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Keywords:Web development IDE, HTML editor

Title: Macromedia HomeSite

Publisher: Macromedia

Media: CD, Download

Platform: Windows

Verdict: Good all-round development tool

Macromedia's HomeSite 5 is one of the better known of the web authoring suites currently on the market. Like Microsoft's FrontPage, it is much more than a simple HTML editor, and includes design tools, support for various types of scripting (including VBScript as well as the more familiar JavaScript), database functionality such as ActiveServer Pages (ASP) and some web site management tools.

Installation proceeds remarkably smoothly, and as well as installing itself it optionally includes a copy of TopStyle Lite, a style sheet editor from Bradbury Software. Once installed, opening HomeSite reveals a busy but well-designed development environment. The main design window has three tabbed views: Edit, Browse and Design.

The Edit window displays the HTML for a given page, with colour coded tags, attributes and text to make navigation of the code more straightforward than it would be in a simple text editor like Notepad. Adding new code is even more straightforward than viewing existing code. Tags can be added via the Tag Chooser dialog, from a toolbar or simply by typing them in. Enter an opening tag, such as <b>, and HomeSite will auto-complete the closing <b>.

Tags can be applied to existing text simply by highlighting and selecting the tag or keyboard shortcut (such as Ctrl-I for italics, Ctrl-B for text etc).

An alternative to using Edit mode to build a page is to use the Design view. Here a page can be designed interactively, and any changes made are reflected automatically in the underlying HTML. In practice Design mode is very similar to the Normal view in FrontPage, though it has to be said that when it comes to the creation and resizing of cells within tables FrontPage is more flexible than HomeSite.

Finally, Browse view displays your page as it would appear in a web browser. Like FrontPage's Preview mode, Browse is strictly a read-only view of your page.

In addition to the ease with which individual pages can be created, HomeSite scores strongly on its support for 'projects'. At its simplest a project can be an entire web site or part of a site. Setting up a site as a project means that things such as a global search and replace can be performed on all pages in a project, deployment scripts can be created to upload your site to a network, RDS or FTP directory etc.

Obviously there are many more features included in the product than I can do justice to in such a brief review. The ease with which code snippets can be set up and reused, the way that page templates can be created and the programmer-style indenting of code all deserve a mention. The most obvious competitor to HomeSite is Microsoft's FrontPage. Having used FP for a long time the change over to HomeSite 5 has been less than traumatic. There are one or two places where HomeSite loses out to FrontPage, but on the whole HomeSite feels like the better product.

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