a Site with Hot Metal Pro 6
High End WYSIWYG
by Jim Bray
sixth version of its Hot Metal Pro Website development kit is a marvelous
tool that offers a lot of power to developers of all skill levels.
HMP has always been
powerful, but I found earlier versions (#4 was the last one I tried) to
be more difficult to learn than competing products like MS FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver. Whether I or the software has
gotten smarter is open for debate, but I found version 6 of HMP to be
much more easy to use - as well as offering unprecedented power and flexibility.
There's a lot that's
new in HMP, but the enhancement that really jumped out at me is the "Tags
On" WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) view. While technically not
WYSIWYG, this is a marvelous view for when you're editing html documents
because it not only gives you a good visual reference to your page, but
lets you see all those damn html tags that are so necessary for a Browser
This view is a marvelous
way to ensure your tag work is clean and efficient. I found myself using
it almost exclusively (except for previewing) when designing or entering
information, including text, into a page. It's a beautiful way to keep
your html consistent, too - and for changing information while retaining
If you want to change
a title, for example, but have it keep its old parameters (like size,
font, color, etc.), you merely click inside the tag and re-type the data
over the old data (or delete the old and type in the new). The end result
is a new title, paragraph, graphic - or whatever - whose formatting is
identical to the old.
This worked really
well when updating TechnoFILE's home page, where the information in the
headlines, subheads, "blurbs" etc. changes often, but the form remains
You can also contract
the tags so only they show (not the information they contain) - and you
can color code them. You can also select entire elements merely by clicking
on one end of the tag, and then copy, paste, or drag and drop the entire
element somewhere else. It's marvelous.
Sure, you could make
the changes right in the HTML view, which HMP also offers, but who wants
You can create a site
from scratch with HMP using one of their pre-designed templates, or you
can begin with a blank page and build it yourself from there. The pre-designed
sites offer a lot of power and flexibility, but unfortunately they also
force you to use one of HMP's built in "themes" to give the site its look.
This is a shame, firstly because there aren't enough "themes" offered
and secondly because you're forced into a theme whether you want one or
One feature of HMP's
editor that's really handy is its "attribute inspector," which is a dockable
window in which you can control all the wrinkles of a particular html
element. For instance, if you insert an image, the attribute inspector
offers you every image tag parameter known to Man (link, "alt text," alignment,
border, size, name, hspace, etc.) and you can click onto any one of these
parameters and type in your own values (or choose them from a list or
window). It gives incredible flexibility to you, without forcing you to
mess with the actual html code.
And that suits me
It still pays to know
html so you'll understand what all these tag values mean, but it makes
it a lot easier to enter the info.
Another bonus about
all this stuff is that it teaches you more about html as you go. I first
learned html back in the "text editor" days, but using HMP has taught
me a lot of the more advanced features of html just because they were
offered up under my nose without me having to go look for them.
Beginners in Luck...
New users will find
lots to like about HMP 6 as well. The package comes with a set of learning
tools including a good set of reference materials and tutorials that can
help you learn the ins and outs of Web site design without going back
And the program itself
is now straightforward enough that you can get up and running without
a lot of knowledge in the first place.
There's an abundance
of toolbars and docking windows you can use to make life easier (and your
work area smaller!), and they're relatively customizable, too.
The screen is laid
out with the editing window front and center (multiple documents can be
opened at once) and it offers you the aforementioned and gushed about
"Tags On WYSIWYG View" along with regular WYSIWYG view, html view, and
The editing window
also shows you the "web view" of your site, displaying the active file
in the center and radiating out to all the links. You can drag this view
around to look at various aspects of the site's construction (which is
kind of cool) and check out your links visually.
Naturally, the software
also has complete site management tools, and can check and/or repair links
across the site with very little fuss. You can drag and drop links and
images into your pages from other files or applications, and import html
from other applications. You can also partake of a variety of java applets,
ActiveX components and the like, and HMP makes adding them to your page
very easy. There's a decent selection of other "assets" you can use, too,
from dropcaps and "Browser sniffers" to a calendar builder and dynamic
The selection of
stuff you can add is surprisingly wide and the software really does do
a lot of the work for you - which suits me just fine!
The app comes with,
and uses, WS-FTP Pro as its ftp app of choice, and it works well. You
can let HMP "synchronize" local and remote files automatically and WS-FTP
works in the background, or you can use it as a standalone app.
The only problem with
using HMP to synchronize sites is that it puts a special "index.hmp" and
"index.hpp" file on the remote server, and this can take up a lot of space.
On one site where I tried it this wasn't a problem because it wasn't a
large site, but if we were to use it to keep track of TechnoFILE's nearly
300 pages it would add over two megabytes to the size of our site. But
if this doesn't bother you it's a marvelous way to maintain your site.
It's faster amd easier
than publishing with MS FrontPage, which until HMP 6 I had thought was
the easiest method possible.
I had some more minor
complaints about the application. For instance, when you open a new project
and want to add a file or link using the toolbar buttons, you're directed
to the last-used directory regardless of whether it was in the same project
or not. So if you're working on two web sites and change from one to the
other, you're directed back to the first site when you initially open
the explorer window.
At the very least,
HMP should direct you to the current web's root directory. Still, this
problem is cured by a few points and clicks, so it isn't a huge annoyance.
I also had a problem
when trying to synchronize a local web site with its remote version. When
first loading the application, it refuses to cooperate when told to synchronize
and I had to open the "Tools/Sites" dialog box and re-enter the remote
"startup folder" information, even though the existing information was
Once that was done
I could synchronize subsequently to my heart's content and it would work
fine until I exited the program.
There's a lot more
to the whole Hot Metal Pro picture than there's space to outline here,
but this will give you an idea of its power, flexibility, and ease of
You get a lot of other
stuff in the box, which shouldn't be surprising. Not only do they throw
in WS-FTP Pro, you get Ulead Systems PhotoImpact SE (for editing images),
a HMP powerpack that includes a personal Web server, some 5000 clipart/backgrounds/
animations, a "HotBot Search Tool" and some dynamic html stuff that gives
you singing and dancing elements on your page - for better or for worse.
So despite it not
being perfect (and who among us is?), SoftQuad's Hot Metal Pro is a dynamite
application for those who want to build state-of-the-art Web sites with
as little hassle as possible.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think