In the world of HTML editing tools, only the fittest will survive, and Allaire's HomeSite 4.0 is sure to stick around for a long while. HomeSite has always catered specifically to the needs of expert webmasters, but with Version 4.0 it has evolved into a slightly different animal, now offering visual Web design tools. Nevertheless, HomeSite remains a solid product.
HomeSite has traditionally been a tool for those who don't mind getting their hands dirty with raw HTML. It is very similar to HotMetal Pro, Version 5.0, although HotMetal Pro offers stronger management tools than HomeSite.
However, HomeSite now offers quite a bit in the way of visual design tools, which is useful because roughing out a page design visually is sometimes the only way to go. In its design view, you can drag and drop images from the thumbnail gallery or highlight text and alter colours and size. Then you can work with the HTML code in the text editor view. However, as I tested the tool I found it irksome that if I highlighted an element in design view and then switched to edit view, my cursor would no longer highlight that element. This forced me to hunt down the element with which I was working.
HomeSite uses a slick sub-application for building either internal or external Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). It offers a menu of common options, although CSS experts can heavily customise their specifications. The parameters for common tags, such as main body text and hyperlinks, are laid out, and the results of your efforts are effectively previewed.
Good things getting better
When it comes to HomeSite's project management, it's a case of a good thing getting better. HomeSite's authors seem to love tabbed menus, a system that works well for fitting a lot of menu options into a relatively confined space. The resource window includes a menu tab for setting up FTP and remote access, tracking local files, building projects, viewing Web site links, saving frequently reused code, and accessing the new Tag Inspector.
Highlight an HTML tag, and the Tag Inspector lets you bring up a menu of all the available tag parameters. This is handy for elements such as the BODY tag, which invariably has a bunch of parameters to spell out. It's also very useful that dynamic events, such as "onmouseover", are built into the Tag Inspector's options. If you right-click on a tag you can bring up a wizardlike palette for editing that tag. These options put tag parameters at your fingertips, and definitely ease HTML chores.
I especially appreciated some of the tweaks to HomeSite's remote FTP function, which in the past has been finicky. For example, the function is much better at resolving logins if you have not precisely entered the proper directory instructions.
HomeSite allows you to build plenty of shortcuts to ease your workload. Users can specify favourite folders, jumping to them instantly with one mouse click.
Code validation can occur automatically as you type. This is a useful feature, though I did find it rather tedious to be told repeatedly that I should use CSS instead of the FONT FACE tag. Fortunately, auto-validation can be turned off, allowing validation to occur only before uploading to the Web server. As might be expected from an Allaire product, ColdFusion controls are available. There are also controls for working with Active Server Pages, Perl, and Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language.
Allaire lets Web designers save a few bucks by foregoing the paper documentation and downloading the application from its Web site. The electronic documents are clear and easily navigable, though a tad on the thin side. But a very nice online reference to HTML is included.
Though HomeSite definitely remains geared toward those who prefer working in a pure HTML environment, the added visual design tools and its great resource management make HomeSite a winning product that offers a remarkable level of functionality at low cost.
The Bottom Line
Home Site 4.0
Although it doesn't make any tremendous leaps forward, this version of HomeSite offers lots of little tweaks that add up to a worthwhile upgrade.
Pros: Addition of visual design tools; strong project management; good tool for creating Cascading Style Sheets.
Cons: Some minor quirks in visual design; more scripting options would be welcome.
Platforms: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT.
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