WebRef Update: Featured Article: Beat your own Drum - Macromedia Drumbeat 2000 | WebReference

WebRef Update: Featured Article: Beat your own Drum - Macromedia Drumbeat 2000

Beat your own Drum - Macromedia Drumbeat 2000

Drumbeat 2000 promises to be "the easiest and fastest way to create dynamic, database-driven Web sites." This is certainly a big promise for any development tool to make. I set about to reviewing Drumbeat, to find out if it could indeed be the answer to easy, code-free ASP development. If it delivered on its promise, I would be much more productive at developing Web applications, make a larger profit and have more satisfied clients. There was also a possibility that Drumbeat, like many other visual tools I have tried of late would not come close to delivering dynamic, database-driven Web sites. If this the case, then at least I could rest easy knowing that I am really as productive as I could be using my current tool set - Frontpage 2000, Visual InterDev and Dreamweaver.

Drumbeat 2000 was very easy to install and only required Microsoft Personal Web Server (included on the CD) to run ASP locally. I was able to have Drumbeat up and running within a few minutes. Initially, I found the Drumbeat interface rather cluttered and confusing. It did not have the elegance of Dreamweaver, which was something that I was expecting seeing that both products are from Macromedia. It was then that I realised that Macromedia recently acquired Elemental, the previous developer of Drumbeat - this would explain the different feel. At this point I turned to the Drumbeat manuals - a Quick Start Guide and a Users Manual. Both were easy to follow and very descriptive. The Quick Start Guide set me on my way to using Drumbeat and discovering a whole new Drumbeat vocabulary.

Creating a site from a Starting Point

Drumbeat includes a number of Starting Point sites. These are pre- built Web sites that can be customized to suit your needs or simply used to learn the basic and advanced features of Drumbeat. Drumbeat ships with Starting Points for Assets Management, an Employee Directory, Guestbook, Intranet, Search Engine and User Login. I choose the Intranet Starting Point and after selecting a few options in the New Site Wizard, had a fully functioning Intranet equipped with (among other features) a database-driven employee directory with updateable records. I could preview the site locally though Personal Web Server, with no problems reading or writing to the database. The real test for Drumbeat came when I used the Publishing Wizard to publish the entire site to my production server. Drumbeat passed with flying colors - the only thing that I needed to do was set up a System DSN (Data Source Name) for the Access database, which was well documented in the Users Manual. I must admit that I found it hard to believe that no additional components or installations were required on my production server.

Drumbeat - as a DHTML editor?

Once I started using Drumbeat I was pleasantly surprised. I had been expecting a database development tool, but found functionality that could rival any WYSIWYG Web site design tool in terms of asset management, pixel precision layout, user defined templates and DHTML creation.

Drumbeat has a built-in Asset Centre. This is the central location where all media associated with a Web site is stored. The entire contents of the Assets Centre can easily be searched and previewed. Graphics can easily be dragged to the Layout Window and positioned to the nearest grid line. The Asset Centre even holds text files and these too can be dragged to the Layout Window. Basically everything that can be contained in the Layout window can be positioned in this manner including tables.

Perhaps the true power of Drumbeat as a DHTML editor lies in the toolbar full of SmartElements. The User Manual describes SmartElements as "the building blocks used to assemble Web applications." I totally agree with this statement. There are SmartElements for common HTML elements such as form elements, text, horizontal rules and images, which can be found in any HTML editor. There are also SmartElements to create image rollovers, slide shows, sliding text, and DHTML cascading menu's. Creating a rollover button, for example, has never been simpler. Place the "Image Button" SmartElement in the Layout Window and then drag the appropriate images from the Asset Centre onto the SmartElement. The first image is the up state and the second image is the downstate. SmartElements reduce the need for Javascript to be hand coded. The SmartElement toolbar contains only a sample of the SmartElements available and can be customized to include SmartElements for Active X Controls, Plugins (such as Flash and Shockwave), Applets, Scriptlets, ASP, and COM Objects (e.g. CDO mail).

Through the use of Interactions, Drumbeat also allows you to determine how page elements respond to users and interact with each other. Simply click on a SmartElement and a range of available Interactions appear in the Interactions Centre. The Interactions Centre contains Interactions for DHTML effects, ASP, database queries and form validation.

The Template Manager is something that will come in handy, especially if you ever intend on streamlining your Web site design. Basically, the Template Manager shares design elements among pages. It allows any number of templates to be created and individual pages to be assigned to these templates. Once a page has been assigned a template, the inherited layout can't be edited on the page itself. Only the template can be edited. Unlike Themes in Frontpage, no additional server components are required. When pages containing templates are published, Drumbeat automatically generates all the required HTML to produce the shared design elements on all pages.

Next: Can Drumbeat deliever with ASP?

This article originally appeared in the March 9, 2000 edition of the WebReference Update Newsletter.


Comments are welcome
Written by Aneesha Bakharia and

Revised: May 9, 2000

URL: http://webreference.com/new/drumbeat.html