By: Paul Rundle
Homesite 4 is the latest version of the professional HTML editor from Allaire, perhaps more famously known for its Cold Fusion Application Server. It is aimed at professional hand-coders and is simply a faster and easier way to make web sites from the bare code. Version 4 has more features than ever and is the perfect solution for working with hand-coded sites. It speeds up the design and maintenance significantly by giving you everything you need to design and manage large sites in one program.
In my opinion Homesite 4 is by far the best piece of software for hand-coding, simply because of all the features it has to speed up your work. Homesite has totally integrated toolbars rather than the floating style of Dreamweaver. These toolbars allow to you access Homesites features and insert tags into your work quickly. There are tabs on the toolbar for common tags such as paragraph, font tags, tables, frames, lists, forms, script, CFML (Cold Fusion Markup Language) and ASP. Another helpful feature is the HTML checker which runs all the time and warns you when something goes wrong. It is not an irritating feature - you simply get a little warning sound and the status bar goes red with a description of what has gone wrong.
Above: A view of Homesite's main user interface
Easily the most useful features are the WYSIWYG layout tab and the Browse tab which take the place of the main code section. Allaire are quick to point out that this does not mean they are jumping on the WYSIWYG bandwagon and that the Layout tab is just for faster working when youíre doing something easy, although it does mess up your code structure a bit. I found the Browse tab useful because it saves you running a browser to check the pages while you work - but it does require Internet Explorer 4.
Homesite comes with a superb collection of help files on each tag, easily better overall than anything else on the Internet (except irt.org of course!) and with particular emphasis on cross-browser compatibility. It can be searched and is great if you forget about something or want to know more about a tag. It is fully updated for HTML 4.0, as is the code checker. Homesite has a very strange way of handling projects; it looks as if it has been an afterthought and really does not work well at all. You can add all files in a folder to a project or select files from anywhere on your hard drive, but when you delete files from disk it does not update the list. This is very irritating and in the end I just stopped using the feature. Most people will store all files for a particular site in a unique folder, and you can just set Homesite to go to this directory.
Homesite has its own FTP feature but you need to have your files in a project to use it and it hides everything from you. It uploads only the updated files for you, to save time, but you canít do anything advanced like chmod for CGI scripts. I found this feature useless because I didnít use projects, so I turned to trusty old Cute FTP for uploading.
Homesite is packed with other features which really help you work faster. It has a spellchecker which puts a wavy red line under mis-spelled words and an extended find and replace which is excellent. You can replace text in HTML files in any folder and its sub-directories easily, and you can specify which file extensions should be replaced. There is a colour palette for inserting the RGB codes into your file (with around 400 colours) and a character map for inserting copyright symbols and the like. A link checker maintains links pages very well, and the Document Weight function checks how large the total of the file and images will be and converts it into 14kbps, 28kbps and 56kbps download times. I found the Document Weight missed out files included only in scripts, such as scripts for rollovers where it only recorded the normal image file and not the onMouseOver file. This was also a problem with the earlier version of Homesite, and one which still has not been rectified.
Homesite 4 adds an extension to the right click pop-up menu so if you right-click a file with an .htm or .html extension you can open it in Homesite straight away. Multiple files are handled very well, you can work on many files at the same time and move between them with tabs along the bottom: great for copying and pasting code throughout sites. Installed browsers are detected and there is a quick button to select which browser to use and open the file you are working with in that browser.
Images and other elements such as applets can be dragged from the file sidebar and inserted into the document. Homesite adds height and width attributes to the tag and sets the relative path based on the folder you are working in. This is a great improvement over version 3 which inserted the path on your hard drive and would not work online. Stylesheets can also be dragged and edited with the brilliant style editor. Like almost everything in Homesite, it saves you a lot of time and does not compromise your code.
Above: Homesite's style editor saves a lot of time and produces perfect code
Finally, the validation checker scans pages and checks them against Netscape 3 and 4 and MSIE 3 and 4, as well as other standards such as those set by the W3C.
This really is the best tool for people who will not even consider losing any of that hand coded accuracy. Notepad does hand coding and it's free; the difference is that if you are a web designer time is money. This will save you a lot of time and therefore should make you more money!
Homesite is unchallenged in this particular field of web site design and if you try it you will easily see why. Homesite 3 is bundled with Dreamweaver 1.2 and no doubt this latest version will be included with Dreamweaver 2, set for launch in a few months. These products make a great duo for the designer who wants accurate code as fast as possible. The only disadvantage to both of these products are their poor handing of projects; it should be easier to work with a project but as long as you keep everything in the same folder it's not so much of a problem. Homesite's FTP feature is not very good, but most people will be happy using their preferred FTP client anyway.
|There may be a little room for improvement, but this program is essential for hand-coders who want to save time but keep their accurate code.|
|If you think Homesite might be the product for you, you can purchase the full version online from Beyond.com. Just click on the icon to your left to jump to the order page, enter your details, and download it straight to your hard drive!|