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Making Your Web Pages Charming

Spicing up with a little Java

By Jim Bray

What if you want to add Java to your Web site, but don’t have the know how – or desire – to create applets on your own?

Well, you can either befriend Juan Valdez or buy something like Mainstay’s "PageCharmer" ($99US, for Windows, Macintosh, and Unix), a nifty little set of "Designer Java Applets" you can customize and paste into to your site.

With PageCharmer you can make smart image maps with popup menus, multimedia buttons, animated marquees, and scrolling tickers – and the company says you don’t need to know any HTML coding.


It never hurts to know HTML. I’m always amazed, or perhaps the word is "annoyed," to find that – regardless of the "WYSIWYG-ness" of a Web product – I often have to fall back on the HTML knowledge I gained at my grandfather’s knee ‘way back when Web developers lived in caves and swapped stories around the fire at night.

And, as usual, this arcane knowledge came in handy with PageCharmer.

PageCharmerPageCharmer works inside your Browser. After loading the software, you’re greeted with a menu page arranged by project. Clicking on a projects’ link zips you to the actual project upon which you’re now going to wreak your own special brand of havoc.

The first project I created was a "live" navigation bar for TechnoFILE. I customized PageCharmer’s "LiveT-Map" project and, when finished, had a nifty navbar the labels of which changed colour when the cursor moved over them, and with buttons that depress just like real life push buttons.

Customizing is easy. Atop the project page is the finished project, with a tabbed box below in which you can change stuff like the label and URL, text font, colour and size, and any sound effects you choose to inflict on your surfing public.

To make the changes, you just type them in and press "Enter." It’s important to press "Enter" with each and every change, or PageCharmer will sit there inert regardless of how much you cuss at it.

When you’re finished, click "Create HTML," then copy the resulting code and paste it into your Web page. You also have to visit the "Upload to your Web Site" folder in the PageCharmer folder on your hard drive and copy the "classes" folder to your web site to make the applets actually work.

The HTML code that PageCharmer generates assumes all your pages are in the root directory, which is where my HTML knowledge saved me: the lion’s share of my pages are in an "articles" sub-directory, so I had to rewrite the HTML to point it in the correct direction before my applet would work.

Once I did that, however, it worked fine and was proudly displayed on TechnoFILE for all to see - till we got complaints and pulled it off.

Why were there complaints if the navbar was so nifty?

Unfortunately, not all Browsers are capable of reading your magical Java applets, and some Web surfers find java applets a personal affront to them and refuse to wait for them to load (and refuse to return to the offending site again, too!) so you may want to duplicate your java masterpieces with "old tech" versions as well, or you’ll risk alienating a shrinking (but important) segment of your audience.

That caveat aside, PageCharmer’s a pretty nifty application for people who like to jazz up their Web sites without going through the tedious process of actually learning how to do it properly from scratch.


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January 31, 2006