capsule review

Contribute CS3

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Adobe Contribute CS3 is unusual because it allows you to edit existing Web pages, and even to create new Web pages from templates—but you can’t use it to create a new site from scratch. It is targeted to Web designers and administrators, but used by non-designers—writers and editors—to update only Web site content.

The program shields users from the complexities of HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) coding, providing an editing environment reminiscent of a word processor. Site administrators can assign different levels of editing privileges to users, constraining the possible changes that well-intentioned but unskilled writers and editors can make to strictly formatted pages. This control can be fine-tuned; for example, some users can be allowed to enter text, but not to apply styles, to their entries. Contribute doesn’t let users access a site’s code, so it allows them to make changes and additions—to contribute to a site—without the risk that they will accidentally break a carefully executed design.

Included in the Web editions of Adobe Creative Suite 3, or available as a standalone product, Contribute CS3 is at first glance a fairly small revision of the previous version, Contribute 4 (   ), which was released just last fall. The biggest changes in this version, which provide markedly improved performance, are found behind the scenes. Numerous small changes improve the editing experience, making this a much more satisfying upgrade for users than the previous upgrade to Contribute 4.

Better performance

Contribute is now a Universal binary, which vastly speeds up the program on Intel-based Macs. In my testing, Contribute CS3 on a 2GHz Core Duo MacBook, launched in 19 seconds versus 53 seconds for Contribute 4 on the same machine. Running on a Dual 2.5GHz Power Mac G5, the new version launched in 22 seconds versus 33 seconds for Contribute 4. Creating a draft of a complex page was also quicker than in the previous version, though the improvement wasn’t as striking. For both PowerPC and Intel machines, common tasks—including publishing edited pages to a site and canceling drafts—felt more responsive.

Contribute CS3 shares the improved page rendering engine developed for Dreamweaver CS3, so it displays CSS on Web pages faster and with much better fidelity. Rendering now complies with the CSS 2.1 standard, which is supported by all the major browsers, ensuring that your drafts in Contribute will look much the same across all browsers and platforms.

Easier editing

Contribute had always let you insert images, Flash animations, and video from your computer or your own Web server onto Web pages, but now you can insert these elements from anywhere on the Internet, not just from your local hard drive. Choosing From the Internet as a source opens a mini-browser where you enter the URL of the item you want; inserting the item adds a reference to it on your page, so you’re not copying the item and uploading it to your own server, but the item will appear on your page. New integration with Adobe Bridge CS3 lets you use Bridge to drag and drop images and other media into your draft pages.

Another new feature is a dialog box that allows you to quickly add bits of HTML—called snippets in the program—to a page. For example, many sites, such as Google Calendar, allow you to add their content to your pages by putting custom HTML the site creates for you onto your page. Just copy that HTML and paste it into Contribute’s Insert HTML Snippet dialog box. Clicking on OK embeds the site’s content in your page.

Contribute CS3 offers improved integration with Adobe Acrobat (   ) files; dragging a PDF file into Contribute gives you the choice of either creating a link to the PDF content or embedding it in your draft Web page. You can also insert a PDF file from the Internet.

Unfortunately, the Windows version of Contribute still has features that are missing in the Mac version, including easy integration of Microsoft Office documents. If you use Firefox 2 (or Internet Explorer 7 on Windows), Contribute provides a new toolbar with buttons that allow you to edit the page you are browsing, or to quote its content to a new blog post. There’s no similar feature for Safari.

Contribute sites require an administrator to bestow editing privileges for different writers and editors. Administrator settings are stored on the Web site, and Contribute CS3’s administrative settings are incompatible with previous versions. As a result, all administrators in your organization that work on a particular site must upgrade to Contribute CS3 if any of them make administrative changes. Non-administrators may continue to use previous versions.

Better blogging

Contribute 4 introduced the ability to use Contribute as a blog editor for most popular blogging platforms, such as Blogger, WordPress, Movable Type, and others, and Contribute CS3 adds some welcome refinements. It’s now easier to select a previous post for editing, or to delete posts. Blog editing is now WYSIWYG, and the program caches the template for your blog so that you can create blog entries offline using your own template. And you can now assign multiple categories for a blog post. Though Contribute has a built-in browser, you can preview your blog entry in an external browser if you prefer. And depending on the blog server, you can write a post for later automatic publication (WordPress supports such scheduling, for example).

These are all useful updates to the program for companies who want to use Contribute’s blogging features to make sure that blog entries correspond to their authors’ established roles.

Macworld’s buying advice

Contribute CS3 is an appealing and justifiable upgrade for users of Contribute 3 or earlier versions, especially if you want to run the program on an Intel-based Mac. In many ways, Contribute CS3 is the upgrade that Contribute 4 should have been, especially in terms of Intel compatibility. For users who faithfully upgraded to Contribute 4, Adobe should have rewarded that loyalty with a free upgrade to Contribute CS3.

[ Longtime Macworld writer Tom Negrino has written books on Contribute and Dreamweaver, including the best-selling Dreamweaver CS3 Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press; 2007). ]

Contribute CS3 makes it easy to add page elements that reside elsewhere on the Internet—like this Flash video—to your own pages.Several of Contribute CS3’s new features are shown in this view of a blog post, including the ability to set multiple categories, scheduling blog entries for a future date and time, and a button that opens Adobe Bridge for quickly adding images and media.
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