As the OS/2 e-Zine! Runner-Up award winner this year and first-place winner last year in the same category, HTML Studio has no lack of popularity. It stands somewhere between a fully WYSIWYG and text-only web page editor, editing the pages themselves at the code level, but offering near real-time previews in either its built-in preview window or a DDE link with Netscape. In addition, it also features rudimentary publishing features and table creation. However, it doesn't quite live up to its promise of creating web pages without knowledge of HTML -- it's more likely that you'll reach a compromise between learning enough HTML to get by, and relying on HTML Studio to fill in the gaps of your knowledge.
HTML Studio's own installation program creates and moves all the necessary files into a directory you name and places a folder of icons on the desktop with which to launch the application. A bit puzzling is the creation of an "Uninstall" icon for the installation program, since the INSTALL.EXE it points to is never actually copied over from the floppy or temporary directory you installed from. (It's not made clear anywhere that you must copy the INSTALL.EXE over to the new directory yourself after the install program has finished running)
If you're familiar with Panacea's other major application -- the ProNews/2 newsreader -- then you'll already know how to operate much of HTML Studio's interface (GIF, 20k), especially the toolbar. Right click on it and you can start adding your own buttons and functions, or drag existing ones to change their order. HTML studio allows you to invoke any of the program's menu functions this way, or launch external programs. The button faces can come from the built-in collection, or a bitmap of your choice.
Slightly annoying were the keyboard associations. While there are keyboard shortcuts for bold and italics, there are none for "strong" or "emphasis" -- the preferred method of getting the same effect in HTML. To get these you'll have to dig through the QuickTags menu each time or make buttons for them, since there isn't a way of modifying the keyboard shortcuts, as there is in HTML-Ed.
And then it insists on adopting an MDI (Multiple Document Interface), where each file is in a separate sub-window, "slaved" to the main one. The chief disadvantage here was that maximized document windows didn't re-size at the same time you re-sized the main window -- meaning that you could lose the document's titlebar and have to tile-and-maximize everything again. I particularly noticed and disliked this while I was trying to size the editor part of the program to coexist with the free-floating preview window on the same screen.
HTML Studio passes well as an editor with a high level of HTML support added. In addition to the table support mentioned earlier, it can also handle form elements (check boxes, radio buttons, etc.), Java tags and special characters (like accented characters, the copyright symbol and so on). What's handy about the special characters dialog (GIF, 24k) is that it's modeless -- meaning you can open and leave it on the side until needed while you continue typing.
The Table support is a little questionable and not as elegantly done as it could be. Through a pair of dialogs you must first put together a list of column headers (which also defines how many columns across the final table will be), then add data to the rows that follow with the second dialog. This second, row-adding dialog remembers the columns from the last table you created, but isn't smart enough to see if you've perhaps moved the cursor to a second table in the same document.
I would have preferred the option of simply defining the initial dimensions of the table in rows and columns, but perhaps HTML Studio's current two-step process is easier for new users unfamiliar with the intimidating syntax.
To speed up the entry of some common sets of tags, such as "META NAME" blocks, Headers and WebEx animations, HTML Studio has dialogs that simplify the task down to plugging the data into a few forms, then inserting the correctly formatted tags at the current cursor position. You'll see such "helpful" dialogs the first time you try to create a document too, as HTML Studio will insist on having a filename, destination directory and page title before starting a new file.
Images are handled this way too (complete with preview and alignment options), or by a much easier method; drag-n-drop from the Workplace Shell. HTML Studio intelligently uses relative, Unix-friendly paths to reference the image too -- so they shouldn't be broken when the page is finally published to the server. WIDTH and HEIGHT tags are correctly filled in too, saving you a trip to the image viewer.
The built-in "Web Window" is based on and requires IBM's Web Explorer, which comes with OS/2 3.0 and higher. Opened in a separate window, rather than toggling in-place like HTML-Ed, this preview of the document being edited can be updated either manually or after every Edit/Insert operation, such as highlighting and deleting, pasting text, or inserting a table. If the Web Window isn't good enough, you can have it update a currently running copy of Netscape or Lynx instead via DDE. The only disadvantage to either is that HTML Studio cannot scroll down the preview to the part you were editing, meaning that on long pages you'll find yourself re-scrolling Netscape or the Web Window down to the spot you were at whenever a refresh occurs.
What I really missed the most in HTML Studio was the ability to define my own keyboard shortcuts and a good Rexx interface with which to write macros and batch jobs. I also don't quite buy the idea that someone without HTML experience could create a "full featured" web page with the program. Create from scratch with no mistakes, maybe, but when you come back to edit the same page later you'll definitely need to start learning a few basics of HTML, if only to know how to insert an extra column or row in a table.
HTML Studio will most likely teach you, rather than isolate you. Its shortcuts and preview methods are very handy too.
HTML Studio v1.55
Chris Wenham is the Senior Editor of OS/2 e-Zine! -- a promotion from Assistant Editor which means his parking spot will now be wide enough to keep his bicycle and a trailer.
|Copyright © 1998 - Falcon Networking