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HTML Editor Reviews

HoTMetaL Pro 4.0

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HoTMetaL PRO 4.0 -- SoftQuad

Found: http://www.softquad.com/


Nice features found in this package include:

Large number or import options
The package can import a large number of file formats and attempt to create HTML from them (including Word, WordPerfect, and Amipro. You may also perform batch conversion of these documents. I also would like to mention that you can easily drag-and-drop from applications (including Excel) directly into HoTMetaL.
Easy to read display
Tags may be shown using an "icon like" representation. This simplifies discerning tags from the text in the document. When working with a document that contains many similar sections (like this one), this feature is superb. The package does give a "feel" for what the document may look like when you hide the tag display (headings stand out, images are shown, etc.). This is very good for most editing tasks, but SoftQuad allows editing of tags directly using a traditional text editor style of view.
Tables in the document are easily edited
The program makes it very easy insert a table. In addition, the table can easily be edited after creating it using a table format similar to those found in word processors. This is very important if the information changes in the table frequently, because searching through a series of TD tags can be very frustrating. HoTMetaL Pro allows you to work with tables graphically, including creating column and row spans (merging cells) with a single mouse click
Graphical editing of forms.
HoTMetaL Pro includes graphical editing of forms in the document. This includes dialogs for entering selection options and gives a better feel of the final form.
Minimal dialogs during tag insertion
When you select an element to insert or click on the button bar, the tags are entered using the default attributes. At this point, a menu selection will bring up the attributes dialog (called attribute inspector) for the tag under the cursor. This is convenient, since you don't need to fill in cluttered dialogs unless you need to change an attribute (especially for new authors who may be unfamiliar with many of the attributes). For example, when an in-line image is added only the filename and address are needed. The attributes VSPACE, HSPACE, BORDER, etc. are available when you edit the attributes. Also, you may leave the attribute inspector open and quickly modify attributes while moving through the document.
Feels like a word processor
Using the package is very much like using a word processor which shows formatting. The package is intelligent to simplify some operations, such as creating a new list element when you press the enter key over a list element, which speeds entering long lists, In normal "text style" editors, the author needs to be wary of accidentally erasing or moving an end tag, but not this package. It forces the user to abide by the "rules" of HTML (though this can be disabled), and keeps your documents sound.
Seamless support for Netscape 2.0 and Explorer 2.0
Although version 2.0 had rule files available for Netscape 2.0 and Explorer, they were not seamlessly integrated into the package. Now they are, button bars are included for elements (such as applet tags) and the validator will pick-up the new extensions (2.0 validator ignores the new tags added in a rules updates). Also, an easy to use frame editor is included and a color picker for fonts and body attributes.
Built in image editor
SoftQuad has begun to include Uleads PhotoImpact Special Edition with the package. This replace the simple SoftQuad package included with 3.0 with a much more powerful tool. PhotoImpact includes Web oriented tools, such as 3-D button and background tools. In addition, SmartSaver (tool to optimize graphic file size) and a GIF animator from Ulead are included.
New HoTMetaL Information Manager added to package
HoTMetaL offers a site management tool similar to those found in AOLPress and FrontPage. This includes numerous view styles (hierarchal, web, links from a single file). I like the ability to drag the web view around to quickly view different angles. Also, Information Manager will search the site for broken internal and external links. As expected, it offers options for publishing the site either locally and to the final host computer. Other useful capabilities include creating new links by drag-and-drop and that it recognizes links within Office 97 documents. Also, you may perform a site-wide find and replace operation (independently identifying tags and attributes from content).
JavaScript Builder by Arcadia
HoTMetaL 4.0 now includes a JavaScript builder tool.
Support for Cascading Style Sheets
A CSS editor is included. It is relatively easy to create different rules by selecting the appropriate text, font, and spacing information for each element type.
FX Chooser and Power Tools
SoftQuad included a number of ready to use graphics, page designs, applets, and scripts which can easily be added simply by dragging them into you page. In addition to some of the tools mentioned above, Aimtech Jamba PE (codeless Java development tool), Platinum VRCreator (VRML tool), Starbase Versions (revision control), ZBserver Pro (web server), and DTL DataSpot are include. DataSpot is notable, because it allows you to easily publish data from a database (static pages). Finally, SoftQuad has included Design Time Controls (DTC). These allow user to insert numerous dynamic elements, including a Website tour creator and site outliner.
Other features
The package includes a macro recorder which can replay key/mouse actions and replay. Also included are spelling checker and thesaurus. The package also helps authors improve performance by automatically inserting tags when an the carriage return is pressed. For example, each time the return is hit at the end of a list item, HoTMetaL will insert a new list item and place the cursor at the beginning of it. Accessibility features makes creating pages easier for authors with disabilities.

Missing/Poorly Implemented Features:

Needs customizable tool bars
The dialog to change attributes requires the user to make a selection from the menu (or press the F6 key) since it is not present on any of the toolbars. I wanted to immediatly make his addition, but was not able to. The tool bars also take up a large amount of real estate on the screen. By allowing customization users of large monitors could easily move buttons to other bars to better utilize the extended width. I also feel that the tool bars need some revamping and simplification.
Macro capability needs to be updated
To Softquad's credit, they are still one of the few standalone editors to offer any kind of macro support. However, the key stroke recording technique is limited and needs to be greatly enhanced to compete with packages which are add-ons to word processors. I suggest including links for using visual basic for applications (this is valid for only for windows versions), so authors can create macros which include logic and looping.


HoTMetaL Pro continues to be a market leader. The latest version of HoTMetaL is comfortable to use as a graphical, text, or hybrid style editor. The bottom line is this is a powerful validating editor, which allow users to easily change tag attributes, quickly create long documents, and perform some final adjustments to graphics. New authors may be overwhelmed initially with all the new features, but should move up the learning curve quickly. SoftQuad continues to add new (and useful!) features to the product without affecting the solid foundation found in earlier versions. HoTMetaL Pro continues to be one of my picks and recommendations.

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Last Updated: September 9th, 1997