One of my colleagues sent me a link the other day to Web Site Grader, and asked me to check it out. I popped on over to the site and entered a few URLs to sites that I work on. I was pleasantly surprised to see how in-depth and accurate the analysis provided appears to be.
The utility is an SEO analyzer that rates your site in comparison to all of the other sites that have been analyzed using the tool. It offers quite a few interesting options, including the ability to compare your site to specific competitors, the ability to grade your site on specific keywords, etc.
While working on one of my Web sites the other day, I had the need to install some sort of file browsing script that would allow the user to choose a particular file, then insert a link using TinyMCE.
I realize that MCEFileManager is available, but it is commercial software, and I was really looking for something free.
I happened across a script called fileNice. It’s a pretty nice file browser and is extremely simple to use. There are quite a few things I probably would have done differently had I written the script, but it works pretty well, and it took me about five minutes to install and configure rather than five weeks (or months) writing my own full-featured file browser.
The new version of WordPress has been released. It’s the 2.5 version and I just upgraded HTMLCenter. As a reader you should see the same experience as always. The backend admin has been completely overhauled and so far, it is damn smooth. Things are in some different places but it takes advantage of a variety of newer technologies and the posting tool is sweet. I am very impressed. There are tons of new features, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg has an overview of all of the features.
Here are some other good reviews of WordPress 2.5:
With the latest version of Dreamweaver, Macromedia has not only done away with the incremental, version-numbering system, but it has also taken the application in a new direction. The previous versions of Dreamweaver were already industry standards, well-respected for both their powerful web design functions and maintenance capabilities. Dreamweaver MX however, pushes the envelope well beyond HTML and takes the program into the realm of advanced development for web applications, an area previously reserved for professionals and techies with software like Macromedia’s own UltraDev, a technically enhanced version of Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver MX now incorporates a lot of UltraDev’s functionality, as well as some of the code editing features found in HomeSite, another Macromedia app. Perhaps one of the Help Menus within Using Dreamweaver MX summarizes the version upgrade best by stating simply: ‘Dreamweaver is a big application?’
Now I’m sure some of you may be wondering: ‘Has Dreamweaver gotten too big for the rest of us?’ I actually found myself asking the same question when I first read the new and somewhat intimidating specifications. Rest assured however, the application remains true to its roots and definitely within reach for designers. Only now, it encompasses a vast amount of options to keep up with the increasing demands placed on web technologies. The new version continues to make it easy to visually design web pages and the new backend features can now develop dynamic, data-driven applications. So the question you should be asking yourselves is: ‘Do I need all that extra functionality?’
The New Stuff
Dreamweaver MX has a new stage design with some familiar players in the way of reorganized tools and panels. The application offers two views for the Windows platform: an all-in-one view that includes the workspace along with all of the panels within one structure; and the old, Dreamweaver 4, floating panels look. (The Mac version only offers the latter viewing option). MX also protects customized, configuration options for multi-user environments with Windows XP and Mac OS X. I’ll work with the new, integrated look for Windows throughout this review – deemed MDI by Macromedia: Multiple Document Interface. (Please reference my Dreamweaver 4 Review for more about that version’s interface and the split-screen design view; as well as some information about the application’s evolution).
The biggest interface differences you’ll notice with the MX structure are the new Insert and Document Tool Bars along the top edge, just below the chrome Menu Bar. The Insert Bar inserts objects and works a lot like a browser, allowing you to ‘navigate’ to the other MX components through exporting options. I was impressed with the nimbleness of the tab structure, due in large part to its simplistic design.
The dockable Panels Group along the right-hand side contains everything from the Answers Panel, which is a mini-browser of sorts that offers links to Macromedia content like articles and extensions; to the O’Reilly Reference Guide in the Code Panel, which is a tremendous resource for both novice and experienced coders alike. The dockable panels option makes the workspace seem smaller initially, but a handy tab can quickly close and reopen the entire group. You can also drag each panel onto the workspace to get those nostalgic, floating panels back if you so desire.
The Properties Panel is now firmly anchored along the bottom of the screen and I found the placement to be ideal. It too is easily collapsible and the end result of the new layout means quicker access to everything, including a larger workspace when you need it.
The WYSIWYG design aspects in MX basically offer the same great features found in version 4. There are lots of new page design and template choices available and the initial prep work is done for you right out of the gate. When you create a new document in Dreamweaver, the application gives you a choice of page types, everything from basic HTML to Dynamic stuff with ASP or Coldfusion. Dreamweaver then prepares the initial code for you. The new template features also offer secure ways to give contributors the ability to make changes to web content without tampering with overall design integrity.
The CSS Panel has been updated and is easily accessible via the Properties Panel, but I found the added option a bit redundant. Incidentally, Dreamweaver MX does offer support for CSS2 constructs.
And kudos to Macromedia for seriously addressing accessibility issues. MX offers an Accessibility Compliance Checker in the Preferences Panel for reminders on everything from ALT tags to screen reader optimization. There’s no excuse now for your website not to conform to both U.S. and International Accessibility Standards.
Application Development and the Coding Arena
The ability to create and manage web-based applications is where the new version of Dreamweaver makes its mark, keeping the program on top of its game within the marketplace. Application Development is an umbrella term that has come to include a variety of technologies, but it all comes back to the raw communication of data. MX allows you to build things like user queries while actually viewing the overall structure and contents during the building process. You’ll be able to construct everything from Customer Update Forms to User Authentication communications. There is a new Applications Panel for Database and Server behaviors too. You can even drag-and-drop your applications onto the actual page in much the same way the feature works in the visual design mode.
Then there’s that mysterious and all-encompassing technology buzz-phrase known as ‘Web Services.’ Web Services essentially boil down to application services based on XML. Dreamweaver MX now gives developers the server technology options – like Macromedia ColdFusion, Microsoft ASP or ASP.NET, JavaServer Pages (JSP), or Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) – needed for the development of those applications. Obviously, Dreamweaver also provides the means for users to interact with those applications by building a web interface. And understandably, MX focuses on a very capable ColdFusion environment, but all of the above technologies are supported.
It all begins with Site Definition, and defining dynamic sites and choosing server technology is now easier than ever. The Edit Sites and SetUp Wizard features now make negotiating ISPs a snap.
The Macromedia Exchange comes in handy if you’re interested in adding things like basic e-commerce. The Exchange offers downloadable extensions like a PayPal eCommerce Toolkit or a PHP Shopping Cart feature to begin selling stuff online. Yes, you’ll even be able to turn Aunt Lois’ imitation-llama-fur lampshade business into an e-commerce tour de force! But be forewarned, as some third-party authors charge for their goods with little to no support.
The strict coding aspects of MX have also been revamped and purists will be pleased. If you’re accustomed to coding within HomeSite, you can set Dreamweaver to resemble that familiar environment (Windows only). There is also extensive coding support found within the Tag Library Editor, as well as nifty pop-up menus during the coding process. A new Snippets Panel allows you to save your hard work separately so you can ultimately recycle your code down the road.
Means to an End
With web technologies and their inextricable ties to data becoming more and more complex, there will probably come a point when Dreamweaver’s attempts to be everything to everyone will come up short. Perhaps we’re already seeing some of that corporate, contingency planning in action now with Macromedia’s introduction of Contribute – a program targeting non-technical users who need to update web content.
My advice for those of you wondering whether to spend your upgrading dollars is this: If you need the advanced application features, definitely upgrade to MX. Otherwise, a solo app upgrade from Dreamweaver 4 to MX without the rest of the Studio MX lineup – which is highly recommended as a whole – may not be worthwhile.
In short, Dreamweaver MX remains, for the most part, within technical reach for non-professionals. The new development features probably won’t factor into usability problems because most designers won’t use the added horsepower anyway. It’s almost like having a great sports car for everyday use: you know the power is there if you need it. On the other hand, developers will love the integrated features and the ability to ultimately work with designers in one, large environment. After all, Dreamweaver is a big application.
Windows 98 / NT / 2000 / Me / XP – Macintosh
Includes solid, web development features and an enhanced coding environment. Unprecedented compatibility between the other Studio MX components.
You’ll need the rest of Studio MX to jump back and forth between applications and take full advantage of Dreamweaver.
If you have Dreamweaver 4 and find yourself in need of development functionality, get MX. Otherwise, a solo Dreamweaver 4 to MX upgrade may not be worthwhile. However, if you’re looking for an all-encompassing solution, Studio MX is the only real choice
A lot of people decide to buy FrontPage when they decide to start authoring websites, because they see it advertised everywhere. Whether on TV, in magazines, and the Internet, HTML editors are everywhere. Although there are good WYSIWYG editors, I still advise learning HTML and using Notepad to create and edit pure source code. Most people feel editing your site in a text editor will provide for a better and faster loading site. Of course typing source code in Notepad basically offers nothing else than plain text editing.
There are many programs that offer more functionality than Notepad while still being considered pure text editors. UltraEdit 32 is a so-called Notepad replacement, because it offers the same basic functions and then adds new functionality. What I like a lot is that I started the application as fast as Notepad.
Ultra Edit has a very user-friendly interface. It offers a tree structure on the left, which shows you all files that are open at the moment or you can browse disks, CD’s or harddrives to open a file. The menu on the top gives you access to important actions, such as copy, paste, cut, find and replace, or open the current file in the standard browser (I like that feature a lot when I work on a website and want to know what it looks like.) There is also a lot more if you dive into the menu structure. There is an advanced macro option, a spellchecker, which supports English and additional languages (spellchecker for other languages can be downloaded from the official website.), a hex converter, and several ways to format your document.
UltraEdit contains a HEX editor, programming editor, and a plain text editor all combined in one. Its toolbar is intuitive, probably because it’s not cluttered. Most features are accessible from the menu options instead of the buttons. It has a powerful Find and Replace function, allowing you to make changes to multiple documents and directories. Also, UltraEdit supports multiple files, so you don’t have to keep loading up files one at a time. Its Undo function is perfect, allowing to Undo things that you messed up very far back in the document. However, probably one of the most useful features in UltraEdit is its color tags. All text is black, tags are bright blue, and attributes are red, while comments are light blue. This helps to keep track of things in long HTML documents. I thought that UltraEdit was a very useful program, so useful, that well, I’m using it!
In the past few months we’ve all seen the rise of WYSIWYG editors, allowing everyone and anyone to create a web page in a fast, efficient manner. However, there are those among us, myself included, that would much rather edit the HTML source directly. Many of the new editors like Evrsoft’s FirstPage and Allaire’s Homesite that are designed to be pure-HTML editors have proofing tools built-in, and while I personally don’t celebrate Notepad, I know a large number of you out there that do.
While the custom-built products out there have integrated tools to tell you when you’ve spelled a tag name wrong, and when you’ve used an invalid attribute, or when you give a text value to a Boolean attribute, and some even have tools to automatically fix improperly nested tags. Notepad, and even some of the more text-based editors, lack these features. The answer, my friends, is the CSE HTML Validator from AI Internet Solutions. This amazing little package (2.4 megs is little in my book) is capable of running through an HTML file, and alerting you of invalid tags, misspelled tags, invalid attributes, missing quotation marks, missing or extra closing tags, use of extended characters in HTML, and even possible cross-browser issues!
This program was ridiculously easy to setup and get started. I soon found that the program not only serves as a validator, but also as an HTML editor that is like Notepad on steroids. It has color coding of different aspects of the document, numbered line, optional split view, a resource tab, full screen mode, and the ability to easily preview the page with an external browser. It also has the ability to place bookmarks within a document, and the option to create batch files (remember DOS?) to automate the validation process.
When I went to validate a document, the speed was incredible. In under a second, it had developed a list of errors, determined the structural layout of the document, made recommendations about tags that are depreciated in HTML 4.0, and even reminded me that our friends using text-only browsers appreciate the use of the ALT attribute for images. It also compiled a list of all links in a document, and gives you access to two independent scratch pads so that you can make notes about your document that won’t be saved as comments.
Another feature that I found useful was the structural tab that is generated during validation. This tab not only shows you what the nesting order of a document is, it also gives you quick access to the percentage of times that you forgot to close a given tag.
Among the two best features that CSE HTML Validator offers are line highlighting, and versatility of validation. Whenever you run the validator, it will automatically mark the lines that contain errors by changing the background color of the line. As for the versatility of the editor, I must say that I was amazed when I learned that this program not only checks for HTML problems, but for problems in C++, Perl, Delphi, Java, VBScript, and SQL too. Any one of these alone is worth the price tag of $49.95 in my book!
Overall, I must say that I was more than impressed; I was blown away! The speed and ease of use of this program are absolutely amazing. I challenge you, for the money, to find a better HTML validator. It will save you hours, over the course of a week, in development time, by allowing you to forget about the mundane and monotonous task of going through HTML files searching for that proverbial error that prevents the page from displaying properly.