Having been using Softquad's HoTMetaL Pro software professionally since way back on version 3, I thought that it was about time that I expressed my opinions on version 6 of the product here on DooYoo! First of all, the bad news is that it is highly possible that version 6.0 of HoTMetaL may well turn out to be the final edition. This is because the developers (SoftQuad) have recently been taken over by Corel, so the future of all of their products is uncertain at the moment. Don't let that worrying news put you off investing in HoTMetaL though - it's a wonderful HTML editor and despite it's age it remains a serious low-budget alternative to Macromedia's excellent (but rather expensive) DreamWeaver product. HoTMetaL Pro ("HMP" from now on) offers all of the standard HTML editing features you would expect from such a product. Some are more intuitive than others, but fortunately the TABLE editing tools for start are excellent in my opinion. Editing, expanding or removing such elements is refreshingly easy, thanks to the comprehensive array of table cell editing tools and shortcuts. The MACROs option allows you to save you own frequently used combinations of commands too, so it's possible to say, generate a 5x5 yellow table with only one mouse click if needed. Such shortcuts are extremely useful if you work on large projects, where time saving techniques are essential. Oddly enough, HMP's interface can look extremely confusing and "clunky" when you first use it. Unlike products it competes with, it should be known that HMP does not have an ouch of style at all. This is no bad thing though, as it ensures that the software does not interfere with what you are working on. Furthermore, despite it's ugly appearance, the interface and "Attribute Inspector" are much easier to get to grips with than you would think. There are 5 ways of viewing the HTML as you work
on it, ranging from the source view (excellent), right through to an equally useful real-time Internet Explorer preview. Personally, I use the "Tags-on" view, which is unique to HMP and is effectively a combination of the two. Incidentally, a version of Microsoft IE is actually "built-in" to HMP, so you can be confident that the preview you see is 100% correct, which is very handy and saves you from having to load the pages into the browser externally. So where does HMP fall short? For starters, although the cascading stylesheet support is generally very good, for some odd reason the actual CSS editor dialogue box seems to need a lot of memory to open sometimes. This could be a machine specific problem, but I have plenty of RAM in my PC so this could be a bug. Perhaps HMP's biggest weakness is it's lack of integration with other technologies such as Flash files, RealMedia and so on. In fairness, this is not really HMP's fault though, as one would expect Macromedia's own editor (DreamWeaver) to have a big head-start with this seeing as they also develop Flash. However, it must be stated that beyond embedding a .swf file, HMP has virtually NO support for Flash files. On a brighter note, HMP does work nicely with the previewing of pages in various browsers and you can also specify other external tools (such as PaintShop Pro) which can be easilly launched from within HMP. The software does NOT have it's own FTP capabilities, but this is not a problem because it is usually bundled with a full version of the excellent WS_FTP Pro. Overall then, I can highly recommend HoTMetaL Pro 6. The lack of Flash integration and also the current uncertain future for the product ARE serious issues, but the product itself is an excellent tool for PC web developers, and I for one could not do with out it for day-to-day professional HTML coding.
I started to play around with my free web space about a year ago, using first Word as my source of software for designing my pages. As always, I soon outgrew that and tried using my Microsoft FrontPage that I found lurking in one of my folders, now whether it was just me or not, I do not know, but I could not get to grips with that at all. After trying numerous other free web design programmes from various magazines, I realised I needed something that was going to do what I wanted now, but also have other tricks up its sleeve when I got a little more accustomed to it, as I hate buying software that seems o.k. at first then I find boring me to death after a month. So I go searching, and in my stupidity go to PC World, (but that’s another opinion!) where I decide to purchase Softquads’ Hotmetal Pro 6.0. The features are outstanding, for the beginner it has the WYSIWYG view editor, which allows easy page prototyping and you soon master the art of designing good looking web pages in a matter of minutes. It also has a ‘Tags-On’ view editor, which is my favourite as you can keep control of the tags used on your site, and switch back and forth between the third view editor (and the scariest!) ‘Html’. I find that I use the ‘tags-on’ for most of my designing, then use the html editor to add any java script or html copied from elsewhere, for my counters etc. If you don’t want to start from scratch with designing your site, you can use the ‘project wizard’ which will take you through a couple of questions about the type of site you wish to construct, then gives you various choices of layout and design, then voila! Your site is ready for you to add your own touch of class! When saving your pages, it also checks all your html and if it finds any that is incorrect, it will warn you of this and show you where the html has gone wrong. You then can decide w
hether to ignore it and continue saving or try and amend it (which can lead to a nervous breakdown – trust me!). I am still quite new to the designing of web sites, but have been kept up till all hours with this software, it so easy to just keep adding more nifty java scripts or other showy add-ons that you get quite side tracked from actually getting something on the web. I would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting a good reliable piece of software for designing their web site, as it is clear to use straight out of the box, no need for heavy text books but also has depth for the more advanced user. I would like to add that if you do intend to purchase it, don’t go to PC World, as they charged me £100.00 and I have since learnt you can get it much cheaper elsewhere, you live and learn they say…
When I first started toying with web page construction about a year ago, a friend gave me a CD which contained Softquad's "Hot Metal Light 3" to get me in the swing for making web pages. As the name suggested, the light version did not have everything, so when I saw a computer magazine with a trial version of HotMetal Pro6, I bought the mag (it was the only program on the disk that worked - typical computer mag!) and put it through the motions. Hot Metal Pro 6 was straight forward to use for knocking up some basic web pages, I can't fault it for that. However, if anyone is serious like making web pages, I would suggest using Windows Notepad instead - and a good book on teach yourself web page construction. These HTML editors (not just SoftQuad) don't give you much scope to learn, I'm afraid. I suppose they are okay if you are feeling lazy and want to place ancors and citations in without typing the whole thing out or if your workload is such you need things like tables set up quickly. Softquad's offering was far more stable than Microsoft's equivilant "Front Page 2000" and it doesn't throw in all the extra comment tags and other unnecessary code that front Page does, so pages made in Hot Metal 6 will load a lot faster. Whilst Hot Metal does not have the amount of themes and graphics that Front Page does, this is not a disadvantage as (I feel) a web page made in Front Page looks unoriginal. Another point is that there is no such thing as a true "what you see is what you get" editor, although Hot Metal is again better than Front Page - it's also cheaper, too. For me, Windows Notepad and a good book was the best option.
Want to build a professional site with everything without any experience. Difficult unless you buy this product. If you are serious about a good looking site that gets the job done then you would volunteer to pay more once you get to grips with this tool. What is more is that if you can't really be bothered to understand the HTML then you can let the site maker put one together in five minutes! Just add your graphics and some content and you could be making one per day