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PageMill and SiteMill: HTML Tools for the Rest of Us

Boston MacWorld had more of a buzz than the last few major MacWorld Expos, and that buzz came in no small part from the steady hum of Internet talk, with an emphasis on HTML and the Web. (This was the first MacWorld Expo where many of the booths had T-1 connections.) I spent a few hours in the booth of my book publisher, Hayden, and watched a steady stream of people walk over to the Internet section, pick up a few books with "HTML" or "Web" in their titles, and then walk over to the cash register without even looking through the books.

In terms of HTML products, several word processors sported HTML features, including the currently shipping ClarisWorks 4.0 with its HTML export capability, the currently shipping NisusWriter 4.1 with an improved set of Sandra Silcot’s excellent HTML macros, and the soon-to-be-released WordPerfect 3.5 with its HTML features. WordPerfect 3.5 will export to HTML and has some WYSIWYG-like HTML editing features (plus table-creation and link resolution), but it’s not a complete solution except for simple HTML documents. WordPerfect takes many of the ideas in today’s crop of shareware HTML tools, cleans them up a bit, and pushes them a little further. Finally, although it’s not a sure thing, Microsoft continues to consider the possibility of releasing a Macintosh version of its Internet Assistant for Word 6.

Evolutionary add-ons to word processors get a smattering of applause, but the HTML tools I’ve been waiting for appeared at the show, in the form of two programs – PageMill and SiteMill. Developed by a new company, Ceneca Communications, the programs offer outstanding tools for making Web pages and managing Web sites.

PageMill — Simply put, PageMill is the PageMaker of the Web. Previous attempts at a WYSIWYG approach have had edges rough enough to give splinters; PageMill is polished, professional, and utterly Mac-like (not surprising given the Apple and Taligent backgrounds of the people who started Ceneca Software). PageMill users need not know any HTML whatsoever – creating Web documents in any other program is like writing Word documents in RTF, Microsoft’s human-unreadable Rich Text Format. Mac users almost never do anything in straight RTF, and they overwhelmingly rejected the idea of WordPerfect’s codes, so I expect that given an option like PageMill, many Mac users will reject the idea of using (or even knowing) HTML tags.

Working with PageMill is much like working in a simple page layout program – you can type text or use drag and drop to add text from pre-existing files. You can use drag and drop to add graphics (PICTs are automatically converted to GIFs), and a built-in graphics tool can do interlacing, transparent backgrounds, and image maps. PageMill can import existing HTML documents and correct errors in those documents. PageMill demos extremely well, and I’ll save more specific comments for when I review the program later this year.

PageMill supports HTML 2.0 (which includes forms) and some Netscape extensions (but not tables in this version). If Ceneca priced PageMill for $50 or less, I think they could sell the program to virtually every Web-savvy Macintosh user on the planet. Instead, Ceneca plans to sell the program for around $200, restricting its use to Web professionals and businesses. Although I think the price is steep, perhaps the high price will keep the number of customers to a manageable level. Ceneca’s greatest challenge may be in growing fast enough to keep up with interest in their product – PageMill was easily the most-talked-about product at the show. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the program acquired or at least marketed by a larger organization like Apple or Claris; rumor has it that Guy Kawasaki is trumpeting the importance of PageMill and SiteMill within Apple, and from what I’ve seen, PageMill is the best HTML editor available on any platform.

SiteMill — PageMill’s companion program, SiteMill, helps you manage a Web site, and each main feature happens in a different view:

  • Site View offers a hierarchical Finder-like overview of what resources are on your site, including pages, graphics, scripts, and so on. In this view, you can rename or move any item, and all links to that item will automatically change as well. The view also helps you identify errors relating to links.
  • External References View shows all external links from your site. If an external link’s URL changes, you can update all external links to that URL in one easy step.
  • Error View helps you fix up links in sites created without the help of SiteMill. You’d probably only use this view to fix up an existing site that you’ve decided to manage with SiteMill, since making errors in SiteMill itself is difficult.
  • Finally, Page View is essentially the same as the full PageMill application, so if you buy SiteMill, you need not also buy a copy of PageMill.

SiteMill also demos extremely well, and I’ll save a more detailed look for when I review SiteMill later this year. SiteMill will list for $795.

Both programs require a 3 MB memory allocation, a color-capable Macintosh, and run on any version of System 7. Ceneca plans to ship them in the "third calendar quarter" of 1995. At a later date, Ceneca also plans to release Windows and Unix versions of both products.

Ceneca Communications — 415/842-6810 — 415/842-6818 (fax)
<[email protected]>
Claris Corporation — 800/544-8554 — 408/727-9054 (support)
<[email protected]>
Nisus Software — 800/890-3030 — 619/481-1477
619/481-6154 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Novell Applications Group — 800/451-5151 — 801/225-5000
801/228-5077 (fax) — <[email protected]> (support)

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