HoTMetaL good for novices but not experts: analyst

HoTMetaL PRO 6.0 from SoftQuad Software Inc. is designed to appeal to both novices trying to find their way around HTML code and seasoned pros alike, but one analyst says the software isn’t for everyone.

Although those getting started in Web development would find HoTMetaL a great learning tool with lots of capabilities, experienced developers would find the little hints offered by the software just get in the way, said Bob Gill, a vice-president and research director at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

“Is it a tool that I would expect to see the absolute cutting-edge people use? The answer is no. For the most part they’re writing their own code or using (Macromedia Inc.’s) Dreamweaver, which is a bit more extensible,” he said.

But novices who are willing to take the time to read the manual can use HoTMetaL to learn how to author Web pages.

And HoTMetaL, like other tools in its category, comes with a lot of high-end features at a relatively low price, Gill said. “It’s a nice bundle. It’s just a category that’s become very crowded,” Gill said.

Dreamweaver is in the same category and is better designed to appeal to experts, he added. “In the same category (as HoTMetaL) is Dreamweaver, which is considered at this point the ultimate techy-, geeky-, nerdy-tool for pounding out sites.”

Dreamweaver is the tool of choice for Alan K’necht, Internet and engineering director at in Toronto.

“I wouldn’t rank [HoTMetaL as] a professional package. It’s quite good for the amateur to intermediate Web developer and corporation, but definitely not the higher-end developer,” K’necht said. “It’s too restrictive. The high-end developers want a lot more freedom as to how they code. And they don’t need all the templates and all the fancy features it has. They’re actually after a more basic product,”

But when it comes to people who aren’t as sure of their abilities in HTML, HoTMetaL is a good tool, he said. The templates included could be especially helpful for the novice.

“As a novice, you learn by using HoTMetaL so that you’re not stuck in the same place you were when you bought the product,” said SoftQuad Web technologist Ryan Germann in Toronto.

The F1 key brings up a standard help feature, but pressing Shift/F1 brings up the Web browser and opens up a whole page on the element you’re in, whether it be a paragraph or table. The tool also comes with some on-line and PDF course-ware for JavaScript and HTML.

HoTMetaL has three views designed for users with differing levels of expertise – the WYSIWYG view, a tags on view and an HTML source view. Users can switch between the views without switching applications.

New to Version 6.0 is a synchronization feature which lets authors easily work from different sites. Users working from home can download the latest version to the home computer and then reload the changes back up to the server when they are finished.

With Version 5.0, users could do only incremental publishing. The program would automatically update files that had been changed, but it had no way of pulling files down or deleting them off the server. Users had to use a secondary FTP program to do that.

The latest version has an FTP client built in. It also has over 300 APIs. Users can also edit live pages by dragging files directly from the remote tab and dropping them into the editing window.

HoTMetaL runs with Windows 95, 98 and NT 4.0 and SoftQuad also has plans to make it compatible with Windows 2000. HoTMetaL PRO 6.0 (www. is priced at US$129.

SoftQuad can be reached in Toronto at (416) 544-9000.

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