second, CyberStudio comes out way ahead when creating Cascading Style Sheets and its JavaScript editor cannot be beaten.

If you are designing on a Mac, you can't go wrong purchasing CyberStudio. But now that Adobe has purchased GoLive, a Windows version is promised soon. If you are on a PC and just can't wait, Dreamweaver is an excellent program. But professional Web developers may want to try Allaire's Homesite by itself first to see if it meets your needs before spending the extra money.

The good news is that you don't have to take my word for all of this; you can decide for yourself. All of these programs offer fully functional versions that will work, free of charge, for one month. Download them from their respective sites and see which one works best for you. Write and let me know what you think about them.

indy_webdesign@

mindspring.com

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