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HTMLbits: Taking New Software Out for a Spin

The Web has become a fad that just won't stop. And, as the Web recedes into the assumed background of how capable computer users manage and locate information, the tools for creating Web pages continue to diversify. We've reached the point where it would be almost impossible to mention every program in one article. This article makes no attempt to do so; instead it builds on my earlier multi-part article series about Web publishing software and looks at a clump of recent releases (not betas, but actual shipping software). I'm hoping to alert you to new trends in what software is available and to new releases that might be relevant to the Web publishing that you do.


Let the Good Times Roll -- First up is Myrmidon 2.0.1, by Terry Morse Software. Version 2.0 came out a few weeks ago; the 2.0.1 update appeared today and provides important bug fixes. Myrmidon, a Chooser extension, "prints" HTML files from most applications, and is a great choice for quickly turning regular documents into useful Web pages. When queried, Terry Morse noted many new features in 2.0, including optional use of tables and spacer tags for improved fidelity between the original document and the resulting Web page; more graphics conversion options (previously Myrmidon only converted bitmaps to GIFs); selectable color palettes and dithering; and the capability to render numerous Web pages from one "printed" document, complete with navigation buttons. The new version is also PowerPC native. The demo, a 450K download, offers 25 tries with which to tweak the extensive settings to see if Myrmidon is right for your project. The suggested retail price is $99; purchasing direct from the Web costs $69. Upgrades from version 1.x are free.


Just What I Needed -- A wonderful program for those looking to work directly with HTML in an environment that promotes ease and learning, the $25 shareware PageSpinner 2.0.1 (reviewed in TidBITS-384), is always worth a look, even more so now that Optima System has released a PageSpinner Extension Pack. The new pack slices and dices HTML in numerous new ways; a few examples include integration with clip2gif (a freeware graphics conversion utility) and integration with Apple's new Internet Address Detectors so selected URLs can be added to PageSpinner documents quickly. Also included are more JavaScript options and canned AppleScripts. The Extension Pack is free to registered users.


Baby You Can Drive My Car -- The next new kid on the block, the $299 Freeway 1.0 from SoftPress, takes a different approach to Web publishing, and I recommend checking it out if you need a great deal of layout flexibility and control and want to leverage desktop publishing skills learned in programs like Adobe Photoshop and QuarkXPress. (On the other hand, if you like to putter in your HTML, you'll shy away from Freeway's table-based HTML.) Freeway uses a page and pasteboard metaphor to create Web sites. Items on pages come from master pages or are inserted into special boxes, such as GIF boxes or HTML boxes. Freeway competes primarily with NetObjects Fusion, which also renders layouts in HTML via extensive table tagging. I spent hours working with Fusion for a review in TidBITS-391; having spent only a preliminary half-hour with Freeway, I already feel more comfortable with it than with Fusion. Freeway requires at least a 68040-based Mac and 5 to 9 MB RAM, depending on your processor. A 30-day demo is available as a 5 MB download.


Shake It Up -- Finally, those who wish to create cascading style sheets but don't want to type them in might check out Cascade Light from Media Design in-Progress. Cascade Light is a free, feature-reduced version of the $69 Cascade. Using a dialog box, you can match HTML tags (known as "selectors") with formats such as font size, background color, and border width. You can then save these matches as a style sheet or apply them to an existing HTML document. Cascade won't turn a novice into a style sheet wizard, but if you have already made a few style sheets by hand and have a feeling for which style sheet tricks work in which browsers, Cascade will speed up future efforts. The software still has a raw feel; interface improvements, a fancier preview, and a sprinkling of balloon help would be most welcome. (A growing number of Web publishing applications support style sheets; PageSpinner and Astrobyte's BeyondPress come to mind as examples).

<http://www.astrobyte.com/BeyondPress/Overview/ BeyondPress30.html>


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