Sweet dreams will be made with this

Sutherland Lyall is pleased to discover that Dreamweaver, Macromedia’s foray into HTML authoring, does exactly what it says on the box and more besides.

Dreamweaver is Macromedia’s new big HTML authoring application and it’s worth saying at the outset that we reckon it’s ace. It does everything pretty much as advertised and is a worthy rival for established applications like Microsoft’s Front Page and Adobe’s PageMill.

It is something of an achievement that Macromedia has produced a package that will suit the three main sorts of website writers: the one or two-person group which is design orientated and needs an HTML writing program it can cope with as non-techies; the small techie group which doesn’t have a high opinion of designers but can knock out Java applets; and the pro-team which can produce 400-page websites before lunch.

It’s also something the beginner can use out of the box because it’s a visual app. The pro who can write HTML code, will find everything is much simpler and easier. Looking ahead it is also Dynamic HTML friendly.

Flash, Director and FreeHand users will enjoy the comfort of slipping into a familiar interface environment and files are interchangeable between these programs, but all users will be grateful that Macromedia has designed the program on the basis of what we punters have told it we want, rather than what it knows is best for us.

You can write HTML code the way you like it and then use the program’s simple-to-use drag and drop to add the refinements.

An equally important thing here is that, unlike a number of other HTML authoring applications, Dreamweaver leaves your own HTML script well alone when you slip from raw HTML code into Dreamweaver and out again. Macromedia calls this ability to flip between HTML code mode and Dreamweaver’s visual code Roundtrip.

There’s no point in designing a great Web page if only anoraks and plug-in beta testers can read it. The Web author’s eternal problem is knowing what browsers and plug-ins are owned by Net surfers. Dreamweaver allows you to interrogate the site you are designing about what browsers and plug-ins it can cope with and, more importantly, what the operating minimum requirements are.

There are a bunch of nice features: one-button-push footers and heads repeats on every page; custom palettes creation and JavaScript behaviours. You can lock files to avoid confusion in team work, there’s cascading style sheet support enabling greater control than usual over the appearance of a site.

Dreamweaver is really quite good at doing all these things and it’s a great organising tool. In a team operation the app allows you to keep an overview of the different sites being worked on and their stages of development. We’d like to see someone using it on a really big 300-page site.

Price is 400 (250 until the end of February). Ominously, this is the first Macromedia application first authored for the PC.

Designer’s dictionary

Is this the 3D graphics fountain of youth? Maybe. Right now, however, it’s a new 3D ray-tracing rendering chip in beta test mode from Cambridge’s Advanced Rendering Technology. Put four of them in a box, as ART will by the summer in 19in rack unit form, and for 12 000 you have the equivalent of several workstations or 60 266MHz Pentium IIs. No jokes about how many PowerPCs. The top end version, the RenderDrive64, has the power of around 1000 PentiumII PCs and will cost perhaps 100 000. That’s the version the big movie studio digital out-workers will want: Digital Domain had a render farm of 185 Digital Alphas for its rendering for Titanic and wished it had more. The ART unit is platform independent so when you move up to NT or Silicon Graphics or Sun you can take your render farm on a rack with you and plug it into the new network. Out of your league? Not when you realise that the computer animation market is growing at around 30 per cent per annum and it’s not all that remote from conventional new media work. Speak to Craig Wareham at ART on 01223 563 854 or check out the frequently asked questions at www.art.co.uk/faq.

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