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Namo WebEditor

Namo Webeditor 5.5

by Jim Bray

Web editors have come a long way since the days when you had to edit HTML code by hand via some kind of text editor.

Some people still prefer to create Web documents this way, since it gives them total control over the look, feel, and functionality of their site. But many more people prefer one of the many WYSIWYG Web editors out there, products such as Microsoft’s FrontPage or Macromedia’s Dreamweaver.

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) is wonderful because it lets you design and lay out your work visually, seeing how it will look (for the most part, anyway) as you create it. Even crusty old Web designers such as me, who spun his first Web back in 1995, prefer a WYSIWYG product for just that reason, though many if not most of us still like begin able to get at the HTML source code ourselves because no WYSIWYG product is perfect.

But they’re getting really good, as witnessed by the latest generations of Dreamweaver, for example. Another good example is Namo Webeditor, now in version 5.5 which, while it doesn’t offer all of Dreamweaver’s flexibility is easier to learn and to use than Dreamweaver.

Look at it this way: Dreamweaver is the “Humvee” of Web editors, designed for functionality, while WebEditor is more like a Lincoln, designed for style and comfort, yet still having lots of features and benefits.

And WebEditor is a good product that serves a legitimate market niche - chiefly, people who want to design a good Web site but who don’t have the time and/or inclination to go back to school to do it.

Namo Webeditor 5.5

WebEditor is more than just a WYSIWYG editor, of course. It also comes with pretty powerful site management tools that are also easy to use and to figure out. I never cracked the manual before using any part of this product, though I'll grant that I’m an experienced designer, but the thing is so straightforward that you can be up and running quickly.

If design isn’t your thing, you can choose from 200 or more templates displaying various themes. This is a nice way to hit the ground running, though I’d prefer it if you could easily customize a particular theme, or forget about a theme all together and come up with your own.

I set up a “high tech” look dummy TechnoFILE site - in no time at all, except for the length of time it took to import the thousands of existing pages into the new site - and while the software did a nice job of creating an attractive new Web site, I was disappointed that I couldn’t easily “mix and match” components, nav bars, functionality and the like. It isn’t completely inflexible, but it isn’t a easy to "fudge with" as I like.

Then again, Hot Metal Pro, my all time favorite WYSIWYG editor, has the same problem - and those who want to design from scratch are probably not going to look at WebEditor anyway.

Namo Webeditor 5.5

Still, the templates are attractive (remembering that beauty is in the eye of the beholder) and there’s plenty of flexibility to the document layouts you can choose - from blank pages to pages laid out with navigation bars, pictures, etc.

The editor puts just about everything you need right at hand, including easy to enter META tag boxes, and an “inspector” window gives you easy access to a number of the current page’s parameters, right down to images, tables and the like. And the toolbar and menus are well laid out and easy to figure out, as well as opening up a dizzying array of tools you can use.

The Site Manager is very well thought out and offers tabbed views of the entire site (file by file, laid out like a “flow chart tree” in the main window with an Explorer view to the left (See top picture). You can also access “reports” that will list, for example, all your HTML documents, images, style sheets or - a very handy feature - orphaned files (files that don’t link to anything).

And, of course, you can also do a site-wide link check for broken hyperlinks.

Another thing I like about Namo’s product is that, unlike FrontPage, your ISP doesn’t need to have all those “FrontPage extensions” installed so you can use all its functionality.

You can start your site using a Wizard-based approach, which is nice and easy, and there are also Wizards for such things as JavaScript effects, databases and charts. You can check Browser compatibility as well as cleaning up unnecessary HTML tags that may have crept into the work. It isn’t perfect, but I haven’t seen a perfect on yet, either.

Namo Webeditor 5.5

A nice feature is the source protection, which means the software won’t overwrite HTML source you may have crafted by hand.

For site management you also get such tools as dynamic navigation bars, which update themselves automatically when you change the structure of the Web site. This is a real time saver! And the global search and replace function lets you change text either from a page or in the source code. This latter feature is by no means unique, but it’s still nice to have.

The Resource Manager gives you a library of common elements (themes, templates, buttons, etc.) you can keep at your “mousetips”, and you can use the built in ftp client to synchronize the local and remote versions of the site easily.

To make designing even easier, Namo has thrown in everything but a virtual kitchen sink. Not only can you drag and drop text and graphics into tables (which is also quite common among such apps), you get a selection of pre-designed, editable “smart buttons” you can use for navigation bars. Themes are editable, though as mentioned above it isn’t as easy as I’d like.

You also get image creation and manipulation tools, which work well; you can create animated banners and the like as well. You can create rollover graphics with three states (Normal, Mouse over, Highlight), using the included WebCanvas app.

Some of the advanced features take a little time to learn, but you can always fall back on the documentation, which is pretty good.

So have I moved TechnoFILE over to WebEditor from our Web application of choice? Well, no. But the reason isn’t so much shortcomings with the Namo product as it is inertia. We’ll probably use WebEditor for future sites we design in house, depending on the job, but TechnoFILE is just too darn big for me to have our Webmaster go back to square one with it when there are so many other things to do in a given day.

But if you have a smaller site that can be imported easily, or are starting from scratch, you could do worse than this $80 product.


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January 31, 2006