Adobe adds muscle to Web authoring tool

Adobe Systems Inc. is among the leaders in design for the print and image editing markets, but isn't considered a front-runner in the Web authoring market.

During the past couple of years, however, Adobe has been working hard to make its GoLive authoring tool a strong competitor with the likes of Macromedia Inc.'s Dreamweaver MX, the tool of choice for many professional Web site designers.

The new GoLive Version 6.0 is a major stride toward that goal, though I suspect it won't win over hard-core Dreamweaver users.

Adobe products have always been built for designers, who often conceptualize visually, as opposed to developers, who tend to think in terms of ones and zeros. It's not surprising that GoLive puts a lot of emphasis on interface to help designers build sophisticated HTML pages without having to touch code.

It's also worth noting that GoLive integrates very well with Adobe's other products, so if your agency has already invested in Adobe products, such as Photoshop, Illustrator or PageMaker, it might be in your best interests to choose GoLive for a Web development tool.

I found GoLive to be quick and easy to learn, thanks largely to its similarities with other Adobe products. If you are already familiar with Photoshop, for example, learning GoLive is simple.

I especially liked Version 6.0's ability to save work space setups. As a Web designer, I relied heavily on GoLive's floating tabbed palettes that helped me define and edit individual components such as tables. Version 6.0 has even more floating palettes than previous versions. Helpful as they are, however, the floating palettes can be a pain to manage. The ability to save work spaces, however, means I can quickly call up an instance of GoLive with all the tools I need for the task at hand.

I also appreciate the ability to "stash" palettes as a title bar along any side of the screen. To access the stashed palette, you simply click on its title and it opens like a drawer; click again and it stashes itself away.

New Coding Tools

Historically, GoLive's major weakness has been its comparatively poor support for HTML hand-coding. Fortunately, this has been addressed with some innovative features and borrowed tricks.

Among the borrowed tricks — in this case, borrowed from Dreamweaver — is GoLive's HTML styles palette, which allows you to create multiple HTML formatting options as named styles that can then be quickly applied throughout the site. More advanced Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) formatting control is available through a combination of the CSS palette and the revamped CSS editor.

A couple of other enhancements in GoLive 6.0 are direct lifts from Dreamweaver. To begin with, GoLive now offers a split view that shows both layout and code simultaneously. The former markup tree palette has also been integrated into the status bar so that you can click on any of the current tags to select it.

Another handy Dreamweaver feature now available in GoLive is the syntax checker. For example, I was able to target a page for a particular browser version or a particular document type definition such as "HTML 4 Strict" and then set the highlighting palette to flag any violations.

GoLive 6.0 can also create sites for wireless devices because it supports such wireless-friendly Web technology as Wireless Markup Language, Extensible Markup Language and Compact HTML.

When building on these standards, GoLive's context-sensitive menus and toolbars only let you access the relevant tags. A built-in emulator allows you to preview how pages will actually appear, for example, on a wireless phone screen. In addition to the wireless world, Version 6.0 also allowed me to create generic XML pages from scratch and reuse XML pages imported from Adobe InDesign.

Dynamic Content and Workgroups

In the past, GoLive lagged in the area of dynamic publishing, in which server software is used to generate customized Web pages on the fly. But in Version 6.0, GoLive offers stronger dynamic publishing tools than Dreamweaver does.

Dreamweaver users have to upgrade to the UltraDev version of the program to get these tools, but with GoLive, dynamic publishing is integrated and now includes support for Java Server Pages and PHP Hypertext Preprocessor scripts in addition to existing Active Server Pages.

Adobe also recognized that building a Web site is not a solo effort, so GoLive now includes Web Workgroup Server (WWS), which is a server-based, centralized asset-management tool.

WWS manages files being checked in and out, so one developer cannot modify a file someone else is working on. It also provides side-by-side comparison of different versions of the files in the GoLive authoring environment and watches revisions and comments for a document each time the document is checked out.

In case of a disaster, an administrator can always roll the page or site back to a previous version. Another great feature borrowed from Dreamweaver is the ability to create templates and mark regions as editable or not. For example, I created a template in which the layout, graphics and navigation elements are locked for the person adding text in the unlocked portion of the page.

During my testing of GoLive, I didn't really find anything that made me dislike the product. I think it's an excellent Web design and publishing tool for small to large businesses, especially those that have already invested in Adobe products.

However, hard-core code junkies will probably continue to turn to Dreamweaver, which focuses on features for building complex, dynamic Web applications.

Kvitka is a principal of a small business information technology and Web development company. He has been writing for various computer and technical publications for more than 14 years. He can be reached at andre@digitalrig.com.

REPORT CARD

GoLive 6.0

Grade: A-

Adobe Systems Inc.
(800) 833-6687
www.adobe.com

GoLive is available for $399 or with Live Motion pack for $449. Government pricing is available through authorized resellers.

GoLive is a powerful Web design tool for individuals and workgroups alike. Version 6.0 is easy to use and will certainly give Macromedia Inc.'s Dreamweaver a run for its money. The software is available for use on multiple Microsoft Corp. Windows platforms, including 95, 98, NT, 2000 and XP; and for Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh OS 9.1 and higher.

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