Software Review: Hypertext Builder 2003 | WebReference

Software Review: Hypertext Builder 2003

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Software Review: Hypertext Builder 2003

By Lee Underwood

As more and more Web sites are being coded with XHTML, it would only make sense that software for Web site creation would tend to be more XHTML-specific. The majority of the current editors feature HTML with added XHTML-capability. However, XHTML-specific editors are now beginning to make their way into the hands of developers. One of those editors is Hypertext Builder 2003, a true XHTML editor.

Hypertext Builder 2003 is a "Web development application", according to the Web site of PAKSoft Productions, distributors of the software. While the application's main emphasis is the coding of valid XHTML Web pages, it also provides tools for the authoring of PHP and ASP pages.

The editor's main focus is text-based hand-coding but it also offers a WYSIWYG editor. In addition, there are several other integrated utilities, such as a Paragraph Builder, a Thumbnail Browser, Font Browser, an FTP program to transfer the pages to your site, and a personal information manager to keep track of your development schedule, telephone numbers, and Web sites.

Hypertext Builder has been around for five years. Initially, the software was created as part of an academic project and has evolved into what it is today. New features in this version include style sheet importation, support for .NET Web and validation controls, and popup reference boxes for SQL, mySQL, Access, and Oracle database schemas.

Hypertext Builder won't do the thinking for you. You still need to have an understanding of XHTML (which is not much different from HTML). And if you need to renew your coding abilities, a basic XHTML tutorial is included, along with several online references.

The program's interface is like many other editors but it also includes a few perks. Across the top is a variety of menus: XHTML, color, file, and a custom menu. The custom menu, which contains six buttons, can be set up to input commands, insert code, or whatever the user desires. On the right side of the screen is a file window and a Language Tree. The file window has become somewhat of a standard in many editing programs, allowing easy access to project directories and files. The Language Tree serves as a reference for XHTML, JavaScript, VBScript, Wireless Markup Language 1.3, Cascading Style Sheets, ASP, PHP, and other XML-based languages. There is even room to create your own custom list if you wish.

On the left-hand side of the screen, near the top, is the editing window. On the bottom of the screen is a window used to preview the results from the editing window above. This window is also used to display the online manual and tutorials. The preview window uses Internet Explorer to view the files. All windows can be resized for easy viewing.

In order to help make sure the coding is valid XHTML, Hypertext Builder provides its own built-in helpers. The software supplies:

Each one of these functions can be controlled in the Settings dialog box to allow for greater flexibility. However, in order to maintain valid code, the default settings should be left unchanged..

As you begin to enter a tag, the editor helps by suggesting the next step in an open tag. This is accomplished by popup tag/attribute reference windows. When the "<" bracket is typed, a window opens with choices for entering a tag. You can move the cursor to select the code or, as you begin to enter the desired code, the cursor in the window will move closer to that tag. When the tag is entered, press the spacebar and the editor will give a number of options to complete the tag. For example, if you typed in "<div", a window will open with the attributes associated with the <div> tag (class=, id=, onclick=, style=, etc.). It sounds like a slow process, but once you get the hang of it, it helps to speed things up quite a bit. If you wish, you can ignore the window and complete the tag yourself or turn off the popup feature entirely.

Several of the tags (such as frame, table, anchor, comment, and server side) each have different colors associated making it easer to find them in the code.

Text (.TXT and .RTF format) and spreadsheet files can be imported directly into an existing document or into a new one created by Hypertext Builder. In either instance, the text is imported with the proper code supplied by the program. In the case of a new file, all the proper XHTML code is created, including the code in the head section. You will need to add the desired meta tags and any links to external style sheets and JavaScript files (this would be a useful addition in a future version).

Several files can be opened in the editor at the same time. This makes it handy when you're working on a web page, it's external style sheet, JavaScript files, SSI files, and other associated files.

Document, inline, and external style sheets are created using the built-in Style Sheet Editor. All font, text, background, color, layout, classification, positioning, and printing properties are available in the editor. External style sheets can also be imported for editing. The current style sheet can be rendered in the preview window at the lower left of the screen.

The program has several "visual tools" to aid in page layout. These include a Frame Builder, Image Map Builder, List Builder, and a Table Builder. Several wizards exist, which help the user to create style sheets, forms, scripts, special effects and other specialized tasks. In addition, there are several JavaScript and VB scripts included with the program.

Even though its main thrust is XHTML code, Hypertext Builder offers features designed to help ASP and PHP developers. Also included is the ability to scan ODBC data sources and import database schemas into the Language Tree.

The program doesn't require power much to run; all you need is a Pentium II or Celeron processor, with Windows 98 or higher, and Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher. It's licensed as shareware for the incredible price of $12.00! Registration includes a free upgrade to the next version. The download is good for 60 sessions with all the features being available during the trial period. While the help file is somewhat limited, the simplicity of the program makes up for that deficiency.

Overall, Hypertext Builder 2003 is an excellent XHTML editor. I used it to create a fairly complex XHTML Web page and, with the exception of a few of my own mistakes (capitalization of table attributes, ending </p> tag omitted, "alt" attribute omitted from image code ), it passed the W3C validator quite nicely. The coding went rather quickly once I got the hang of using the popup windows. It will especially help those who have written sloppy code and gotten away with it all these years. The amount of features included in this program place it right up there on par with others that cost $300.00-$500.00. With the addition of the Language Tree and the popup windows, it seems to be a very good all-around editor. Not bad for an academic project!

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Created: May 2, 2003
Revised: May 31, 2004