Go Live 5

(12/15/2000) – Once an application reaches version 5, you expect it to be strong and capable, with no rough edges. That’s just what you get with Adobe Systems Inc.’s GoLive 5 for the Macintosh. The qualities that have attracted legions of Web designers, such as a powerful design environment and excellent site-management features, have been strengthened; integration with Adobe’s other world-class tools, including Photoshop, helps GoLive handle almost any Web chore with aplomb. Yet the devil is in the details, and some troubling particulars with this upgrade may cause you to pause when reaching for your checkbook.

Helping Hands

As expected, GoLive 5 offers a slew of new features. Particularly welcome is 360Code, a tool that lets you create code in GoLive, tweak it in another editor, and return it to GoLive without having the program rewrite your source code. Also welcome is the ability to view the layout and the page’s source code simultaneously in separate windows.

It’s clear that some of Adobe GoLive’s new features, such as 360Code, are intended to help the program play catch-up with Macromedia Inc.’s Dreamweaver 3. In other cases, GoLive has taken a good Dreamweaver feature and made it much better. For example, Dreamweaver introduced the concept of putting an image layer in the background of a document to use as a guide; Adobe takes that idea a step further by letting you cut out parts of that tracing image and turn them into floating boxes (dynamic HTML elements) that become part of your Web page.

GoLive now has Photoshop’s Save For Web image optimizer built in, so you can prepare your graphics for the Web without leaving the program. You can now import native Photoshop files and make each Photoshop layer a GoLive floating box; you can even apply different optimization settings for each layer as it’s being imported. GoLive also lets you take files from three of Adobe’s other products (Photoshop, LiveMotion, and Illustrator 9) and place them as ‘smart objects.’ Double-clicking on a smart object opens the file in the source application, and changes in the source cause the copy of the file in the Web page to be updated. If you resize a smart object, it’s automatically reoptimized – a big time-saver.

View from a Height – One of GoLive 5’s many site-management improvements is the addition of multiple panes to the site view window.

The new Table palette is another time-saver. You select cells, rows, or columns by clicking on a miniature map of the table in the palette. You can apply color and text styles to the map, and you can save your own styles for reuse.

Not Standard Enough

There’s no excuse for a professional Web production tool not to create standards-compliant HTML. Compliance makes pages display predictably across computing platforms and makes them more readily accessible by people with disabilities. Yet pages created with GoLive 5 don’t pass the HTML 4.01 validation test at http://validator.w3.org.

Can you make GoLive produce compliant pages? Sure – you just have to manually create a page that passes the validation test, save it as stationery, and tell GoLive to use the stationery for each new file. And make sure you don’t use features like GoLive’s layout grids, which use proprietary code to work their magic.

Big Guns for Big Jobs

With big sites and big development teams becoming the norm, the requirements for site management keep ratcheting up, and GoLive’s answer is support for the industry-standard WebDAV (Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning). More robust than Dreamweaver’s version control, WebDAV lets team members check pages in and out of the WebDAV server and stage sites before uploading them to production servers.

The program’s site-design tools are also improved. You can diagram a whole site before you build a single page, as well as design new sections for existing sites, by creating placeholders that you later fill with content. GoLive 5 lets you work on a new design without disturbing your existing site, then move the new pages into production when they’re ready.

GoLive’s Dynamic Link feature lets you create database-backed content using an ODBC-compliant database server or Microsoft’s Commerce Server ASP. You connect GoLive to one or more dynamic content servers, use GoLive’s Dynamic Link palette to build a sample SQL query, and then bind database fields to table or form fields. You can preview the final output using GoLive’s Show In Browser feature, and interact with a Web page the way an end user would. Web programmers will find the live-testing feature useful but will be frustrated by the inability to edit and test server-side scripts from within the development environment. GoLive also lacks built-in support for MySQL, mSQL, and Postgres, the three open-source databases popular with Web developers.

One of Dreamweaver’s standout features is its support for customization and extensibility via JavaScript, XML, and C or C++. With these programming languages, you can add to or modify any Dreamweaver menu, object, dialog box, or palette. Nonprogrammers can easily customize Dreamweaver by using its History feature to record a series of actions and turn them into new commands. In terms of user customization, GoLive still lags behind Dreamweaver. You can’t customize menus, menu items, or keyboard shortcuts, and you can’t rearrange items on the program’s tool palettes. There’s also no equivalent to Dreamweaver’s end-user ability to save steps as a command. And GoLive can’t match Dreamweaver for extensibility: programmers can add custom menus or other objects but can’t change the built-in interface.

Previous versions of GoLive were rightly criticized for their bloated, hard-to-follow documentation. Version 5’s manual is shorter but hardly an improvement. If you’re new to GoLive, plan on buying a third-party book to help you get the most out of this complex and powerful program.

PROS:Improved code and graphics handling, table tools, and site management; WebDAV version control.

CONS:Doesn’t produce standards-compliant code; mediocre documentation; limited extensibility.

List Price:$450

COMPANY:Adobe, 800/833-6687

Advice:GoLive is a remarkably powerful program, one that hasn’t sacrificed its ease of use as it has become more capable. Version 5’s 360Code tool, ‘smart objects,’ WebDAV support, and site-management features bring a new level of convenience to Web development teams. Whether you’ll find it to be a worthwhile upgrade depends on your extensibility requirements and your tolerance for its lack of standards compliance.

Prices listed are in Cdn currency.