Both Microsoft's and Netscape's Version 4.0 browsers have raised the bar for Web site designers. In order to take full advantage of these browsers' capabilities, such as Dynamic HTML, Cascading Style Sheets and other emerging standards, it's important to have the right tools for the job. Unfortunately, the latest versions of Claris Home Page and Symantec Visual Page aren't quite up to this challenge.
Both products are best suited for quickly generating static HTML pages. Moreover, they'll appeal to those who prefer not to dig into the complexities of HTML code.
Of the two reviewed, Claris Home Page 3.0 demonstrates the most improvement in a variety of areas that were woefully lacking in its previous version. Visual Page 1.1a for Windows (Version 1.1.1 on Mac OS) shows only minor changes.
Home Page now provides integration with FileMaker Pro databases, includes Web page development assistants, page and site templates, and sports improved site management and editing tools.
Visual Page's changes include a new spell- checker and capabilities to specify fonts and font groups, create borderless frames, and set site-wide page property defaults.
Claris Home Page now makes it extremely easy to begin creating sites, thanks to a new assistants feature, templates, and enhanced libraries.
Assistants work very much like Microsoft FrontPage's wizards -- although they are not as polished.
Visual Page doesn't offer the same type of functionality. However, it does include over 12,000 pieces of Web page artwork.
Home Page 3.0's FileMaker Pro integration lets you easily incorporate FileMaker Pro databases into your Web pages. A helpful Connection Assistant is included to take you through the process, step by step.
This is a nice feature that's well-suited for small workgroups within an intranet. However, if your needs require something more scalable, more secure, and less proprietary, you are better off creating Web applications that access data within Oracle or SQL Server databases.
Visual Page, when used in conjunction with Symantec's Visual Cafe for Java (Database Development Edition 2.0), lets you do just that, with data-driven Java applets that use Java Database Connectivity to connect to SQL databases.
Featuring full wysiwyg editing modes along with the ability to tweak the underlying HTML code, both products make it simple to perform basic editing.
Visual Page makes it especially easy to edit complex elements, and its unique real-time wysiwyg feature lets you see changes as you make them.
Visual Page is also unique in that it lets you view both the source HTML code and wysiwyg views simultaneously.
Like most Web authoring tools, both products let you easily add form fields, tables, and frames as well as special objects like Java applets, plug-ins, movies and scripts.
Home Page's new frames Assistant makes it easier to create frames than in Home Page 2.0, but you still cannot directly edit frame content in wysiwyg mode. Its table editing tool is much more intuitive than the previous version's.
However, neither has the advanced script-editing features included in products such as FrontPage 98, NetObjects Fusion, or HotMetal Pro 4.0.
Home Page 3.0's FTP utility is much improved over the previous version's, which was almost useless.
Visual Page includes an excellent FTP tool that provides many of the same features. However, it's not as well integrated with site management as Claris Home Page's tool.
I liked Home Page 3.0's new Site Editor. It even verifies links and anchors -- a feature still not available in Visual Page. Home Page now lets you perform search and replace operations for an entire site, whereas Visual Page is unfortunately still limited to single pages.
Problems aside, both products make it simple to create a variety of Web pages with little effort. However, for more advanced site designs, you should consider products that make use of the latest browser technologies.
The Bottom Line
Both Claris Home Page 3.0 and Symantec Visual Page 1.1 are well- suited for quickly creating basic Web pages, but neither offers tools for creating sites that take advantage of the latest emerging standardsClaris Home Page 3.0Pros: FileMaker Pro 4.0 integration; assistants and templates; verification of HTML links; improved libraries, including a large collection of samples; much improved site-management toolsCons: Cumbersome frame set creation and editing; quirky behaviour while editing table objects; limited file import and drag-and-drop capabilities; nonstandard help system; limited documentationPlatforms: Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0, Mac OS 7 and laterPrice: RRP $149, plus $10 for shipping and handlingFilemaker IncorporatedTel 1300 652 271 Fax (02) 9905 6870www.claris.comSymantec Visual Page 1.1 for WindowsPros: Spell-checker; support for fonts and font groups; borderless frames support; huge collection of sample artwork; intuitive FTP utility; downloads Web pages from a URLCons: Lacks automated page creation tools; misplaced cursor while switching between HTML and page view; limited file import capabilities; lacklustre site-management toolsPlatforms: Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0, Mac OS 7.1 or laterPrice: RRP $109SymantecTel (02) 9850 1000 Fax (02) 9850 1001cafe.symantec.com.