Agency Web developers can turn to software for quality control
- By Steve Graves
- Mar 17, 1997
Any Internet surfer can use it to download and view Web pages offline, but WebAnalyzer
Version 2.0 probably is most useful for finding broken links in Hypertext Markup Language
documents. A government site can contain hundreds of hyperlinks, and broken links are a
definite user turnoff.
I upgraded without problems to Version 2.0 from an earlier version. The documentation
was sparse, but so is the product. I'm not criticizing-simplicity is a virtue as long as
the software performs its core functions well. WebAnalyzer does.
I ran into a problem immediately after installation, trying to open old WebAnalyzer 1.1
project files. The software promptly crashed after alerting me to a stack fault in module
analyzer.exe. And it lost all the data I had collected during another analysis.
Creating and saving new projects went better. Unlike InContext Systems' Spider product,
WebAnalyzer was fairly intuitive. To analyze a site, you enter the uniform resource
locator for the starting page and set the number of link levels to examine. WebAnalyzer
can generate automatic reports with statistical breakdowns of site components.
You aren't restricted to analyzing or viewing sites from the top-level document. The
starting page might be on a remote file server, the current page in your browser or a
local file on your hard drive. If the target has documents on several servers, WebAnalyzer
can cover those servers in the analysis.
InContext Systems uses the term node to refer to Web objects that are hyperlink
targets. Nodes might be video, audio, application, File Transfer Protocol, gopher or
document files. WebAnalyzer even classifies mail-to items and unknown items as nodes.
During analysis, WebAnalyzer scans entire sites and displays their nodes, node
contents, working hyperlinks and broken links. You can customize it to fetch or exclude
specific nodes, such as images or sound files.
The results appear in three viewer panes. The WaveFront view at the top right of the
screen shows the Web structure in concentric circles, centered around the index page. The
Node List view at the lower right presents a comprehensive list including details such as
type and number of in and out links.
The pane at the left contains three views controlled by tabs. The URL Tree view
displays Web hierarchy in tree fashion, the Site Map view displays the site's
organizational structure, and the Link view graphically displays the links to and from a
I consider this an outstanding tool for quality control. After analyzing a site, you
can generate 11 detailed reports that pinpoint just the information you need.
The Index report lists HTML pages and the level on which they appear. The Page Summary
itemizes failed and working links and embedded files. The Web Site Statistics report tells
the percentage of working vs. failed links, untested links and embedded file types.
Other reports analyze external links, failed links and untested links. You also can
produce reports on Mailto, FTP, gopher and images.
WebAnalyzer can copy partial or entire Web sites to your local drive, with HTML pages,
images, audio and video files filtered in or out. It renames captured files, making it a
true site-mirroring tool.
It works with most browsers and HTML editors that open Web pages from a command line.
Click on a broken link to load your preferred editor and make repairs.
I successfully opened documents from WebAnalyzer into Microsoft's FrontPage HTML
editor. Sausage Software Ltd.'s HotDog Pro and Ken Nesbitt's Homesite editors could open
but not load the documents. These limitations are in the editors, not in WebAnalyzer, and
they don't appear if you're analyzing a Web site on your local drive or a LAN.
Double-click on a node, and WebAnalyzer launches your browser and loads the page. You
can open multiple views of a single site or view several sites at once, just like opening
multiple documents in a word processor.
A site designer could use this feature to view a site with and without specific
objects. For example, you could set one site to view all nodes, and then open a second
view with filters to show document nodes only. It would be easy to compare the designs by
switching back and forth between the windows.
WebAnalyzer does what it's designed to do exceedingly well. Although the menus could be
better organized, the online help is much improved over previous versions.
My biggest gripe is the customer support system, an interminable series of recorded
messages. The final message presents a long list of demands for information and asks that
you send requests by e-mail.
I had no response from InContext 24 hours after I sent e-mail about the legacy
WebAnalyzer files crashing the new version. Although InContext's people seem helpful and
friendly, the automated help system conveyed the message, "Don't bother us with your
Utilities similar to WebAnalyzer are part of some Web servers and high-end Web site
management packages. However, many webmasters consider these high-end packages too
inflexible and expensive. They prefer to work with a collection of trusted standalone
tools. If you work this way, WebAnalyzer might become your most prized utility.
The bug with legacy file handling won't affect you unless you have WebAnalyzer 1.x
project files. And WebAnalyzer is simple and stable enough that most users will never call
the help line.