Macromedia Homesite 5
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In: Reviews > Product Reviews
Published on January 3, 2002
I’m one of those guys who refuses to give up the practice of doing markup by hand, thus when I first got news of the Macromedia®-Allaire® merger I was concerned that Homesite™ 5 would be co-opted into the WYSIWYG space.
What I discovered was far from my fears, Macromedia had not only kept with the tradition that driven so many web developers to Homesite, but improved upon it in ways that a real “hand-coder” can best appreciate.
The first thing you will notice that’s different about version 5 from the moment you install it is that the UI has undergone subtle changes. For example, the now editor toolbar contains larger buttons and the icons in the QuickBar have been enhanced. You may also notice that there is no longer a Design View. This is mainly because those who use Homesite tend to do their markup by hand, and are just as happy to load their work directly into a browser.
VTML and Tag Editors
Dig a little deeper and you discover that several of the Tag Editors have different interfaces. This is mostly due to the functionality to create extensions using VTML (Visual Tool Markup Language) to extend the Homesite user interface. You can use VTML to build Tag Editors for additional tag-based languages not currently supported by Homesite.
While these new UI elements take some time to get used to, they add considerable functionality to the application as a whole.
One of the major pluses that Homesite 5 has to offer is the addition of full XHTML support. If you are working on a web site that uses HTML 4.x and you need to convert it to XHTML, Homesite makes it easy to change the DTD and the support for XHTML validation makes it just as easy to clean up your markup.
The built-in validator allows you to check for XHTML 1.0 Strict markup as Recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium. While there is no native support for validating against the XHTML Transitional and XHTML Frameset DTD’s, I am sure that the Homesite team will incorporate these features in the next release.
The built-in validator is quick to point out any slight error in your markup against the rigid guidelines of XHTML 1.0 Strict… much to my chagrin it found several errors in some of my own markup. This is the kind of thing that can save you several hours of headaches as the need for standards-compliant markup becomes more pronounced.
Secondary Files tab
At first, I must admit that the addition of a secondary file tab seemed to be rather trivial and I couldn’t really justify the need for such a feature until I started using it. I quickly realized the number of times that I would back out of one directory in the resource window to access files at a higher level in the filesystem tree. The Secondary Files tab saved me a great deal of time and energy especially when I was working on multiple sites or sub-sites that used the same templates. The only thing that I saw lacking in this feature was the ability to add additional file tabs since I made use of one file tab so quickly. Here’s to hoping that we’ll see such functionality added in subsequent releases.
How many times do you save your files as you edit them? Ok, out of all those times you save, how many times has your system crashed that one time you forgot to save your files?
It would seem that the Homesite development team heard your screams of agony and decided to include the functionality to auto-save your documents in a backup folder for you… it’s the end of hitting <Ctrl+S> every two seconds.
Full-sized browser dedicated to displaying tag help
A neat new feature that has been added to Homesite 5 is that the help documents are now displayed full screen instead tucked away in the resource window area. This functionality improved the readability of the help documents and allows for a better user experience because you can tell where you are at in the hierarchical structure of the user documentation, where in the past it wasn’t so easy to determine.
For those who are not familiar with what double-byte support means, let me simplify this for you. Homesite now has the ability to properly render extended double-byte character sets such as Japanese and Korean. So, if you are about to embark on globalization, this feature will be a blessing in disguise.
Edit files that are referenced from your code
If there ever were a feature that I would have been first in line to request for the next release of Homesite, this would have been it. I am a master-artist in the art of Server Side Includes, but it never occurred to me how difficult it is to edit a page with tons of SSI calls for someone who is not familiar with the document until I started working on someone else’s site. The Homesite development team beat me to the punch on this feature! Now all you have to do to edit a SSI file is simply right click on the include tag and chose “Edit Include File.” …It’s brilliant, simply brilliant.
FTP files to a secure server using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)
For those who have administrators who require that the transferring of all documents to be over a secured connection, you will be pleased to know that Homesite now supports full 40-bit encryption via FTP using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
In short, if you are a die-hard like me when it comes to doing your markup by hand, you will appreciate all the improvements of Homesite 5. If you are a web developer who strives for compliance with current and common markup, Homesite is the only way to go. If I had to summarize what Homesite means to the professional web developer using today’s bleeding edge technologies I would have to call Homesite 5 the web developer’s tool of choice. Is it worth the upgrade? If you care about well-formed and clean markup, you better believe it.
Macromedia® Homesite™ 5
Full version: $99
Upgrade version: $29
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Nick Finck is a 13-year veteran of the web and considered a web craftsman by trade. His skills traverse web design, web development, user research, web analysis, information architecture, and web publishing. Nick founded his first web consultancy in 1994 in Portland, Oregon, and has since created web experiences for various Fortune 50 and 500 companies including Adobe, Boeing, Blue Cross / Blue Shield, Cisco, CitiGroup, FDIC, HP, IBM, Microsoft, PBS, Peet’s Coffee, and others. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington and is a co-founder of Blue Flavor, a web strategy company that focuses on people-centric solutions. More information about Nick can be found on his web site, NickFinck.com.