Once upon a time (most fairy tales begin this way), people who wanted Web pages had to pay many gold coins to a Web wizard. Others, instead, chose to spend long hours studying esoteric scrolls hoping to understand the meaning of HTML symbols.
That was in ancient times, more than a year ago. Since then, Web page authoring tools, such as Corel Web.Designer, have materialised. These tools streamline the design process and eliminate the need to deal directly with HTML.
In my tests, I used Corel Web.Designer, from Corel, to create Web pages of varying complexity, that included highly formatted text and image maps. My two test machines were a clone Pentium 100 and a 166MHz IBM PC 750, both running Windows 95.
Web.Designer displays multiple personalities, all benign. Net newies will find that the utility's powerful, easy-to-use interface simplifies manipulating a page's basic text and hyperlink elements. For example, to create a hyperlink, you simply underline the text or graphic.
Intermediate to advanced Web authors will also find more than enough muscle to see them through complicated designs. But building sophisticated Web documents, replete with in-line images and Common Gateway Interface (CGI)-compliant database links, requires an advanced skill set. Page designers using Web.Designer must already possess these skills, because the manual offers little in the way of advanced HTML tips and tricks. I don't fault Corel for this lack of information, however, because it isn't positioning Web.Designer as a Web authoring tutorial.
Web.Designer's two built-in modules help reduce the tedium of HTML authoring. The first, Web.Transit (licensed from InfoAccess), facilitates porting existing Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Ami Pro, and .RTF documents to the Web. It automatically converts these documents into HTML while maintaining most, but not all, of the legacy documents' original format. Conversions occasionally produce odd-looking text, an effect that usually results from HTML's incapability to handle complicated fonts.
After converting a variety of documents, I used the massive collection of royalty-free artwork in Web.Gallery to add visual excitement to the page. Web.Gallery's 8,000 high-resolution pictures, drawings, buttons, icons, and backgrounds could dissuade even the fussiest Web author from looking elsewhere for clip art. Web.Designer also converts .BMP, .TGA, and .PCX files into the Internet-supported JPEG and .GIF formats.
Web.Designer works well as a forms builder, which allowed me to quickly insert text fields, buttons, check boxes, and other elements into CGI-based forms. If your Web site uses forms that require back-end database queries and updates, another of Corel's products, Web.Data, can provide those links.
Web.Designer comes with 122 Web page templates that you can easily customise to suit your taste. I especially liked the simplicity of changing fonts, text sizes, and colours. Web.Designer's intuitive toolbar enables you to point and click your way to an eye-catching, readable document.
Likewise, the built-in image-map editor allows you to customise images using high-resolution tool sets. You can store image files on either the client or server.
I experienced remarkably few problems using the software. However, Corel needs to streamline the somewhat awkward process of embedding images into the page.
Before inserting the image, you have to first save all your work, including previously embedded images and references. Furthermore, you must copy the image into the directory containing the HTML document or manually modify the HTML source code. Although neither of these steps is difficult, it makes the development process unnecessarily tedious. Corel plans to release an update to correct this problem and possibly to add still more improvements designed to further distance us mortals from the need to memorise such mystical symbols as b, FONT COLOR=, or HOCUS POCUS.
The Bottom Line: Good
Web.Designer is a versatile design package that simultaneously reduces tedious HTML coding and creates colourful, high-impact Web pagesPros: An abundance of tools; automatically generates HTML tags; a mammoth collection of Web page graphicsCons: Image updates require too many actions; very limited Java and HTML frame supportDistributor: Tech PacificTech PacificTel: (02) 9697 8666ÊFax: (02) 9697 8670Price: $215 inc. taxPlatforms: Windows 3.1, Windows 95, and Windows NT info: http://www.corel.com