One way to make a Macintosh Web server perform feats of what look like magic is to employ the help of products like Maxum's NetCloak and NetForms. NetCloak enables you to serve different pages to different browsers, and to include counters as well as date and time notations. It can also perform a number of special tricks, like only showing portions of a page based on the time of day, or randomly changing a page. NetForms helps with managing forms: it can automatically create Web pages that contain messages sent in from people surfing the Web, and it can flexibly send email containing the contents of filled-in forms. For instance, when you subscribe to the TidBITS mailing list via our Web site, that form is made possible via NetForms.
Maxum was an early player in this field, and what I've reported above is hardly news, though it does explain how some Macintosh-based Web sites operate behind the scenes. What's new is a free add-on from Maxum, called TagBuilder 1.0. Realizing that a sizable number of Web authors are migrating to graphical HTML authoring tools like golive and PageMill, Maxum created TagBuilder to address the problem that people attracted to graphical HTML authoring tools won't be excited about typing lots of Maxum-specific HTML extensions (which are necessary to make NetCloak and NetForms work), especially since these HTML authoring tools typically offer pitiful automation options.
The TagBuilder window provides a simple, outline-based interface that displays tags for use with NetCloak or NetForms. Once you see a tag that you wish to use, you simply drag it into the HTML editor of your choice (assuming that you can drop text into your HTML editor). Regrettably, Maxum has yet to implement copy and paste for those editors that don't support drag & drop. TagBuilder also provides a helpful description of each tag, but NetCloak and NetForms are deep products, so users need an understanding of when they'd want to use which tags.
I'm pleased to see Maxum creating a simple product that helps people use Maxum software in conjunction with software from other companies. TagBuilder is a good example of how a company can provide useful functionality without locking users into a specific ancillary product.
TagBuilder ships with NetCloak and NetForms and will ship with Adobe PageMill 2.0. Anyone interested in playing around with demos of Maxum products or with TagBuilder can find them at the Maxum Web site.
Maxum Development -- 630/830-1113 -- 630/830-1262 (fax)