Adobe continues to throw every idea it can think of at its Web-publishing tool, and version 6 features a slew of new functions and tools that should appeal to even the most jaded Web designer. GoLive 6 is the most feature-ridden Web-development tool around, and it’s mostly a good thing.
Web design is a broad church to Adobe, and all are welcome. There’s something here for everyone, from designers to mom-and-pop-business types wanting to knock-up a quick brochure site, right through to hardcore Web developers looking to amp their latest database-driven community portal with the latest XML gizmology.
Whether you can hand-code HTML or wouldn’t know a
tag if it bit you, there’s something here for everyone.
While page-design and HTML-coding are at the heart of GoLive, there’s a lot more besides, including image-processing capabilities, code checkers, site-mangement tools, a new workgroup application for collaborative development, and dynamic publishing and database-integration tools. The user interface (UI) has been given a slight overhaul, and there are a number of options for customizing the workspace. Users can stash palettes to the side of the screen, where they show as little tabs – clicking them slides them out into view. This is great for those starved of screen space. Users can also customize the workspace and most frequently used tools, which is a useful touch, given the diversity of uses for GoLive.
Page-layout and authoring tools have been enhanced – a useful new feature is a split-source option that shows the WYSIWYG Layout view and the HTML Source view at the same time. This saves tedious switching between Source and Layout views, and is something that users of Dreamweaver will be accustomed to. It’s also a useful tool to learn HTML by.
The enhanced CSS editor will be welcome for anyone who has tried to write a CSS template by hand, where a misplaced comma can cause the whole thing to fail. For HTML-standards purists, a syntax checker has been added, allowing you to compare code with the declared doctype or various standards, such as the W3C Strict HTML 4. This is becoming ever-more important with the vast array of browsers and platforms used to access content.
Like Dreamweaver, using the visual layout tool can easily produce dreadful code, especially when table elements are dragged around. To this end, pages can be saved as templates, also called Stationery, which allow areas to be locked and rendered uneditable. Other users can therefore create new pages, being allowed to work only with certain parts of the page, such as text.
GoLive functions as a site-creation tool as well as a page-creation tool, and is especially useful when creating quick mock-ups of sites for client approval, or for determining site structure. The Navigation view window lets you see the hierarchy of the site and its internal links. It also allows pages to be moved within the site structure – automatically changing the links.
The design diagramming tools let you create site diagrams for presentation purposes – adding comment boxes, and tweaking the arrangement of icons, for instance. You can even use this feature when the layout isn’t confirmed, adding pending links between pages before the real ones have been established. The design can then also be printed or exported as a PDF for distribution.
It’s essential to preview sites in a wide range of browsers and versions to ensure pages render out properly on the Web. Pages and sites can be previewed in any number of browsers, which can be set-up through the preferences.
Nested tables seem to be an inevitability of Web design these days, and GoLive 6 improves the navigation and management of them by allowing users to zoom into tables using the Table Palette. Table data can also be imported from an external source such as Word or Excel. However, it would be nice if table structures could be expanded and collapsed within the Source view, helping to make the code more manageable.
One of the biggest enhancements in version 6 is the greater integration between other Adobe products such as Photoshop, Illustrator and LiveMotion. You can import source files from these applications within GoLive documents. For instance, a sliced Photoshop .PSD file can be imported into and resized within GoLive. The program will dynamically update the table code.
Likewise, a sliced Illustrator navigation-bar document can be easily created by assigning URLs and frame targets within GoLive – replicating much of the functionality of Fireworks. Using Illustrator’s Variables feature, users can create modifiable values for graphical elements, such as changing text. This saves time and means that one need leave GoLive as little as possible.
GoLive can import images and LiveMotion SWF files as SmartObjects – essentially copies of the source image. The SmartObject target file is optimized and used as the file to be uploaded to the Web site, while the source file remains unchanged. If the Photoshop PSD, LiveMotion SWF or Illustrator SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) file has variables, these can be specified at the time the SmartObject is created. The source file can be edited by double clicking the SmartObject in the Layout Editor. However, the strength of the SmartObject concept is that minor tweaks such as resizing can be made within GoLive itself.
Using the Save for Web command on a Photoshop or Illustrator Smart Object lets users specify the settings for the target file, and preview the image. Again, the target file remains unchanged should settings need changing.
LiveMotion integration means that a LiveMotion SmartObject can contain variables which let users specify the text, animation style, and other parameters, all from the one source file – turning LiveMotion and GoLive into a graphic production factory. There’s even a product bundle that allows you to get your hands on GoLive and LiveMotion 2 at a great price.
Integration with InDesign is a potential goldmine for Adobe, but is hardly discussed in the manual. GoLive can use XML data-sources exported from InDesign for dynamic content-publishing. Once established, this would potentially allow a two-way print-to-Web document flow for any publishers willing to make the commitment.
Wisely, Adobe is looking beyond HTML, and is keen to make GoLive a tool that can be used to create content for a number of platforms using a number of languages.
Other technologies supported by version 6 include mobile telephony – with WML, XHTML-Basic and CHTML (commonly known as i-mode) all supported under the umbrella of wireless authoring. However, the WML and XHMTL emulators for Nokia phones and the i-mode Access emulator are only available on the Windows version.
With dynamic Web sites now becoming more the norm than the exception, built-in support for Dynamic Content has been improved. Integration for the popular PHP and JSP scripting languages has been added, putting GoLive in competition with Macromedia’s UltraDev application. Bear in mind, though, that a development server and a data source such as a MySQL database are needed first. A supplied configured server based on a standard Apache Web server and Tomcat PHP and JSP module, means that users can build and test dynamic content from the off.
Web design is moving away from the solitary domain of the late-night pixel-pusher. It’s becoming a team game, and GoLive 6 sees important steps to make GoLive users into team players. Included in the package is the Web Workgroup Server, a separate application that runs only on OS X, and acts a server-level administration tool for the management of projects.
It lets cross-platform GoLive users check files in and out to ensure that only one user edits them at a time. The server also keeps copies of previous versions, so changes can be compared and rolled-back.
Administration of the Workgroup server is done through a Web interface, which allows the administrator to add sites, manage user accounts, create backups, and oversee the uploading and versioning of the site. It’s a much-needed tool that works well as a server-based application, though it would be great if users could add notes to the revisions. Task assignation or the flagging files as To Be Edited or Completed is also no better.
Web-development tools are like relationships, in that getting the most out of them requires a certain level of commitment. This is especially true of GoLive. Given that it can do just about everything, making the most of it requires migrating the whole Web-design process to GoLive to maximize its feature benefits and that of the Workgroup servers. For small groups with an existing workflow already set up, this will be a major investment of time and money – but the potential productivity benefits are there.
GoLive 6 is unquestionably the most complete and feature-packed Web-development tool available for the Mac. The integration with the rest of the Adobe range makes it the focal point for the whole Web-development process, while the Workgroup server turns GoLive into a powerful collaborative authoring solution.
However, the vast array of features also means that there’s a lot to get to grips with, which could be overwhelming for novices.