Despite the proliferation of WYSIWYG Web authoring tools such as Microsoft FrontPage, Macromedia Dreamweaver, and NetObjects Fusion, seasoned Web developers still often rely on traditional HTML editors to hone their craft. Raw tag editors such as Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit and Allaire’s HomeSite provide total control over the authoring environment, which is usually a prerequisite for bringing Web-site development projects in on time and under budget.
Continuing in their WYSIWYN (what you see is what you need) tradition, Allaire has released HomeSite 4.5, an update to their popular HTML editor. This release packs in additional support for the latest Web technologies as well as productivity and site-deployment enhancements.
Migrating to version 4.5 is easy. The Initial Configuration wizard guides you through the process of transferring your personal settings (toolbars, snippets, keyboard shortcuts, and editor customizations) from HomeSite 4.0 to HomeSite 4.5. The latest version installs separately from 4.0, allowing you to test-drive the latest release without making a full-time commitment. However, to run both versions simultaneously you’ll need to make a minor modification to your Windows Registry.
Speaking of Windows, you’ll need to be running Windows 95/98 or Windows NT to take advantage of HomeSite 4.5, which leaves Mac OS users out in the cold. Because the Mac is also a popular Web development platform, Allaire should consider porting HomeSite to Mac OS to make it a true cross platform development tool.
To keep up with the times, HomeSite 4.5 sports a new Cascading Style Sheets editor. The original editor in HomeSite 4.0 has been replaced with a ‘Lite’ version of Bradbury Software’s TopStyle. Although integrated into HomeSite 4.5, TopStyle Lite 1.5 is installed and runs as a separate application – and it’s a definite step up from HomeSite’s previous editor.
A glaring omission in HomeSite 4.0 was the lack of a built-in Image Map editor, requiring you to turn to a third-party application to create and edit image maps, but this has been rectified in HomeSite 4.5. However, although the new editor provided all of the typical bells and whistles, I found it to be a little rough around the edges. For example, it wasn’t always easy to make precision mappings, and the mapping tools were a bit sluggish at times.
HomeSite 4.5 augments the HTML validation and formatting tools found in Version 4.0 with support for HTML Tidy, an independent open-source HTML verifier and formatter. Documents conforming to HTML Tidy standards can also be converted from HTML to XHTML (extensible HTML) format. Outside of XHTML, HomeSite 4.5 now also allows documents to be opened, edited, and saved in XML and XSL (Extensible Style Language) format.
Through the use of user-defined shortcuts and editor customizations, HomeSite has always excelled at allowing you to tailor the program to your environment and this trend continues with the upgraded version. To ease the task of working with large documents, segments of code can be selected and collapsed into a single element in the main editing window. Split window editing is also possible, allowing you to view and edit two different sections of the same page at once. The Resource tabs and the QuickBar can now be automatically docked or hidden from view, giving you a bit more flexibility.
Typically, deploying a Web site involves copying files between a local and remote server. More often than not, this is facilitated through the use of an external FTP client. HomeSite 4.5 provides an additional option: the Local Files tab has been renamed to Files in the Resources pane, and an Allaire FTP option has been added. Once you set up your FTP resources, HomeSite 4.5 allows you to work with both local and remote files from within the editing environment. I found this to be a real time-saver.
If you plan, build, and maintain Web sites for a living, HomeSite 4.5 deserves a thorough going-over. Allaire has managed to pack additional features and enhancements into the product without increasing on-screen clutter. The new site deployment and additional editing features should have a positive impact on your development time.