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During the cold winter of 1995, when I was first learning to create Web pages, we referred to laying down HTML code as “slamming p’s.” Back then, text editors were so primitive that you had to toggle between code and text modes—you couldn’t enter HTML tags in text mode or text in code mode. So, we ended up dropping in a series of
(paragraph) tags and filling in content between them. This could lead to some pretty sloppy code, and we spent hours searching for and fixing small errors. What we really needed was a program that would automatically clean up the code for us and take the drudgery out of creating Web pages. We really needed something like Site Soap 1.2.
Site Soap takes the pain out of optimizing your Web site’s code and images, and facilitates better quality code and faster downloads. The program is most useful to developers who do a lot of hand-coding or who must mark up a quantity of Microsoft Word-flavored HTML, as opposed to those who use sophisticated visual design tools and graphics programs to create their sites.
The program lets you drag and drop files into a list of files to clean and then allows you to choose from a simple set of options. For example, you can convert HTML to XHTML, strip out Microsoft Word code, format your HTML and CSS code, and optimize your images. You also can choose from a much longer list of several dozen advanced cleaning options, each with a full (although occasionally vague) description, and save these options as a set to use later. Site Soap then whips through your Web site, cleaning up the code and reducing image file sizes.
When Site Soap is done, it presents a Comparison Results list of the files cleaned, their original file size, their cleaned file size, and the percent saved (although occasionally the file size may increase, especially if images are compressed), along with the total savings for all the files it cleaned. Depending on the size and nature of your site, this savings can be as much as a few hundred kilobytes.
Issues with graphics
The most notable drawback to Site Soap comes after it optimizes graphics. Although the program does a good job of compressing images, it tends to appreciably lighten their tone and increase their contrast (which can actually improve the appearance of some images), and images already compressed in other applications may develop noticeable artifacts.
However, Site Soap does not offer any way to compare before-and-after versions of images. Instead, you have to dig through the backup documents that Site Soap automatically creates and do your own comparison in another application. Moreover, there is no easy-to-use Undo command to roll back the optimized files to their original versions. You have to manually drag the files from the backup folder into your site folder.
Macworld’s buying advice
If you receive Web pages and images from various sources, especially from Microsoft Word, and you need a quick and inexpensive way to clean and optimize them before you put the content online, Site Soap 1.2 will serve you well. However, if you are creating your code and images using standard Web development tools like Macromedia’s Dreamweaver or Fireworks or Adobe’s GoLive or ImageReady, then you already have all the tools you need to optimize your Web site.
[ Jason Cranford Teague is a senior user interface designer at AOL. He regularly rants about technology and culture on his blog, webbedENVIRONMENTS.]If you are not an HTML maestro, Site Soap’s Simple mode can clean up your code in no time.Almost 19KB of excess code was instantly eliminated from this Web site.