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Contribute 3.0

  • Editors' rating
    8.1 Excellent

Pros

  • Better CSS rendering
  • email notification
  • review system
  • permission based

Cons

  • Casual approval workflow
  • doesn’t support Flash-based or database-driven sites

Web publishing isn't for everyone -- it’s generally time consuming and you need to know the basics of HTML. Depending on your job role, you probably don't even have permission to alter information on your company’s Web site. Macromedia’s Contribute can alter all that, allowing authorised users to create, edit and publish Web pages to an existing Web site or intranet without knowing the first thing about HTML and FTP.

This is not an all-encompassing Web development application, but it’s a good tool for anyone within an organisation who has to update Web content via a developer, because it can help your in-house Web developer to spend his or her time more productivity. It can also save you money by reducing the frequency with which external coders have to be employed to make basic alterations to your site.

The software is simple to set up and use, and does not require complicated workflow definitions. Site administrators can simply define which users have publishing permission, as well as those who can only edit and send pages for review. Version 2.0 of the software was still in its infancy, but the latest release adds improved CSS rendering, WebDAV connections, as well as an email notification and review system, making it an excellent return on investment for both small companies and enterprises.

Contribute 3.0 does have it limitations, though. Most crippling is the way it doesn’t support dynamic sites that are database-driven or even Flash-based sites. This is because the software is really just a visual editor. Scripting is also not supported and there are compatibility issues with Unix servers, too. In addition, each version of Contribute requires an individual licence, which could prove costly if you intend to have lots of people using the software.

Configuring Contribute is similar to setting up an FTP application. For instance, you’ll need to input your server details, including FTP address, username and password. Those on a network can email a connection key to users, which is either a file or a URL. Using Contribute is very much like using a regular Web browser: you can navigate to Web sites and locate pages by clicking links within the embedded browser, refresh pages to see updates, reload pages you’ve visited using Back and Forward buttons, as well as enter URL addresses in the provided Address text box.

Anyone who's used to a Windows environment should be able work with Contribute. Once you've loaded a page you want to edit, you simply click Contribute's Edit button. The software then switches from browse mode to edit mode, providing a toolbar with common text- and table-editing features. You can also create news pages, enter new text and images, tables, movies and Flash documents, create links to external Web pages, Microsoft Office documents or other files, as well as insert content directly from Office documents into Web pages. Amended pages can be uploaded immediately, at a later date when you're next online, or when they've been approved by a manager.

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Existing Contribute users will appreciate some significant enhancements, including faster and more stable code, better Web site support, as well as the inclusion of a built-in image editor for making basic adjustments. WebDAV support is provided for editing database-based pages, along with a new engine for Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) rendering, and support for FrontPage Extensions. There’s also a new external editing feature for editing and reviewing Web page source code in an external HTML editor before publishing, plus an international spelling checker and a built-in tool to add a Google search field to your Web page.

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