GoLive Turns 5

GoLive 5.0 is not a revolutionary new Web management tool and visual Web page editor. It’s more significant than that: It’s the latest edition of a mature, rich, and deep software package with the kinks worked out. Best of all, for workflow purposes it integrates (through special "smart objects") with three of Adobe‘s most important products: Illustrator, Photoshop, and LiveMotion. It edits QuickTime movies internally; it handles embedded links in PDFs and SWFs; and it has a fully embedded version of the Save For Web feature found in Photoshop.

With mature products, you’re looking for a box full of Swiss Army knives, not a can of glitter paint. You’d rather have many tools presented through a consistent interface than have to bang around in dialog boxes and press obscure buttons. GoLive uses a series of non-modal, floating palettes and inspectors to modify selected items. It allows a sophisticated user to enter details, while simultaneously letting a beginner drag and drop. Both actions can have equally powerful results. GoLive 5.0 treats every kind of object and task consistently, helping to mark it as a stable and complete Web development environment.

Visual Page Editing
GoLive’s approach from its origin has been to focus on the user’s workflow: First, you think of an item, such as an image or table, and find the icon placeholder for that item in a palette (now called the Objects palette). Second, you drag this item into the appropriate spot on a page. Third, with the item selected, you use one of the many incarnations of the Inspector palette to modify it: You can link to an image, change its dimensions, set its properties, or change its format.

GoLive 5.0 extends this practice by adding more task-specific palettes to complement the Inspector palette’s bag of tricks. A new Table palette, for instance, offers a schematic proxy for selecting table cells: Choosing cells, rows, or columns — contiguous or not — in the Table palette selects the corresponding parts of the table on the page. This makes it much easier to work with complex tables without spending half your life moving the mouse in tiny increments to grab the precise edge of the right cell. You can also sort tables by rows, and apply (and capture) repeating designs for headers and cells. These tools alone shave precious minutes off the time it takes to edit any page containing a table.

When starting on a page in GoLive, you first bring up a document window. A document window contains five (Mac) or six (Windows) tabs, each corresponding to different view of the page. The Layout Editor shows a rough browser-agnostic preview that’s fully editable. The Frame Editor lets you drag, drop, and resize frames in a frameset. The HTML Source Editor provides a simple view into the underlying HTML; you can also use the new Source Code palette to simultaneously view or edit HTML with the Layout Preview displayed. The HTML Outline Editor mode chunks HTML into nested tabs that I find useful mostly for troubleshooting. GoLive can also store stationery templates.

On the Mac, two preview tabs handle a page preview and a frameset preview; you can also simulate different browsers and platforms through a popup menu. Under Windows, GoLive uses Internet Explorer to handle previewing, so there’s only a single tab available. However, Adobe ships a tool on the GoLive CD-ROM that allows you to switch this default browser.

GoLive supports all standard HTML objects and features, including tables, frames, color, font sets, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), DHTML, JavaScript, Meta-tags, text formatting, and forms. GoLive uses CSS to create exactly positioned floating boxes, and it still has good support for layout grids, which use tables to stick things in a certain place on a page. (I recommend floating boxes instead of grids, as floating boxes are a real tool, rather than a hack that happens to work.)

DHTML support continues to be as easy as point and click, with a dedicated timeline allowing objects to be easily placed and moved. Previewing works perfectly, and the underlying JavaScript seems to work on Internet Explorer and Netscape on both Mac and Windows.

You can combine DHTML animations with GoLive’s ever-increasing set of prefabricated JavaScript routines called GoLive Actions, which let even non-programmers use sophisticated Web-site elements. The current release has a few dozen Actions, some of them tailored for DHTML (such as playing an animation when a link is activated); others provide common JavaScripts, such as inserting the current time and date on a page, or displaying a random image when a page loads. GoLive integrates actions through a special Actions palette that lets you attach behavior to a mouse click, a key press, and the other standard JavaScript triggers.

The Smart Objects added in GoLive 5.0 include tools to link source files to Photoshop, Illustrator, and LiveMotion documents. You can directly modify the source art via GoLive’s
interface: GoLive resizes the image using the source art behind the scenes, re-rendering the files as necessary, without requiring you to separately launch the creating program, modify the file, save it, and export it back.

Dragging images other than GIFs or JPEGs into GoLive (or PNGs if you have that option enabled) prompts the program to offer choices for conversion, and this feature uses the standard Save For Web functionality offered in several Adobe programs. Having it inside the program itself makes for quick work.

Site Management Streamlined
The site-management features of GoLive have always been excellent, but they’ve been rubbed to a high sheen in version 5. The development team seemingly assumed that in most cases, you’ll approach the development of a Web site with a reasonable, consistent design in mind, leading to the following implications:

  • You’re going to build sites with navigation bars that stay the same from page to page in the same section.
  • You want to rough out new sites with a minimum of fuss using repeatable templates.
  • Any element that repeats across pages identically should be managed from a central point through a single file that updates across the site.
  • Making changes through find and replace in the content or underlying HTML of pages should be fast and include pattern-matching, just like Word’s Match Pattern feature and Unix’s grep.
  • Moving pages in a site should update all links to that page. Ditto changing the page’s name.
  • Finding errors should be as easy as clicking a button.
  • Prototyping a new site should involve drag-and-drag ease with all the underlying power of the program available at any point. Linking new sections in should be no more complex than selecting a menu item and reviewing errors before staging the content.
  • Building site maps from existing pages should be easy, too.

The program uses a single interface — the Site window — to handle all site features. The Files tab locates all files and folders used in a site, mirroring the contents of the local hard drive’s organization exactly. You can drag files in and out of this tab, create new folders, and move items up and down levels, and GoLive tracks it all with aplomb, prompting you to approve rewriting links as necessary. Files can also be dragged from the Windows or Macintosh desktop directly into the Files tab; GoLive automatically copies them.

GoLive offers both page templates (through its Stationery feature) and reusable, centrally managed HTML chunks, which it calls Components. Double-click a Stationery file and GoLive offers to create a new page with the template elements. Drag a Component from the Objects palette onto a page, and it copies the HTML while making a reference to the source. Changing the source updates every instance throughout the site. These two features help create an assembly line for crafting sites and later updating them. Making a Component out of a navigation bar allows changes in the navigation with a few clicks and a Save.

External URLs and embedded e-mail addresses (using the "mailto:" resource locator, to be technical) share the External tab of the site window, while colors applied as attributes and font sets invoked via the Font tag have respective Colors and Font Sets tabs.

The Design tab modestly contains the most powerful and extensive new feature: A prototyping tool that allows a designer to easily "sketch" out new sites or sections of existing sites by combining templates, links, and layout tools. Pages and sections can be dragged in, and link relationships can be added (to be placed into real links on the finished pages later). The Design tab allows any site to contain multiple designs in progress, and each design can have elements that are separately linked to different areas of an existing site. A simple staging approach allows you to check designs into your existing site, or to recall them if there are problems. This whole structure offers an important way to test ideas out quickly and easily, because GoLive tracks all the relationships, rewriting pages and links as you submit and recall designs.

File Synchronization
GoLive’s file synchronization tools continue to be top notch. Version 4 featured FTP options for uploading and downloading files from a remote server to your Web site, and these have been improved and expanded in version 5. But, more importantly, Adobe added WebDAV support.

Support for WebDAV appeared with some mystification among GoLive 5.0’s beta testers, many of whom wondered first of all what WebDAV might be. WebDAV stands for Web-Based Distributed Authoring and Versioning, and it is a technology for exchanging and synchronizing files — much like FTP, but with substantially more power. WebDAV works over HTTP, the same protocol browsers and servers use to exchange Web pages. It integrates with Apache and other Web servers, allowing a system administrator to add it as an extra rather than as part of a whole new system. It supports file locking and shared locks so that several people can work on a Web site at once while knowing precisely who has which files checked out. It also allows better two-way synchronization, especially in GoLive’s implementation, so that newer files from the server (perhaps edited by someone else in the workgroup) can be downloaded at the same time that local files can be uploaded. This is definitely a technology to watch, and it was forward-thinking of Adobe to add support for it now. (Adding WebDAV to the Apache server is free and requires just a simple change in compilation. For more information, click here.)

The program offers a well-named Clean Up Site tool that carries out a number of housekeeping tasks. For instance, it can delete any files in the site that aren’t referenced from any link descending from the home page or navigational hierarchy; and it can copy files from elsewhere on your local hard drive or network that are referenced by pages but not contained in the site’s content folder.

The export feature offers three options for copying your site to a new folder without affecting the original files. You can copy only files referenced by the navigational hierarchy. Simultaneously, you can also restructure the site into a flat folder (all content at one level) or into separate folders for media, pages, and other site elements. Export also offers "stripping" features that can pull out GoLive-specific HTML, as well as extra white space and comments. These stripping options are now available in GoLive 5.0 for FTP uploading, as well.

The program also offers options to clean up a site, such as deleting unreferenced pages. And GoLive 5.0 includes an export feature, through which you can create a copy of the current local files with only referenced files and with special GoLive code, extra white space, and comments stripped out. You can choose any or all of those stripping options for export or FTP upload.

GoLive 5.0’s biggest weakness: A lack of follow-through on features that were already powerful in GoLive 4.0 but that could use more oompf. For instance, although it has plenty of options for building and applying Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript, it hasn’t yet gone the extra mile to provide a full implementation of CSS; nor does it have debugging and programming tools for JavaScript.

The program works similarly under Mac OS and Windows: Menus, keystrokes, and object names are the same, save for the inevitable Ctrl/Command key modifier difference. As with the previous version, however, GoLive for Macintosh supports three Apple technologies not available under Windows: AppleScript (you’ll find no VBScript support for Windows yet), ColorSync, and an Apple indexing tool. For more information about the differences between GoLive versions 4.0 and 5.0, see this sidebar.

GoForth and GoCrazy
GoLive has more under its hood than the average user will ever use. But with that power, it hasn’t gone power-mad: The features are all easily accessible, and they don’t intrude into your consciousness until you need them. A much-improved browser-based help guide lets you find step-by-step advice for particular tasks quickly. But you’ll need that help less and less, because GoLive’s consistency reinforces what you already know.

Is GoLive 5.0 for you? It all depends. If you only dabble with Web-site design and want lots of help putting pages together, then Microsoft FrontPage may be a better choice for you. For those who need the power of GoLive 5.0 or Macromedia Dreamweaver, which package will prove the best choice may depend largely on workflow preference. With Dreamweaver, you figure out what you want first and then fill in values; in contrast, GoLive allows you to drop in placeholders that can accommodate any kind of object anywhere, and then to figure out the value later.

All in all, most people updating Web sites on a day-to-day basis should find plenty to love about GoLive 5.0. It’s focused on their needs. And with the addition of workgroup and workflow tools, you could say it takes a village to run a Web site — and that GoLive is the talking stick.

Posted on: September 14, 2000

4 Comments on GoLive Turns 5

  1. This review matches my experiences with GoLive5 so far. I’ve enjoyed the improvements in the product, and this review covers them well.

  2. Love the grid layout feature!!!! Makes designing alot easier!!!! Great Great program!!!!

  3. I have used Dreamweaver before and our company wanted to start using AGL5, just because it came with PS6. (as good a reason as any, I guess) If you overlap layers or you don’t you will have printing problems. Like Text on one page and images on another. Yes really Folks, sometimes people want a print out of a web page. I am not the only one that has had this problems. A designer in Germany has had it also. Adobe’s solution is to go and delete some code by hand. Yes this fixes the problem for that page only. I tried for 4 weeks to find the answer to this and couldn’t find anything on Adobe’ site. Found a guy in Germany who found out.

  4. The first review on this page doesn’t criticism my review, but Adobe GoLive’s ability to create pages that can be printed out of Web browsers. What a weird thing to criticize about a Web authoring program! Also, an incredibly strange place to post such criticism.

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