First Looks

Macromedia 8: Create, Organize, and Manage Your Web Site

Macromedia Studio 8 is a suite of professional tools for creating, organizing, and managing everything that goes into a sophisticated Web site.

Macromedia Studio 8 is a suite of professional tools for creating, organizing, and managing everything that goes into a sophisticated Web site. The suite includes the highly capable Dreamweaver page editor; Flash Professional for multimedia movies; Fireworks for graphics; Contribute for maintaining content; and FlashPaper, which I'll describe later. This review concentrates mainly on Dreamweaver (see Figure 1).

p> Dreamweaver 8 outshines other WYSIWYG editors for ease of use at design time. You can build complex nested tables and attractive CSS stylesheets by switching among Dreamweaver's drag-and-drop design view, intuitive properties pages, and syntax-coloring code editor. Features such as the dual-screen workspace layout show the maturity of this software. If your Web content comes in Microsoft Word format, you'll appreciate the Paste Special options that retain the text's structure (such as paragraphs, lists, and tables) while stripping out Word's bloated markup and excess space between paragraphs.

My impression has long been that Macromedia tools are more oriented to graphic designers, making it easy for these creative non-programmers to add high-end features without writing code. For example, this release offers drag-and-drop support for XML and XSLT transformations on both the client and the server. You can put RSS content on a Web page in only a few minutes. Simply provide the feed's URL, drag the field names from the schema view of the Bindings tab, and do some formatting. You can perform XML transformations without understanding the syntax of xsl:value-of statements.

Dreamweaver's development environment recognizes ASP.NET 1.1's major server controls and data objects, but ASP.NET developers might be disappointed that Microsoft's Web platform is just another supported scenario along with JSP and PHP. Macromedia provides the best integration with its own ColdFusion MX product.

Macromedia Contribute helps you keep your Web site's content current. In the time it takes to fill out a change request, the content owner can connect to a working site, select a page, tweak the text, and publish the changes—all without being overwhelmed or bothering the developers. Yes, you can restrict changes to specific areas.

Another pleasant surprise is the FlashPaper 2 utility, which lets you "print" documents or Web pages as Flash or PDF files. You can e-mail someone a view of your work in these ubiquitous formats within seconds. For some reason, Macromedia makes you install Contribute to get FlashPaper.

Products in the Studio 8 suite are well documented for all levels of users and offered in a range of formats, including Web pages, HTML Help, PDF, and even a solid printed manual. This complete Web site package is especially well suited to creative types, non-technical users, and those who work best in graphical environments.

Studio 8
Macromedia
Web:
www.macromedia.com
Phone: 800-457-1774; 415-832-2000
Price: $999
Quick Facts: Suite of tools for creating, organizing, and managing the elements that make up Web sites.
Pros: Mature, standards-based page and graphic design tools with dozens of RAD features; excellent support for non-technical users and those who work in a GUI environment; useful utility for printing to Flash and PDF formats; professional documentation.
Cons: Design-time support of ASP.NET server controls could be richer.


Build Responsive Web Pages
by Andy Clark <>

Dart Communications' PowerWEB LiveControls for ASP.NET 1.1.3 can help you give your users a positive experience with your Web pages. Dart uses a technology called LiveCallback to support a number of highly responsive ASP.NET controls (see Figure 2).

LiveCallback improves Web page responsiveness by minimizing the volume of data that flows between a server and a client when processing a control event. LiveCallback initiates callbacks to the server on events, but it minimizes the amount of data to and from the server. Many controls repaint an entire Web page when server-side events change the appearance of the page. However, LiveControls sends small packets of data that make changes to the page's appearance without repainting it. LiveControls can update a control's values or style properties, such as font or color. Further, LiveControls can make updates to many other controls, such as Microsoft-supplied Web controls. For instance, pressing a LiveControls button can change the color properties of cells in a Microsoft calendar.

LiveControls allows you to give your Web users a much richer, more responsive UI experience. You'll be able to consider using events that you would not normally use in a Web application. Note that the responsiveness of LiveControls is still dependent upon server loads and network traffic, so take care not to become overly aggressive in using the controls, particularly in widespread Internet applications. Obviously, there will still be a noticeable lag in responsiveness if an event requires a lengthy server calculation.

PowerWEB LiveControls includes controls that function as buttons, checkboxes, data grids, listboxes, hyperlinks, images, image buttons, labels, message boxes, panels, radio buttons, textboxes, timers, and sounds. There is also a control that allows you to adapt LiveCallback to your own controls and specialized application situations.

Dart provides solid sample code and good, integrated documentation. The support staff is knowledgeable and responsive.

PowerWEB LiveControls gives you a powerful tool for improving your ASP.NET UI. You need to keep one eye on scalability, but the product offers the potential to help you give your ASP.NET users the type of rich environment that WinForms users take for granted.

PowerWEB LiveControls for ASP.NET 1.1.3
Dart Communications
Web:
www.dart.com
Phone: 315-339-8040
Price: $499
Quick Facts: Highly responsive ASP.NET versions of many common controls.
Pros: Gives users highly responsive forms.
Cons: Possibility of a noticeable lag in responsiveness if an event requires a lengthy server calculation.

About the Author

Ken Cox is a Canadian .NET programming writer and the author of "ASP.NET 3.5 for Dummies" (Wiley).

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