Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 08/13/03 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

Macromedia Contribute 2 - first look

FlashPaper is definitely one reasons to buy it, the real reason is getting the clients off our back. By Adam Bell
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Macromedia Contribute 2
$99, Upgrade $9.99
5-pack $399
10-pack $749
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Has this ever happened to you?!

OK, that sounds like the start of a bad infomercial plug for some kitchen blender that also juices and also can firm your abs (all at the same time!) but in this review, that tagline above makes perfect sense.

In this case, have you ever been working on a cutting edge project in Flash or Dreamweaver or something else that has you all excited about all sorts of new possibilities using the web when you get an 'emergency' call from your flower-selling client who decides he wants to change a price on a dozen roses by 5 bucks?

And then you hand him the monthly maintenance bill and gets all pissed off about your $95 hourly rate for a $5 change?!

Yep, it happens to all of us in the creative industries. Personally, I'd rather create than update web content but these itty-bitty client updates happen all the time and even if you get your client(s) Dreamweaver or GoLive or FrontPage, there's so many features in those apps that your unsavvy client still can't figure out how to update that rose price?

Wasn't always that way. Used to be when Dreamweaver first came out, you didn't have to worry about Server Binding tabs or even CSS. Well, now you do and unfortunately, so does your client. So in order to make life easier for the both of you, we need a web authoring application that actually takes a few steps back instead of forward. Something that is affordable to all and user-friendly with the ability to update sites anywhere with a web connection.

Enter Contribute.

Contribute was released last year by Macromedia and now it's in the second incarnation. This time around there are versions for both the Mac as well as the PC. Now a MacHead like me can create a site and collaborate with clients or other web team members on their PC's anywhere at any time.

Here's how Contribute works in a nutshell. The web designer creates in Dreamweaver (or any web authoring program) a series of templates for content. The client on the other end uses Contribute to access those templates and then can add his or her own text or make changes where it seems fit. Using Dreamweaver templates, a web designer can lock out certain regions of a template so the unsavvy cannot screw up the layout of the webpage. The only thing he or she can screw up......I mean update! the content that needs to be changed. Whether it's adding a new article to a magazine-based site or changing prices on an e-commerce site. It's pretty simple and easy for all.

Web developers who already own Dreamweaver can continue to create the meat and potatoes of their client's site architecture using that program and since version 6.0.1 of Dreamweaver, Contribute functionality has been incorporated so the web developer can be a part of the process whether or not he or she owns Contribute. Only his clients need to use it. The web developer can send 'keys' to his other collaborators to connect to the site and determine which portions of the site they can 'Contribute' to.

In the case of E-Commerce, Macromedia has worked together with PayPal to create an e-commerce plugin to tie into a simple wizard that ties into PayPal's engine to make E-Commerce (at least PayPal's) extremely simple. Hopefully, other e-commerce developers will add extensions of their own to make it easy to add e-commerce a number of different ways.

On of the most talked about changes to Contribute is a new challenger to Adobe's PDF format. It's called FlashPaper and it allows the ability to convert any printable document (Word, PowerPoint, AutoCAD, Quark and yes PDF's.) into a FlashPaper document that comes with its' own interface and allows the document to be scrolled, enlarged and printed directly from the webpage. Which is something PDF's can't even do.

Unfortunately, this feature is not available to Mac users yet. So once again, MacHeads are at least a version behind. In addition, FlashPaper docs cannot be searched or emailed. Again, this is just phase one of this new technology, so expecting sweeping changes later this year to be sure.

While FlashPaper is definitely one of the most exciting reasons to get Contribute 2, the real reason is to get those nasty clients off our back for every nit-picky change to their site. To that end, Contribute performs regally in that area. Sure, you'll lose a few bucks each month in maintenance charges but you'll gain it all back in sanity. And that may be far more important than anything else in running a successful online business.

Adam Bell is the Design Director, CEO, Videographer and sometimes janitor with [email protected] ( amazingly not getting plastered in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LA.

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Adam Bell is the Design Director, CEO, Videographer and sometimes janitor with [email protected] ( amazingly not getting plastered in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LA.
Related Keywords:Macromedia, Contribute 2, web design. Dreamweaver, client


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