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|IBM NetObjects TopPage is a new Web page authoring and design software program which is suitable for beginners and experts to create Web pages without any HTML knowledge or programming skills. It includes all the tools necessary to create a Web page, including a WebArt Designer which lets you create logos and buttons, and a Web Animator which lets you create animation GIF files with just a few simple steps. There is a step-by-step multimedia tutorial that guides you through the various aspects of Web design, and the program includes up-to-date technology--such as Cascading Style Sheets, Java applets and Dynamic HTML. TopPage is part of a suite of three software programs for small businesses, individuals, and schools who want to build their own Web site quickly and inexpensively, but with professional results. The other two programs are: (1) IBM Perfect Photo--for manipulating digital camera shots, turn scanned photographs into finished designs, or customizing greeting cards, brochures, posters and calendars; (2) IBM Startup 2 for e-business--includes tools necessary to go online to publish and process credit card orders. Prices: TopPage--$59.95; Perfect Photo--$39.95; and Startup 2 for e-bussiness--$29.95. Additional information can be obtained from the IBM Web site for TopPage: http://www.JP.ibm.com/esbu/E/toppage/index.htm|
The program is easy to install. But the Tutorial and User's Guide are accessible only with a Custom Install, not the Typical Install. There is no printed manual or tutorial included with the program, but there is a User's Guide on the CD, and you can print it out. IBM states that they will include the Tutorial and User's Guide in the Typical Install with the next version. They will also include more printed material.
|The interface is very intuitive and user-friendly. The main window of TopPage has a typical Windows menu bar on the top, with tool bars directly below. The site management area is on the left of the screen and is used to display information for managing the site, such as the link structure and file lists. There are three panes on the Link Manager: Link Tab--displays the link layers starting from the top page; File Tab--a list of folders and files within the site; and Contents Tab--images, sounds, or HTML files in the selected folder appear here. On the right side of the screen is the page edit area, which is used for creating and editing pages. You can open multiple pages at the same time. There are three panes for viewing the page edit area: Normal--where you create and edit a page; HTML--used to edit the HTML source directly;and Preview--used to check how a page will look in a Web browser. There is also a status bar along the bottom that displays an explanation about the menu or tags that are currently being edited.|
Creating a Site
|TopPage provides two procedures to help you
build your site: Opening Dialog Box
Wizard. Each one leads you step-by-step
the process. It is an easy process
methods and does not involve many steps
take a long time.
Opening Dialog Box--With the Opening Dialog Box, you can create a new page and site; create a site with multiple pages from a template; or create a site from an existing page. For beginners, it is very easy to create a site with a consistent theme using one of the templates provided with TopPage and following the step-by-step procedures in the Opening Dialog Box. You enter a site name; select a genre and theme; select a background; select a banner; select a header/footer image; select an icon image; enter the title of your first page; enter the mail address; add or delete pages; confirm your choices; click ok; and you have a site with multiple pages that has a consistent look. Each element in the templates, such as icons, banners, background, is selected individually so you have a variety of choices. At any time during this process, you can go back and change your choices. Once the pages are set up though, you cannot go back and make global changes to the template as in some other programs. But you can go back and edit the individual pages and the individual items. TopPage has templates for a single page, a frame, an application, and multiple pages. IBM has a sample of some of the templates on their Web site. I used test reviewers who were interested in Web design, but had no experience, and had them try out TopPage, and they especially liked creating a multiple page site using the templates. I would have preferred more templates, but I have always found it difficult to find a pre-made template that is exactly what I want, even in the most expensive programs. Even if you don't like all of the elements, they give you a starting point and you can then edit them. It is a good way for beginners to start. You can also use templates from other companies. I used templates from Adobe ImageStyler in TopPage and had no problem. http://www.JP.ibm.com/esbu/E/toppage/index.htm
|Site Management Tools|
|TopPage has a variety of functions and features
that help you manage your site. The site
management area or Site Manager displays
information that is used to manage a site,
such as the link structure and file lists.
The Site Manager is displayed to the left
of your working page and can be closed if
you need more room for display. These three
panes and the page editing area are linked,
and when you save a document, the panes are
updated. There are three panes: Link Pane,
File Pane, and Contents Pane, with each pane
having an upper and lower area.
Link Pane--Displays the link layers starting from the top page. In the upper area of the Link Pane, a link hierarchy appears, in which the top page of the site is the top. If you select a file here, a list of files linked to this file or a list of files linked from this file appear in the lower area. The following information can be obtained in the lower area: URL, title, size, type, and date of update. With the Option dialog box, the type of files to be displayed can be set. By dragging and dropping or right-clicking, you can use the Link Pane for the following functions: open and edit an HTML document, text file, or CSV file; link a document or insert an image; open a document in a WWW Browser; or upload pages or site.
|Besides the Site Manager there are other features in TopPage that help you manage your site. Link update is performed automatically when necessitated by a file name change. Site transfer is supported (all the files constituting a site can be transferred). You can perform a check of the entire site.|
|Style Sheets & Manager|
|TopPage supports CSS1 and CSS2 (Cascading Style Sheet, Level 1 and 2).
A style sheet makes it easy for users to change the appearance of Web
pages and to unify the appearance of the entire site. You can set such
styles as font name, font size, font color, appearance such as bold and
italic, and many other attributes. I created a style for the blue section
headings for this review. There is a Style Definition dialog box where
you can define styles. Some of the templates in TopPage use style sheets.
A variety of factors in an HTML document can be set with a style sheet.
Set the Style for an HTML Tag--You can directly change the style of an element (for example, main body, paragraph, and headings) in a document. You can set the color of heading "H1" to red and all H1 headings will be displayed in red. You can set the font size of paragraphs "P" to 12 points and all paragraphs in the document will be displayed with a 12-point font.TopPage has a Style Sheet Manger where you can create, add, and edit styles. There are two panes: Style List Pane and Current Style Status Pane.
Style List Pane--Displays the object, class, and ID for which the style is defined. You can add, edit or delete style by using the Add, Edit, and Delete buttons.Despite the fact that style sheets make it easier to design a site, not all Web browsers can display them and the same style sheet might appear differently depending on the Web browser used. TopPage advises beginners of this fact and suggests: (1) create your Web pages without using a style sheet; (2) change the appearance using a style sheet; and (3) check the appearance of your Web pages on different browsers. For advanced users, there is an excellent Appendix in the User's Guide that describes what HTML tags and CSS attributes are supported by TopPage.
|You have various editing tools in TopPage.
You can edit frames while viewing the layout
on the screen; perform source editing and
preview the results by simply clicking the
corresponding tabs; and create, edit, and
change attributes such as heading, list,
horizontal rule, link, table, form, and frame.
With the Edit Image dialog box you can process
images while editing a page, and perform
the following alterations:
|TopPage allows you to upload directly from within the program or you can use other FTPs. Created Web pages and/or a site can be transferred easily by using TopPage's Site Upload and Page Upload features. You need to choose a destination server before you can transfer a site, and TopPage has a wizard to help you choose a server that is easy to navigate even for a beginner. There is a Site Check function that enables you to find errors in the site for images without alternate text and spelling errors. There is also a file transfer program to use when you want to transfer individual files, delete a file on the server, or view the list of files on the server.|
|WebArt Designer is a tool that makes it feel
easy to create various materials for your
Web pages. The source materials are referred
to as objects. There are the following types
of objects: Logo, Button, Photo Frame, Clip
Art, and Image. Objects are not placed on
the canvas at random. Instead, they are stacked
in order so that the last one to be placed
appears to be on the top of the stack. For
example, if you place a button first and
lay a logo over that button, the two objects
are stacked sequentially in the order in
which they were placed. On the screen, the
logo appears to be written on the button.
Using WebArt designer, a variety of objects
can be stacked on a canvas to create new
images. You can overlay a logo on a button,
a logo on a photograph, and then a photo
frame on that photo. In this way, you can
combine multiple objects to create relatively
complicated images. The title and headings
for this review were made with WebArt Designer
in a matter of minutes.
Interface--In the center of the main window, a blank white rectangle appears which is called the canvas. The canvas is the work area on which you can place materials. On the left is the template gallery which displays the information needed to set the provided logos, buttons, frame samples, and backgrounds. The object stack is on the right and it displays the sequence of the objects. Thumbnails of the objects are displayed on the panels. The menu bar runs along the top of the screen and all the functions supported by WebArt Designer can be accessed from this bar. There is a tool bar directly below that has frequently used functions. A status bar runs along the bottom of the screen.
Wizards--There are the following wizards: logo, button, and photo frame. They are step-by-step procedures for making objects. To create a button you: (1) click the Button Wizard icon; (2) select a shape; and (3) select a color. You then can adjust the size on the screen with the mouse or use the menu bar and edit properties to specify the width and height in pixels. You can edit the shape and color of the object at any time. Shapes to choose from are circles, quadrangles, goods, and nature. Color choices are plain colors, gradations, or textures.
|Web Animator is a tool for animating GIF
image files, that allows you to easily create
moving images on your Web pages. You can
create animations using the same principle
as an animated cartoon or a flipbook. You
can add animation to an image to give it
greater impact. You can paste an animated
GIF onto a page in the same way as a regular
image file. You can view it on a regular
Web browser without any special plug-ins.
Making animations is fun with this program.
Interface--The animation window displays the animation that is currently being edited. One animation, or one GIF file is associated with an animation window. The animation window is divided into a top half and a bottom half. The top half displays images, while the bottom half displays frames. The image display window, top, is like a screen onto which a movie is projected. An animation is played back in this window. The frame display window, bottom, is used to display the frames that constitute an animation. The image in this window is similar to a single frame on a reel of a movie.
|If you are planing to create a Web site or
redesign an existing site, run out and buy
this program. I was very impressed. I have
to admit when I first received the application
for review and saw the low price of $59.95,
I thought, oh well, this is probably one
of those cheap, plastic-fantastic programs
that you can buy at your local discount store
and would love to give to your worst enemy
so that they would produce a tacky and unprofessional
site. I thought I would give it just a quick
review and go on to review more expensive
Web design programs. Well, I was pleasantly
surprised to find out that I was wrong. Not
only did I like the program, I felt it was
professional enough to do the review in and
that it deserved a thorough and lengthy review.
The program was so intuitive that I did not
experience any problem writing the review
in another application. Most of the commands
or functions were similar, and if not, it
was easy to find the correct ones. Even though
there were a few features in other programs
that I found lacking in TopPage, I was more
impressed by what it did include than disappointed
by what it didn't. Below is just a summary
of some of the reasons whyI thought the program
rated five stars.
|Processor: Pentium (166 MHz or more recommended)
Operating System: Windows 95/98 or NT 4.0
Memory: 16MB (32MB recommended)
Hard Disk Space: 30MB (150MB is required for all samples)
VGA (640x480, 256 colors)
|There is a wealth of information on creating a Web site on the Internet. IBM has supplied us with some tips, also. Click on the image on the right for tips on creating a Web site. The Internet has a wealth of information on creating a Web site and on learning HTML. A good source to check out is the CNET Web Building site. It has information on everything and anything you would want to know about Web building, plus free downloads and free tutorials. http://www.builder.com|
|Graphics: IBM NetObjects TopPage
Web Page Editor: IBM NetObjects TopPage
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series