Create

As a Web-site designer, you'd rather spend your time creating new sites. But because existing sites need maintenance, niggling tasks such as changing an address or adding a press release keep you from yourcreative pursuits. And you're afraid to off-load these small jobs on your clients, who might (innocently or not) tinker with your design.

You can prevent clients from breaking your sites while still allowing them to update content: use a combination of Macromedia's Dreamweaver MX 2004 ($399; www.macromedia.com) and Contribute 2 ($149), a program designed for people who make changes to Web sites but don't know HTML.

The first step is to take advantage of Dreamweaver's templates to define Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and make parts of your site off-limits to your clients who use Contribute. Next, you'll employ Contribute's Site Administration controls to limit the editing freedom that clients have over remaining site elements.

Define the Field of Battle

A Dreamweaver template is a page in which you've laid out basic elements that appear on all pages made from that template. For instance, a template may have a navigation bar and places for images, headings, and body text. When you design pages for Contribute users, you must define editable and locked regions of the page. Clients with Contribute can add content to the editable regions, but when they put the pointer over a locked region (such as the navigation bar), it changes to the international symbol for no (a diagonal slash inside a circle). Contribute users can't create, delete, or edit Dreamweaver templates.

You can make a new template page from scratch, but it's often easier to turn an existing page into a template. Choose File: Save As Template, name it, and assign it to an existing site. Define the editable areas by selecting part of the page and choosing Insert: Template Objects: Editable Region.

Once you name your region, Dreamweaver surrounds it with a green border. Enter placeholder text and graphics in the editable regions. When you've defined all the editable regions, save the template to your Web server, where it will be shared by your Contribute clients.

Impose Your Style

Good Web designs include custom Cascading Style Sheets, which you define in Dreamweaver and attach to your page templates. (If you're new to CSS, see "Create Sophisticated Style Sheets,” April 2002.) These styles, as well as the standard HTML styles, will appear in the Styles pop-up menu in Contribute's Editing toolbar. Contribute users can then apply those styles to text they enter. There are several things you should do to make CSS styles more useful for your site contributors.

Hide Unneeded Styles If you have styles that aren't for users (say, styles that are used only in the template's locked regions), you can keep the styles from showing up in Contribute's Styles pop-up menu by adding mmhide before the style name (for example, mmhideFooterText).

Make Meaningful Style Names Think about how your styles will be applied, and give them self-explanatory names. A name like StoryTitle or Headline, rather than something like h2RedItalic, will help people find and use the correct style.

Use External CSS Files Contribute loads the external style sheet attached to a template when it opens a page for editing. It's better to use external style sheets than in-line or embedded CSS. Maintaining consistent style names will be easier, and when you make changes to a style, all Contribute users will automatically get the update the next time they edit a page that uses the style sheet.

Grant Permissions

Some clients are more trustworthy than others. Contribute's Site Administration controls acknowledge this by letting you grant different site contributors varying editing permissions. You can assign different users to separate permission groups; each group has its own set of editing restrictions. You need Contribute to set permissions; if you haven't bought it, download the free 30-day trial version.

In Contribute, choose Contribute: Administer Websites and then choose the name of your site from the hierarchical menu. Enter the administrator password; then, in the Administer Website dialog box, select the permission group you want to edit (or click on the New button and give the new group a name) and click on Edit Group. In the Permission Group dialog box, click on the General category. Help the group's members get to their part of the site faster by entering the URL for that site section in the Group Home Page box. This sets that URL as the default page for the group, helping you keep, say, the sales team out of the corporate staff's pages. You can also set the home page by clicking on the Browse button next to the box.

In the Styles And Fonts category, decide whether you want to take away the user's ability to apply CSS styles, HTML styles, or both. You can also remove the Font and Size menus in the Editing toolbar if you want to restrict text entry to the default styles for each editable region.

In the New Pages category, select the Use Dreamweaver Templates option, and then decide whether you want users to access all or only selected templates. You can hide some templates from particular permission groups. This is also the category where you can allow clients to create new pages by copying existing pages from the site.

Finally, use the New Images category to restrict the maximum image-file size that clients can place on their site's pages. If you set the limit to zero, clients won't be able to add any images.

It's Good to Be King

The combination of Dreamweaver templates and Contribute 2 offers advantages beyond greater control and less mundane maintenance for you. Templates and CSS let you make wholesale changes to a site's design by tweaking just a few pages. And your clients will likely be happy that they don't have to pay your fees every time they need a minor site alteration. With the combination of Dreamweaver and Contribute, everybody wins.

More-Accurate Color

Pantone swatch books are fixtures on graphic designers' desks, and Pantone inks appear on many a printed piece. Beginning last fall, the company branched out. Its ColorVantage line includes inks, papers, and profiles for certain ink-jet printers from Epson and Canon.

Pantone says that the ColorVantage inks give these select printers a larger color gamut. That -- combined with papers in a variety of finishes and printer profiles customized for the ColorVantage inks and papers -- is meant to give you more-faithful color when you print photos and artwork.

For supported printers and prices, go to www.pantoneinkjet.com. -- terri stone

HTML in Contribute?

Contribute 2 does a thorough job of shielding users from HTML: you can't even view a page's HTML source code, and when you try to paste HTML into the editing window, it appears as plain text in the Web page. But advanced users can sneak in through a back door to insert snippets of HTML, including QuickTime movies, complex tables, and forms, into Contribute pages.

First, you'll need to copy the HTML you want to add, either from the source view of a Web browser or from an HTML editor such as Bare Bones Software's BBEdit.

Switch to Contribute, browse to the page where you want to place the copied HTML, and click on the Edit Page button on the toolbar. In the resulting draft page, click to set the insertion point for the copied HTML snippet. Then choose Insert: Special Characters: Other. The Insert Other Characters dialog box appears, with a tiny text box. Though the box is small, it can hold a lot of text. Press Command-V to paste the copied HTML into the text box. (Because you're in a modal dialog box, the menus aren't active, so you must use the keyboard command.) The box may still appear to be empty; to check that the HTML pasted correctly, press the left-arrow key to see the end of the pasted text. Click on OK, and Contribute renders the HTML onto the Contribute draft page.

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