Flexible text editor still takes too much memory

Flexible text editor still takes too much memory

New HomeSite 4.5 has more power than its appearance suggests but lacks functional improvements

By Steve Graves

Special to GCN

I started using HomeSite for Web text editing back in 1996. The lean, elegant editor created by cartoonist Nick Bradbury has gone through three releases after acquisition by Allaire Corp. without losing its simplicity.

I used to like HotDog Pro from Sausage Software Ltd. of Australia, but HotDog succumbed to feature creep. In contrast, the new HomeSite 4.5 looks as slim and lean as its 1996 predecessor. Its T-shaped tool bars and Windows Explorer-like resource pane have made it a favorite among code warriors, who disdain what-you-see-is-what-you-get page designers.

HomeSite 4.5's flexible toolbars can be hidden, or everything can stay out front, depending on the user's work style.

HomeSite has much more power than its modest appearance suggests. You can hide, rearrange or float most of the tool bars. If you want everything out front, you can set up one-click access to almost any function. Conversely, full-screen mode with most toolbars disabled can reduce clutter.

You can edit the buttons on the toolbars, adding or deleting commands, and making new tool collections to launch outside programs. If you write scripts, you can make custom tools to insert entire lines of code at a click.

Browsers galore

Web developers must accommodate different browsers, Hypertext Markup Language versions and platforms, all of which interpret and display HTML code differently. Because of browser incompatibilities, new and experienced coders alike will appreciate HomeSite's abundant HTML help, including browser-specific tag and attribute information.

You can customize the help folder by stashing documents, references, procedures or tutorials. Custom help files are functionally indistinguishable from those included with the package and can be shared with other developers.

Why pay relatively big bucks for a text editor when you can write HTML with Windows' Notepad or almost any word processor? The reason is better productivity.

HomeSite puts the webmaster's most needed resources in one place, gives the designer up-to-date technical information, minimizes typing, and enables source code sharing and control.

There are several ways to accomplish a given task. For example, Tag Insight displays a list of HTML tags and their attributes as you begin typing a tag. You pick and click to insert it. Tag Completion automatically completes a tag as you type. Tag Inspector displays a property sheet detailing attributes. Tag Tree displays the tag structure to ease page navigation. A Tag Definitions Library helps in tag editing and setting up tag collections.

You can create a link from selected text by dragging and dropping from the resource pane to a document. New in Version 4.5 are collapsible text and tags that minimize clutter. Collapsed text can still be read via tool tips.

Some code purists were horrified when Allaire put a WYSIWYG option in HomeSite 4.0 and told power users how to remove it in the release notes.

WYSIWYG editors have a deserved reputation for generating bulky code. But HomeSite's Design View is so crude that it does little more than fast content edits or simple page prototypes. Any code modification it imposes seems restricted to white space and indents.

You can still call up a favorite WYSIWYG editor. HomeSite is optimized to work with Dreamweaver from Macromedia Inc. of San Francisco but will work with virtually any editor.

If you want to preserve every byte of code, Code Sweeper can automatically change your HTML to conform to custom conventions'useful when multiple designers work on mixed platforms. For example, you could impose tag case consistency if you design under Microsoft Windows but dish out documents from a Unix server.

The Style Editor's property sheet has been dropped in favor of an integrated version of TopStyle, Nick Bradbury's latest product. It has a complete interface for designing, previewing and applying cascading style sheets. Note that all third-party programs included with HomeSite are evaluation versions that cost extra for the full versions.

HomeSite still supports version-control products such as Merant PVCS from Merant, formerly Micro Focus Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif.; Versions from StarBase Corp. of Irvine, Calif.; and Microsoft Visual SourceSafe.

Box Score ''''''''''''''

HomeSite 4.5

Web text editor

Allaire Corp.; Cambridge, Mass.;

tel. 888-939-2545


Price: $89

+ Flexible for novices or experts

+ Improved project management tools

' Still a memory hog and pricey for its class

Real-life requirements:

Windows 9x or NT 4.0, Pentium processor, 64M of RAM or more for editing large files, 15M of free storage, CD-ROM drive

HomeSite finally has a coherent project management system. Both virtual and physical folders can coexist in projects, and physical folders update automatically when a file is added. New script-driven project deployment lets webmasters automate posting if they know Visual Basic Script or JavaScript.

Quality control tools such as spell-checking, HTML validation and link checks work together as a project to check multiple documents or an entire site.

HomeSite also can help you write JavaScript, Active Server Pages, Perl scripts, Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language and Dynamic HTML, all uniquely color-coded. Code snippets let you build and share reusable libraries.

Most of the features a programmer wants in a text editor are present: line numbering, word wrap options, plain text file formats and indentation control. There is an extended search and replace function using regular expressions, known as regex. It can overhaul a Web site in seconds'or destroy one. It should be installed in a little red box with a glass cover and a hammer.

Express yourself

A new function builder joins the expression builder. The JavaScript wizard outputs code faster than is possible by hand while permitting as much tweaking as you like.

Resource mapping is not intuitive, but at least the mappings no longer disappear as they did in HomeSite 4.1.

One irksome flaw: Selected text loses 'stickiness' between views. If you select an object at the page bottom in design view and then switch to edit view, the cursor defaults to the top. You must scroll down to find the object.

Memory is still a problem, too. HomeSite chokes on the same log files that I can easily load and edit in Windows Textpad.

Don't expect telephone support unless you pay Allaire serious bucks. Bundled support is limited to online options unless you encounter an undocumented bug.

I hope Allaire continues to focus on ergonomic and performance issues rather than function enhancements.

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