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Contribute 3

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When Macromedia released Contribute 2 (   ; November 2003 ) last year, Mac users finally had a simple Web-page editor that novices could use to update Web sites and that Webmasters could rely on for administration. Contribute 3 is a significant evolution of the product, delivering substantial performance improvements, support for current Web-design techniques such as layouts based on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and expanded administrative controls. It also costs $50 more than the previous version.

Contribute is a straightforward Web-page editor designed for maintaining existing Web sites; it is not a full-featured Web-site-construction tool. It enables users who don’t necessarily build Web sites—administrative assistants, instructors, or marketing teams—to edit pages and add pages to an existing Web site, without any assistance from the Webmaster.

Better Performance

While Contribute 2 was often slow, Contribute 3 retrieves and publishes pages significantly faster by caching many of the files that Contribute 2 transferred via FTP. Plus, version 3’s support for WebDAV—the protocol for connecting to .Mac—makes editing .Mac Web sites faster.

Retrieving and publishing files with Contribute 3 isn’t instantaneous. You must wait to connect to a site, download a page for editing, and then publish it, although the process is quicker on a local network. Adding to the time commitment is the fact that you cannot edit or create new pages while files transfer.

Contribute 3 improves upon version 2, though, by providing support for advanced Web-page design using CSS—a timely move since more and more sites are abandoning table-based designs in favor of CSS-based layouts. Where Contribute 2 frequently displayed CSS layouts as a hard-to-edit mess, Contribute 3 does an admirable job of rendering CSS and allowing you to edit designs in WYSIWYG mode.

More Editing Tools

Contribute 3 also introduces a built-in image editor that lets you scale, crop, rotate, and sharpen images, and adjust their brightness and contrast. You can add images, resize them, and prepare them for display on the Web. Plus, you can integrate QuickTime and other movie formats such as WMV (Windows Media Video) files directly into a Web page. Launching a program such as Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit (   ; March 2003 ) or Macromedia’s Dreamweaver (   ; January 2004 ) allows people who know HTML to edit source code, an option that an administrator can disable.

Keeping Control

In some ways, Contribute is aimed more at Webmasters than at Web-page editors. It lets anyone in charge of a Web site pass the tedious job of Web-site updates to others. Contribute 3 builds on the program’s already impressive administrative tools: you can designate which pages are editable, who can edit them, what parts they can edit, and the placement of graphics and movies.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

The $50 increase from version 2 makes Contribute 3 rather pricey if you’re using it exclusively to update a .Mac site, but current users who upgrade will benefit from its improved performance, editing tools, and administrative control. And if you’re a Webmaster whose e-mail box is flooded with requests for simple site updates, utilizing Contribute 3’s powers within your organization will efficiently free up your time, yet allow you to maintain tight control over your Web site.

Contribute 3 makes editing CSS-based layouts, such as this table-free design, a breeze.
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