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Software Review: NetObjects Fusion 3 (beta)

NetObjects Fusion is back, with a vengeance. Perhaps the most ambitious attempt ever at WYSIWYG Web page design, Fusion 2.02 was good, but had a tendency to create fairly complex tables in its HTML output (see our review, and check out the source code for those pages too!). NetObjects has been sensitive to this (and other) noted problems, and has gone back to the drawing board for Fusion 3.0. At press time, I'm testing a pre-release version F.03a, code-named Reno (whether for the city or the Attorney General is anyone's guess). And I'm smiling, because I just created a page with a Dynamic HTML element that worked -- with no changes -- in both Internet Explorer and Netscape 4.x browsers. In a year's time, this may be no big deal, but right now, it's pretty cool indeed. The bad news -- and I understand, as should you, that these issues seem to be totally related to the fact that I'm still working with beta code -- is that Site Import gave me spotty results. My first try was very exciting: I imported my entire personal home site, and (except for a few glitches here and there) it basically worked right away. Those pages are extremely simple as far as HTML goes, though, so I tried to import some pages from WebDeveloper.com. This was a disaster: nav bars and banners showed up as pull-down menus, and the tables started repeating down the page. I then tried to work with a 4-page site I had created in Fusion 2.02; two of the pages were basically OK, while the other two couldn't be opened. I also had some trouble trying to publish imported sites. Again, this is beta code; the released version won't be out for a few months (sorry).

New Features Galore

On the other hand, pages created in Fusion 3.0 beta worked fine, had no disturbing table code, and worked the way they were supposed to. Because Fusion is a single program, you can do things like modify all the names of a page (title, banner, button, etc.) in one place, instead of having to open up a number of different dialog boxes in different programs the way you have to in Microsoft's FrontPage. There are lots of reasons to upgrade. Their Dynamic Actions are what I used to add motion to this page (visible, you will notice, in any fourth-generation browser); it's as simple as picking actions out of a menu. For this trick, I also needed their External HTML feature -- which lets you write complex pages in your favorite HTML editor and bring them into Fusion as an unchanged object.


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