NetObjects Fusion 4.0

"An Easy-to-Use Program with Robust Features"

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NetObjects Fusion 4.0 is a Web site-building tool that helps you design and build full-featured, professional Web sites. You can use the program to create and maintain an entire site whether or not you know HTML. The program has the look and feel of a desktop publishing program, but it combines true site management with true WYSIWYG page layout, program-like control. The interface has a grid pasteboard, rulers, guides, and draggable margins. The program allows users to create Web pages from scratch, but it also includes professional quality sample sites. These are complete sites with real content, designed to showcase features like data objects, object embedding, table layouts, forms, referenced HTML, and DHTML Actions. The first version of NetObjects Fusion was created in 1996, and with Version 4.0, it has evolved into a top-notch authoring and site management tool suitable for a broad range of developers. We reviewed Version 3.0 and found it an excellent program (see our NetObjects Version 3.0 review). This latest Windows version adds features and functionality that include e-business support, a Java-based application programming interface (API) that lets developers easily add functions with plug-ins, and site styles that have rollovers included. Price: $299.95; Upgrade: $99.95. The NetObjects Web site has a wealth of information about their products and those of their partners, links to NetObjects electronic support options, lists of training centers and books about NetObjects Fusion, and many additional resources:

It would be appropriate for Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Web designers. The program really simplifies the process for novice users. The templates, WYSIWYG page look, and the drag-and-drop capabilities would make it suitable for someone just starting out with their first Web page and would allow them to create professional looking pages and an entire site without any HTML experience. The robust features would appeal to Intermediate and Advanced Web developers, as they can develop Web sites with the freedom to expand Internet-commerce applications as the company's needs change.
  • New Incremental Publish--Save time. You can republish only the content you've changed, not the entire site.
  • New Table Tool--No more cell-by-cell formatting. You can now just select the whole row or column and apply font, color, size, or custom HTML in seconds.
  • New Dynamic Database Access--Enable live access to inventory, pricing, and other site-enriching data. Integrate e-mail, address books, and other productivity-enhancing applications in a site. Just drag-and-drop components that connect dynamically to all major application servers. No programming required.
  • New E-Commerce Solutions--Everything you need to turn your Web site into a profit center--right out of the box. Use the new component for iCat Commerce Online to add turnkey catalog and shopping-cart functionality to a site. Or incorporate the e-commerce solution of your choice, using components for Allaire ColdFusion, Lotus Domino, or Microsoft Active Server Pages.
  • New SiteStyles Collection--Give your site a new look with more than 50 new SiteStyles, including rollover effects.
  • Improved Site Import--Easily import any Web site. NetObjects Fusion 4.0 supports more HTML table tags, so imported layouts are more consistent with those of the original site.
  • New JavaBean Tool--Easily add JavaBean functionality to your site.
  • New Screen Door Component--Optimize page content for every individual user's browser.
  • New Ad Banner Component--Display advertisements or other graphics on your pages. There is no JavaScript coding required.
  • Improved Asset Selection--Reselect images, animations, and other placed elements fast.

Installation & Manuals. The program was very easy to install. There is a printed tutorial guide that contains lessons with step-by-step instructions on using NetObjects Fusion. Also, on the CD is a User Guide in PDF format which describes the complete set of the program's features. Acrobat Reader is also provided for those who do not already have the program.

Interface. When you start the program, you see the same familiar interface as in Version 3.0. Along the top is a menu bar with the typical Windows commands: File, Edit, View, Go, and Help. Below is a blue bar with five primary views or modes, on the left: Site, Page, Style, Assets, and interfacePublish. On the right of the blue bar are other options: Preview, New, Go To, and Last. A standard toolbar is docked to the left. In the middle of the screen is the work area where you design your pages. There is a Properties Palette that changes to give you information on the object you select. Also, toolbars and palettes can be collapsed or docked out of the way, making the layout space even cleaner.

Component Enhancements and NetObjects API (Application Programmers Interface). Improvements to NetObjects Fusion internal code lets third party developers develop more powerful NetObjects Fusion components. These components use a NetObjects API (Application Programmers Interface) to take advantage of expanded functionality available to developers, such as setting publishing options and creating sites with dynamic content. The new API also lets developers easily integrate their components into NetObjects Fusion. Some of these components are included on the NetObjects Fusion 4.0 installation CD; you install them when you install NetObjects Fusion. In Page view, you access them by opening their tool bars by selecting Toolbars, Component Tools from the View menu; in Site view, by selecting Launch Site Wizard from the File menu; and in Publish view, by clicking Setup and then clicking the Components tab.

Views. NetObjects Fusion provides five views that correspond to the tasks you complete when you design and build a site. Changes you make in one view are reflected to the others. You can go to any view at any time by clicking a button on the control bar at the top of the NetObjects Fusion window. In the next sections, I will briefly describe each view and its new features or functions:

Site View. The Site view is where you are the architect and set up the structure of your site. This site viewview, similar to an organizational chart, shows an iconic version of your site. Page relationships and site organization are easy to understand and the site structure can be altered visually. You have the choice of viewing your site in an outline format or structure/graphical format. You can quickly rearrange your site by dragging and dropping pages and sections.


  • Launch Site Wizard--You can now run installed third party or NetObjects Site Components, such as the iCat E-commerce Wizard, in Site view by selecting Launch Site Wizard from the File menu.
  • Page and Section Character Set--If you need expanded character sets for developing international sites, you can specify the character set for a page or a section of pages in Site view. You can also set the default character set for the entire site in Publish view.
  • Importing Templates--The menu command for importing a template is now named Insert Template instead of Import Template. The functionality is identical.
  • Importing Web Sites--To simplify the process of importing external Web sites, the Import Local Web Site and Import Remote Web Site menu commands are now combined into one menu command. You choose whether the site is remote (on the Web) or local (on your local file system) in the Import Web Site dialog.

Page View. The Page view is where you control the layout of each page. In this view you see the Layout area and MasterBorder of each page. The Layout area displays objects that are unique to that page. The MasterBorder contains objects that repeat on a set of pages, much as headers and page viewfooters appear in a word processing document. The program has four modes for laying out pages: graphical mode for pages with highly graphical content or that need WYSIWYG layout; table mode for slightly less complex pages; text mode for pages that are highly textural or require ultra-lean HTML code; and HTML editor mode when the preservation and total editing control of external HTML is needed.


  • New Table Tool--You can use the table tool to create tables any way you like because the program now supports the complete HTML table specification. The table tool now gives you the ability to merge and split cells; to resize cells, rows, and columns by dragging handles in the ruler; to apply attributes and enter custom HTML for cells, rows, or columns. The options available on the Properties palette give you more control over generated HTML for tables.
  • Java Bean Tool--The new Java Bean tool lets you place Java Beans on your page and access their parameters. In addition, you can attach actions to Java Beans.
  • Go Menu Component--Use the Go Menu component to place a drop-down list on a page whose list items are dynamically linked to other pages, all without having to do JavaScript coding. Your site visitor makes a selection from the drop-down list to go to the linked page.
  • Screen Door Component--Simply place the Screen Door component on a page and specify what pages site visitors should see based on their browser version. Site visitors who access the page are automatically redirected to the page you specify.
  • Ad Banner Component--The Ad Banner component lets you place a rotating banner to display advertisements or other graphics on your page. You select the images, the transitions, the rotation time, and the URLs, and NetObjects Fusion does the rest--no JavaScript coding required.
  • Easier Asset Selection--When you place objects on the page, an assets tab appears in the Open dialog listing assets of that type that are currently used in the site. You can select items from the list instead of locating the file again on your local file system.
  • Frame Behavior--You have greater control over setting frame parameters.
  • Background Options--You can now apply both an image and a color to a background. Previously, you had to choose either an image or a color.
  • RTF Conversion--There is improved support for pasting or dragging and dropping RTF files, especially in the area of tables.
  • Additional HTML Output Methods--You can tailor HTML for the browser in which you expect your site to be viewed. Choose tables or Cascading Style Sheet Positioning (CSSP) and Layers for cross-browser compatibility.

style viewStyle View. In the Style view, you can give a specific look and feel to your Web site or just to sections of a site. You can create your own SiteStyle, or choose from pre-built SiteStyles to give your entire site a consistent look and feel.


  • Built-in Rollover Buttons--You can set button navigation bars to automatically use rollover button images when your site visitor mouses over buttons. In Style view you can add images for rollovers when you define the style.
  • New SiteStyle Collection--You can use the more than 50 new professionally designed SiteStyles to give your site a unique look and feel. All new SiteStyles include images for button rollovers. In addition, all SiteStyles from previous versions of NetObjects Fusion are included in the Extras folder on the installation CD.

Assets View. The Assets view is used as a pasteboard and basket to organize and manage all theassets view assets on your Web site. Assets include the files, links, data objects, and variables that you reference in your site. You can change an asset in the Assets view and have that change propagate through all the Web pages in your site. (There were no significant improvements in this view.)

Publish View. Finally, the Publish view is where you control the file structure of your assets andpublish setup HTML files, as well as FTP your site to a Web server of your choice. The Publish view allows you to see all of the individual files that make up your Web site. You can control what gets published and how. Moving the Web site from your staging server to your World Wide Web server is a simple matter of clicking the Publish button.


  • Greater Control Over Generated HTML--You have more control over your formatting, which lets you specify how the generated HTML looks. You can also specify information to be included in the HTML, such as custom META tag information and descriptive comments.
  • Incremental Publishing--When you publish, you can specify to publish only a page, a section of pages, or the entire site instead of re-publishing the entire site each time you make a change.
  • Publish Components--The Components tab in the Publish Setup dialog in Publish view now displays installed third party or NetObjects Publish Components, such as the Cold Fusion Publish Component. You turn each component on or off by clicking its check box.
  • Passive Mode FTP--When you publish, you can now specify that files are transferred using passive mode FTP. Passive mode FTP is necessary in some instances to transfer files through a firewall.

Other Goodies--NetObjects Fusion 4.0 includes: Allaire ColdFusion 4.0 Professional Edition Trial; Allaire ColdFusion Server 4.0, Single User Edition; Allaire HomeSite 4.0; Headspace Beatnik ActionSet 1.0; Live Picture PhotoVista 1.3.1 Trial; Lotus eSuite DevPack 1.5; NetObjects ScriptBuilder 3.0 Trial; and NetStudio 1.0.1.

NetObjects Fusion 4.0 is an excellent program. It is well-balanced, easy enough for novices, but also powerful enough to let users do more as their Web site evolves. The program is advertised as "the fastest, easiest way to build business Web sites." The intuitive interface and e-commerce functionality and dynamic database access to your site enables the program to live up to that statement. With its open environment, NetObjects Fusion works with all standard Internet formats, such as Dynamic HTML, Java, JavaScript, QuickTime, Macromedia Flash, and Macromedia Shockwave. NetObjects Fusion Version 4.0 is a worthwhile update.
Processor: 90MHz Pentium or higher
Operating System: Windows 95/98 or Windows NT 4.0
Memory: 32 MB RAM
Hard Disk Space: Before installation 50 MB of available hard disk space (100 MB for full installation); after installation 60 MB of available hard disk space as virtual memory
32-bit ODBC drivers for external database connectivity
TCP/IP compliance for Internet connectivity
Graphics display capable of 800 x 600 at 256 colors
CD-ROM drive
Mouse or compatible pointing device
You will also need a Web browser installed on your system. NetObjects Fusion HTML output requires: Netscape Navigator 2.01 or higher; Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.1 or higher/ other HTML 3.0 or higher compatible browsers
Graphics: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe ImageStyler
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series
Web Page Editor: Macromedia Dreamweaver 2.0