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By Paul D. Warner

Establishment of Web pages is the current rage. The demand for Web site development has grown with the increased importance of the Internet. Web pages can be developed by writing the hypertext markup language (HTML) or using a web authoring program that generates the HTML. Any text editor (word processor) or browser can be used to develop an HTML file. Some word processor programs give you the option of saving the file in an HTML format (e.g., Word 97). The use of a word processor program or browser requires an understanding of HTML. Web authoring programs provide a much easier way to generate HTML, and not all of them require some understanding of HTML coding.

Many packages exist. I decided to review two of the more popular--FrontPage 98 (Microsoft) and HotMetal Pro 4 (SoftQuad). FrontPage 98 is in beta and may be released by the time you read this. It will replace FrontPage 97.

I did not review any browsers, since they are designed to retrieve, display, and read files. Browsers do this by providing screen formatting, generating graphical forms, issuing mail messages, etc. Web authoring tools are designed to create and edit web pages, and typically provide the ability to--

* create entire Web sites

* link to databases

* hotlink to other Web sites

* manage and administer sites.

In addition to a Web page editor, the current generation of advanced Web authoring tools includes related programs designed to enhance the editor's capabilities.

FrontPage 98

I had planned on reviewing FrontPage 97. However, shortly after I started, Microsoft e-mailed me a message that the beta version of FrontPage 98 was available. As a rule, I avoid reviewing beta versions because production versions frequently do not include everything the beta has. Windows 95 is a good example. Please note, I did not test all of the capabilities claimed to exist in the FrontPage 98 beta.

Microsoft's FrontPage 98 system includes--

* Front Page Editor, which provides
two views of Web pages: normal
HTML--used to edit HTML code directly

* FrontPage Explorer--a graphical Website manager that manages content and site structure of the Web

* GIF Animator--used to create and manipulate animated graphics

* Image Composer--used to arrange, customize, and create images and shapes.

The first thing you notice when you open FrontPage is that you are not in Front Page Editor, but in FrontPage Explorer, the program that administers web sites. To get to Front Page Editor, you have to select it in the Tools menu. The same menu provides access to Image Composer 1.5, which provides the capabilities to edit and manipulate graphics and is not a beta.

FrontPage Editor provides the following toolbars that can be selected from the views menu:

* Standard--contains Microsoft's standard

set of pull-down menus (File, Edit, etc.) plus Tables and Frames and a set of corresponding icons.

* Format--contains Microsoft's standard

set of pull-down menus for style sheets, fonts, etc.

* Image--contains various shaped icons

(e.g., arrows).

* Forms--contains icons for the

insertion of text boxes, radio buttons, etc.

* Advanced--contains icons for the

insertion of--

* unedited HTML (edited HTML is

produced when FrontPage is entered
in the HTML mode)

* ActiveX

* Java applets

* plug-ins

* script

* tables--contains icons for table


FrontPage comes with a number of preformatted Web pages and frames. The selection menu contains a preview screen. The package also includes Java applets and ActiveX controls.

Web pages can be easily generated by using the various menu options, and the preformatted pages and frames. The HTML is automatically validated unless it is generated by using the HTML icon on the Advanced toolbar. The Insert, Format, Tables, and Frame drop-down menus contain a wealth of options designed to ease Web page development. For example, The Insert drop-down menu has a submenu option for Active Elements (Hover, Banners, even a Hit Counter) and Form Field (scrolling text boxes, radio buttons, drop-down menus). The Format menu provides for themes, controlling page transitions (fade-in, fade-out), and background colors. The Table menu contains an extensive array of tabling handling and editing options.

FrontPage Explorer is Microsoft's Web page management tool for controlling Web sites. It provides a number of ways to view a Web site including--

* navigation view--shows navigational structure of the Web site

* hyperlinks view--a graphical representation of the site

* hyperlinks status view--a graphical representation of all hyperlinks, both internal and external.

In addition, FrontPage Explorer can verify and update hyperlinks.

Image Composer provides FrontPage with graphics manipulation capabilities. It works with a graphics object known as a sprite. Microsoft claims the sprites are easier to work with than traditional images. Sprites are supposed to be easier to arrange together, move size, and transform than typical rectangular images. I did not test Image Composer's capabilities.

HotMetal Pro 4

HotMetal Pro 4 includes--

* HotMetal Editor--the authoring environment that provides alternative views

* WYSIWYG--designed for the novice; requires some knowledge of HTML

* Tags On--designed for the intermediate user; shows structure of HTML together with WYSIWYG

* HTML--used to edit HTML code

* Information Manager--for managing Web sites and links

* Ulead PhotoImpact SE--provides for scanning, editing, enhancing, and adding special effects to images. Also provides for cataloging, managing, browsing, converting, and file retrieval.

* Ulead PhotoImpact GIF Animator
used to create and manipulate animated graphics.

HotMetal Editor. You can open the HotMetal Editor directly from a Windows Programs Menu. The Editor provides the following toolbars that can be selected from the views menu:

* Standard--contains a standard set of pull-down menus (File, Edit, etc.) plus Tables and Frames, and an extensive set of icons for functions such as--

* Web page validation

* image insertion

* links

* Formatting--contains a standard set of

pull-down menus for style sheets, fonts, plus Microsoft's standard set of appearance icons

* Advanced--provides icons for the insertion of ActiveX controls, Java applets, plus an icon to activate the Database Import Wizard

* Tables--a complete set of icons for inserting and controlling tables

* Quick Tools--a set of icons for inserting various HTML elements

* Forms--contains icons for the creation

and insertion of form elements, such as text boxes and buttons

* Macros--contains icons to record and

play macros

* Browsers--used to preview the Web pages in a browser

* Image mapping--used to create and edit image maps (i.e., 'hot' area of
different shapes and colors).

Of the three alternative views, the Tags On view is the one I liked best. Instead of showing the tags, etc. imbedded in raw text, it shows them on a formatted document, The tags are set off in boxes that clearly indicate what they relate to.

The Quick Tools menu includes many of the HTML rules in icon form. For example, if you want the H1 heading, clicking on the H1 icon places it in the document. You need only enter the required data.

HotMetal Pro automatically checks the HTML rules to ensure the required structure has not been broken. In addition, HotMetal Pro validates the rules whenever you open or save a document.

Information Manager is used to visualize and manage Web sites and their links. Step-by-step Web site creation is achieved by using Site Maker.

PhotoImpact SE (developed by Ulead) provides HotMetal with its image manipulation capabilities. It also provides for--

* scanning, editing, enhancing, andadding special effects to images

* cataloging, managing, converting, and retrieving files

* animating GIF files

* creating background images.

Other Items. Unlike the FrontPage program group that contains one item, FrontPage, the HotMetal program group contains more than a dozen items. In addition to HotMetal Editor, Information Manager, and PhotoImpact, the HotMetal package consists of a number of programs

* Aimtech Jamba--a Java authoring tool for nonprogrammers

* DTL Dataspot--a programming-free tool that provides for the publishing of
databases for Web browser use

* HotMetal FX Chooser--used to drag

and drop images, buttons, rules, backgrounds, applets, scripts, and Dynamic HTML into the Web documents (Microsoft's Internet Explorer is the best browser for Dynamic HTMLs)

* Site Maker--creates personalized Web sites with a consistent look and feel

* VReam VRCreator--a program to create 3D animations.

Version 4 includes a Power Toolkit that allows adding Java applets, GIF files, and virtual reality model objects, to HTML pages.

HotMetal included something
that has become a rare sight
today--a nice, big fat manual with an extensive tutorial built into it. The
tutorial is worth the price of the package.

The tutorial takes you through the

* Creating the initial page

* Inserting links (e.g., URLs, e-mail)

* Text manipulation (if you know a

word processor, you know this one)

* Image manipulation

* Table handling

* File conversion

* Designing forms

* Creating multiframe pages.

Each tutorial section includes the related technical reference materials.


The table shows a comparison of the two programs, FrontPage and HotMetal, which have very similar capabilities. There are differences between them, differences that affect how you react to the

FrontPage 98 has an impressive set of features. Its wizards and templates provide first-time users with the ability to produce an outstanding Web site without having to expend a great amount of time.

HotMetal has a "feel" that makes it exceedingly easy to use. The nine menu bars provide almost all of the HTML tags required to generate frames, tables, and forms. For example, you simply select table attributes (e.g., background color), and specify the number of columns and rows required--just the way you would in Word. The only other attributes required are the alignment, width, cell padding, and spacing desired.

HotMetal is one of the most capable Web page packages. It is really designed for the more experienced HTML user. Its extensive menus provide unsurpassed editing functionality and its Tag On view is a pleasure to work with. It also comes with a priceless ingredient, a 500+ page manual. (Frankly, I find online help to
be more of a nuisance than a help).
Its site management capabilities are
not as good as those provided for in FrontPage.

Paul D. Warner, PhD, CPA, is
technology editor of
Journal and a professor and chair
of the accounting and business law department at Hofstra University.

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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