- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

There’s the old saw about how you can tell a shoemaker’s children: They are the ones whose footwear is falling apart.

The same, I guess, can be said for some Web sites: The owners are too busy to keep the sites up-to-date.

For those people, and, frankly, for this reviewer, that excuse is a little less valid. NetObjects Fusion, released a few months back in version 8, is a $199.95, virtually all-in-one way to create and maintain a Web site. It runs on Microsoft Windows.

Thanks to its various templates and editing tools, NetObjects Fusion Version 8.0 allows users to produce sophisticated, full-feature sites without the need to master HTML programming. A visual page-layout editor, where “what-you-see-is-what-you-get,” offers what the publishers call “enhanced creativity and design freedom.” For me, that translates into not having to worry about a host of elements.

Do I need a template for my entire site? It’s there, and there are plenty to choose from. (If I don’t like any in the collection, others are available from Website Pros, which publishes the software, as well as online sellers such as www.fusionmagic.com.) Would I prefer to create my own layout? The tools are there, and they’re easier to use than some I’ve seen.

If time is a concern, you might be happy working with one of the supplied templates. They’re distinctive enough to make your site stand out, and that’s the basic goal for many of us.

The program also offers ways to set up “pop-up” windows such as a photo gallery, without having to know specific HTML coding techniques. The publishers say the program supports several e-commerce “store engines” such as PayPal, Beanstream, ShopPro, QuickCommerce and Kurant StoreSense, and lets users switch from one to another easily.

NetObjects Fusion Version 8.0 also has better integration with databases such as Microsoft Access, as well as better navigation tools, enabling more “layers” in a Web site’s organization. Some users like to have such an option; others need it to organize large Web sites.

Perhaps the greatest enhancement of the new product is a built-in photo-editing tool that can resize photos, remove red eye, crop and manipulate images, as well as save them in various formats including GIF, JPG and PNG, all of which are favored in Web design.

Priced less than $200, NetObjects Fusion Version 8.0 is aimed at small- to medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs. Larger companies and organizations often will contract out such work or have a Webmaster on staff. Such firms also are more likely to have staffers who know Macromedia’s Dreamweaver MX 2004 — which is twice the price.

Installation and setup for NetObjects Fusion Version 8.0 is rather easy; on a reasonably well-equipped Windows computer, the program moves quickly and well. The look of the program is far less intimidating to those whose main business is not Web design. Results can be previewed in Internet Explorer 6 or other Web browsers.

With practice, I probably would become a master of this program, and that may yet happen. For now, I’m glad to have a quick-and-not-at-all-dirty tool that can let me craft and publish a Web site in a couple of hours, as opposed to a couple of weeks. You might like it, too. Details are online at www.netobjects.com.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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