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ATPM 2.07
July 1996




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Review: Freedom from PageMill

by RD Novo,


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There was, by most accounts, a "momentous event" in the Macintosh firmament not seven months ago. The stars shook, the world held its breath, and everyone turned to watch. In late 1995, Adobe released PageMill 1.0. This was the application that would make creating web pages as easy as... well, as easy as desktop publishing. The World Wide Web was running down the rest of the bandwagons, and Adobe promised that everyone would be able to grab hold, with PageMill.

I received one of the first copies of PageMill. I was eager, I was a believer, and I booted it up with glee, which some persistent readers will recall, was the last bit of glee PageMill afforded me.

This article isn't about PageMill, so let me keep this short. In the end, the world's collective breath was let out with a sigh and a shrug. PageMill, by all professional estimations, makes a good web page starter. It's easy to get a look at what your page will look like, and that mock-up process is fast with built in image tools, and a built in previewer.

Since PageMill's much heralded start out of the gates, several other contenders have leapt to the challenge of providing the world with an easy-to-use web page designer, and one that is powerful, too.

The most recent candidate to the throne PageMill never filled is Claris Corporation's Claris Home Page. Based on the well-previewed Loma Prieta page designer, Claris Home Page looks like a winner. More importantly, it looks to be able to free us, permanently, from the chains of Adobe's PageMill.

Here's why.

I create most of my web pages in a text editor. I have learned enough of HTML, the language in which web pages are written, that I rarely need more than that. Because frankly, most web programming is very simple. You bold something by enclosing it with the <B> and </B> tags. The same is true of italics and underlines, and when you want to center something it's <CENTER> and </CENTER>. Most HTML commands are like that. Turn it on with one tag, and turn it off with another.

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Inserting graphics is a little more complicated, but once you know the tags involved, it is very straightforward. One tag to tell the browser that an Image is coming, another to tell it where to find the picture.

While having Web page design programs automate or simplify these tags is nice, it is hardly necessary.

No, where HTML editors need to shine is in what they do to simplify the complex capabilities of HTML. Working with tables and/or with frames is difficult for experienced HTML coders, and impossible for most of us. I have only just managed to get a grip on how to code tables, and frames are still way beyond me.

But not with Claris' Home Page.

With a click or two of the mouse, I can now make web pages with frames. Just like that. It took me less than thirty seconds to create the frames in a Home Page document. It would have taken me over two days to learn how to do it with my text processor. And I can't do it with PageMill. At all.

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That's the difference between being easy-to-use, and being easy-to-use and powerful. That's what the Macintosh is all about, and what Macintosh applications are all about. They need to be intuitive and yet have depth. They need to be flexible enough to provide users with room to grow. PageMill doesn't do that. Home Page, at least in this incarnation, does.

Another thing Home Page does is let you work with unadulterated HTML code, if you like. PageMill, while it claims to let you work with raw HTML, as they call it, subtly changes HTML code in its documents. Even if all you do is open a document to see what it looks like in PageMill, you'll find tags changed when you open it in another editor. Home Page doesn't do that (at least as far as I can tell).

And there's one other cool thing Home Page does. You can call up a Document Statistics window that will tell you how big your document is, and about how much time it will take to display with 14.4 modems and 28.8 modems. It is often said that web surfers won't wait much longer than thirty seconds to view a page. With Home Page, you can see about how long they'll have to wait.

A final note in this brief overview. Home Page is still in testing, and has not been released yet. This can't be a full-fledged review of Home Page until that point. Other programs, like the wonderful PageSpinner, are charging over the horizon, ready to bust our chains if Claris falls on its face. PageMill, on the other hand, has been on the market for the better part of a year, and PageMill 2.0 is in the works. Reportedly it will address some of the faults in the first edition. I reviewed PageMill 1.0 in an earlier issue, and don't care to work with it enough to do another review. PageMill 2.0 can't help but be better.

In the end it seems to me that Home Page, even in this modest first beta, beats PageMill 1.0 in ease-of-use (or at least in lack-of-confusion) and in power. That's what counts when you're trying to get your coolest efforts online.

PageMill is no longer the only way. Live free.

RD Novo is the creator of ATPM. His monthly column appears at the beginning of each issue.

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