Web-page design programs grow in tandem
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1998. First
published in Toronto Computes,
Adobe PageMill 3.0. $149
Adobe Systems Inc., San Jose, CA, 800-411-8657,
Symantec Visual Page, $129
Symantec Corp., Cupertino, CA, 800-441-7234;
There are a lot of people out there working with HTML,
of the Web. Some would suggest that real Web page designers don?t need
specialized tools?they?re happy working with the code directly, using
Notepad or the Mac?s SimpleText or something. Maybe a somewhat more
programmer?s editor, like BBEdit on the Mac.
But there?s a large market for tools that cover up the
bare bones, and
give designers something more akin to a desktop publisher?software that
lets you create a Web page while looking at something that resembles
final output. Some of these tools are free?Netscape Composer is part of
that company?s Communicator Suite. And not to be left behind, Microsoft
includes Front Page Express as an optional component of Internet
4.0 and Windows 98.
These free tools are not bad?they let a wannabe Web
work with pages, adding images and links, and creating tables. But
Java? Image maps? Not with the freebies, thanks.
Other beginning users work with a program they?re
with, such as their word processor or desktop publisher, but again,
themselves either severely limited, or in the case of DTP software, too
often creating slow-loading pages featuring out-and-out weird HTML
Last year, we took a look at two programs, Adobe
PageMill and Symantec
Visual Page which had a lot in common. Both were graphical Web page
programs. Both started out on the Mac, and now are available for
as well. Both offered similar feature sets, and sold for similar prices
They have somewhat different interfaces, and when push
came to shove,
last year, we found Symantec?s product offered a bit more than Adobe?s,
and awarded it the prize.
But now, continuing in synch, each has offered an
updated version, so
we?re taking another look, this time at Adobe PageMill 3.0 vs Symantec
Visual Page 2.0. We looked at the Windows versions; again in synch,
companies released those prior to the Mac version. We?ve previously
at another similar product, HomePage 3.0, from Apple?s FileMaker
Staying in synch, the biggest additions to both (along
are site management features (previously included by Adobe in a
Mac-only product, SiteMill). These make it easier to maintain a
of interlinked pages, to find broken links, and more. Drag a page
to a different location on the outline, and links throughout the site
update to reflect the changes. Correct an e-mail address, and it is
throughout the site.
Both allow users to preview pages, either in the
editing program, or
in the browser(s) of their choice. Both allow live Java applets in the
editing window (PageMill also allows ActiveX applets). Such features
narrow the gap between these programs and heavy-weights such as
At the same time, both lack support for some advanced
Dynamic HTML. Visual Page still doesn?t allow for borderless frames,
that?s now included in PageMill. However, to keep things even, only
Page lets users create pages with frames that include a frame-less
for older browsers.
I liked PageMill?s Property Inspector?a floating
toolbox, whose contents
change depending on what?s currently selected. It makes it easy to
virtually any part of your Web page. Also nice is the pasteboard for
graphics and text until you?re ready to use them. The program?s find
allows you to drag in an image, and use it to replace another
the entire Web site.
PageMill includes PhotoShop LE, a powerful way to work
on graphics (though
nowhere near as nice as Adobe?s new, web-focused ImageReady graphics
Visual Page lacks any graphics-creation add-ins.
Missing from PageMill however are templates. It?s not
as easy as it
should be to apply a standardized design to a site?s worth of pages. No
support for cascading style sheets, which are supported in Visual Page.
Awkwardly, when you view source code in PageMill, it?s displayed within
the graphic view?s frame, rather than in a separate window, as in
Page. If you start with a narrow frame, it may become impossible to
While both programs offer slim, printed Get Started
manuals, only Visual
Page includes a printed main manual?the rest of PageMill?s
is on the CD in Adobe Acrobat format, which is difficult to read
without excessive scrolling.
There?s no clear winner in this competition?if you?re
looking to create
and maintain a relatively simple Web or intranet site, you won?t go far
wrong with either of these programs. While neither offers the wealth of
features of a more powerful program like Microsoft Front Page, they are
both easier to use. As well, both create reasonably clean code that
work equally well in both major browser. Either will prove a good
for the target audience: home users, schools, and small businesses.