Although much of the Web authoring software available a year ago rated as depressingly mediocre, some tools coming out now are rather good. This last month saw the release of a number of new products and updates to existing tools, and I anticipate the next few months will feature a fast and furious overturning of who's who in the Web authoring world. So, hang on to your hat and stay tuned for future updates.
W4 Adds New Features -- Miracle Software (formerly Best Enterprises) recently updated World Wide Web Weaver (W4) to version 1.1.1. Given the level of changes and improvements, I wouldn't have thought twice if Miracle had released W4 at version 1.5.
New features include improved HTML error checking, a dialog box to help with making frames (those awkward windows-within-windows currently supported only by Netscape), and help with adding fonts and colors using Netscape extensions to HTML. You can now paste in styled text from other programs and W4 automatically applies appropriate HTML tags to the text. The new release fixes a number of bugs, addresses several performance issues, and improves the Find/Replace feature. W4 looks like an increasingly good choice as a Web authoring tool, particularly if you want to learn HTML but don't see yourself as highly text oriented. (See my review of W4 1.0 in TidBITS-306.)
New HoTMetaL PRO Rule Set -- SoftQuad has released a new rules file for HoTMetaL PRO that enables HoTMetaL PRO users to take advantage of additional Netscape and Internet Explorer extensions to HTML (see my HoTMetaL PRO review in TidBITS-314).
PageMill Update -- Adobe recently updated PageMill to 1.0.1. The update fixes a number of rather technical bugs, but does not address problems with PageMill's handling of paragraphs (see my review of PageMill in TidBITS-305). The new release also introduces a bug where colors in GIF images may shift dramatically when you open them in the image editor. An Adobe representative described the problem as a "mysterious bug" that only appears on 68K machines and that tends to go away if you run your monitor at 256 colors. If you experience the bug, don't save, since the incorrect colors will be saved. Instead, try opening the graphic into the image editor again.
SiteMill Ships! SiteMill, Adobe's much-anticipated Web site management program, shipped about two weeks ago. SiteMill works much like PageMill (and includes PageMill 1.0.1), but integrates some tools that facilitate the creation and maintenance of entire Web sites. Although SiteMill's suggested retail price is $595, PageMill owners can purchase SiteMill for $299, and Adobe will currently sell you a copy for $399. I've had a chance to try SiteMill, and even with Adobe's discounts, I think it's significantly over-priced.
Although you can get by with some lesser Macs, Adobe recommends you have a 68040 or better, System 7.5, 6 MB of application RAM, and a color monitor to use SiteMill. To use SiteMill's site management tools, you must have the site on a volume that you can mount on your desktop. Once you load a site, SiteMill does three things for you:
First, it checks your entire loaded site and identifies any relative links (links to other files in the site) that don't terminate properly. SiteMill then makes it reasonably easy to fix those links. If you can't load your entire site, relative links to unloaded portions of the site appear as errors.
Second, it lists any full URLs linked to in the site, and - for each URL - it shows what pages have links going out to them. SiteMill can't tell you if such a link is broken, but if you wish to change one, you can change it just once within the list, and SiteMill will change all the appropriate HTML for you.
Third, SiteMill presents you with a Finder-like list view of your site. In that view, you can move files around (but only one at a time, and not folders that contain files) and SiteMill automatically updates the HTML as needed. You can also see an overview of the structure of your site and identify files that don't link to or from anything.
So, the good news is you can use SiteMill to update and fix links in a site, and you can do this without SiteMill otherwise altering the HTML in your documents. The bad news is that SiteMill lacks features that would justify its price. SiteMill won't be much use to people who work locally on mirrors of their Web sites and then use FTP to transfer modified files to remote Web servers. If you make changes to a site, SiteMill does little to help you track which files have changed and it does nothing to help you transfer changed files to the correct directories on a server. SiteMill can't go out and check external links to see if they are valid. My final objection is that SiteMill has a tiny interface and offers no way to enlarge it.