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ISSUE 565: New economy- Aug 22 2000

The high-tech office

Alan Zisman

Similarities of online page-making programs means small touches make all the difference

The high-tech world thrives on competition, with Microsoft and its competitors grabbing most of the headlines. But not all high-tech rivalries involve the Seattle behemoth. Another long-standing rivalry is ongoing between Macromedia and Adobe.

The two companies face off with a pair of programs aiming to satisfy graphics designers looking for artistic control over online pages: Macromedia's DreamWeaver and Adobe's GoLive.

Beginners will find both programs too complex, while programmers will prefer software that lets them get their hands right on the raw HTML code. Like other programs from both companies, these aim at graphics and page designers.

There are lots of similarities be-
tween the two programs. Both are available, for about $400 to $450, in editions for Mac and Windows. Both offer interfaces laden with multiple palettes and floating windows, and provide similar feature sets supporting all the latest Web page standards -- HTML 4.0, Cascading Standard Sheets, dHTML, blah, blah, blah. Both make it easy to create templates for consistent page design. Both offer site management features, to check for and repair broken links, upload and synchronize entire sites from a local hard drive to the Web, and more. Both work best if you start off thinking about an entire site rather than a single page.

DreamWeaver, now with version 3.0, is available on its own or bundled with Macromedia's Fireworks Web graphic program. Like recent versions of Adobe's PhotoShop, DreamWeaver features a History palette, making it possible to back up to any previous state of your work. You can also use it as the basis to automate a repetitive series of commands --- just select a series of History steps, Save As Command and the macro will appear in the Commands menu.

DreamWeaver is totally customizable, in XML or JavaScript. Hundreds of customized commands can be downloaded from the company's Web site and can be used on both Mac and Windows versions of the program. Advanced users can make their own.

DreamWeaver creates clean HTML code and can clean up imported code. It can, for instance, remove Microsoft Word-specific code, cutting page bloat (and download times) by as much as 50 per cent. Other options allow users to turn HTML 4.0 layers into tables needed to work with earlier generations of browsers.

A Quick-Tag editor pops up the relevant HTML code for anything on the page, allowing those of you who are HTML-aware to make quick fixes as needed. If you need more access to the raw code, a copy of Allaire HomeSite (for Windows users) or BBEdit (for Mac-oids) is included in the box.

New from Macromedia: Dream-
Weaver UltraDev, to build pages connected to large corporate databases.

Adobe purchased GoLive from CyberStudio. Version 4.0 is the company's first version, with 5.0 expected soon. Among its strengths is pixel-level control over placement of text and graphics. Though this can result in some pretty complex HTML code, it gives the user precise control over where everything on the page ends up, which is usually lacking in Web page design. Users start by dragging a grid onto a blank page, then dropping in placeholders for various elements. This is similar to working with page layout programs and makes for a comfortable experience for designers more familiar with the printed page. Users can see how their designs will look in various versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, for both Mac and PC, even without having all those browsers installed.

A basic QuickTime video editor, while no replacement for a full-featured program, allows the creation or editing of video clips. GoLive Actions resemble DreamWeaver's Commands -- written in JavaScript and saved in libraries for use in multiple projects. A JavaScript editor is provided, to help build actions or customize pages. However, GoLive lacks DreamWeaver's total customizability. Unlike DreamWeaver, the Mac and Windows versions of GoLive cannot exchange project files.

Version 5.0 promises improved im-
port and export of code between GoLive and HTML text editors, and drag and drop between the program and other Adobe graphics programs, among 100 promised new features.

While some will prefer GoLive's precise control over everything on the page, DreamWeaver offers a more intuitive (though still complex) interface and better support of advanced functions, at least for now.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan