A Fine Companion on the Way to HTML Literacy

Many people are a bit scared of learning Web-page design and debugging. Between the myriad bits of information to track, the overall design headaches, and HTML itself, starting out seems daunting.

If you're a beginner intimidated by the prospect of designing a Web page, or even if you're a veteran Web designer, Blue Sky's WEB Office 1.0 deserves a good look. (Version 1.5 is scheduled for release by the time you read this article.) A decent suite of tools comes on one CD-ROM, runs on all Intel versions of Windows, and installs smoothly and quickly. WEB Office also includes individual manuals for each program and some online references.

The suite includes HTML Author, an assistant for creating Web pages in Microsoft Word; Help-to-HTML Converter, which is self-explanatory; Web Doctor, a Web-page debugger; Web Graphics Locator, which hunts for graphics files on your computer; Web Graphics Library, a collection of Web-oriented clip art such as buttons and lines; Paint Shop Pro, a third-party paint program halfway between Paint and CorelDRAW in capability; HotSpot Studio, a cropping tool and image prep program; and WEB Office QuickBar, a floating button bar that makes switching between the program modules easy. WEB Office also ships with Internet Explorer (IE) 2.0, and it works fine with IE3, Netscape, or Mosaic.

HTML Author
The 160-page HTML Author manual is a well-designed tutorial that helps you build a complete Web site for a surf shop as shown in Screen 1. But even without the tutorial, HTML Author (alias Internet Assistant) is a deceptively simple way to learn how to design Web pages. The extra menu items it adds to Microsoft Word 6 or 7 makes the combined programs very browser-like. Click Browse Web to bring up a default document, complete with links, that guides you through an overview. You can also load any URL and view its HTML source.

Despite the appeal of browsing and viewing, the tutorial is well worth the effort, leading you through the basics of design, a bit of layout, table creation, links, and graphics placement. One chapter covers how to use existing HTML documents and how to create fill-in forms so users can return information to you, and a reference appendix compares HTML to Word.

Web Doctor
Once you design a page, maintenance and changes can be hair-tearing; Web Doctor eases maintenance by examining all the links, images, and external URLs within a local HTML document. And the product lists all the graphic files you're using, plus all the files in your project's directory that you're not using. Web Doctor's output is in HTML format that loads into your browser.

Web Doctor's printed documentation is well worth reading. It shows you how to fix problems inside the surf-shop Web page, and how to use the program on real projects.

All Together Now
As with most suites that consist of formerly separate programs, WEB Office lacks the unity that ties all the modules together. The exception is a brief overview in the QuickBar. Nonetheless, I can heartily recommend WEB Office to anyone looking for help in entering the (slightly scary) world of Web-page authoring. Although this product won't teach you everything you need to be a designer, it will certainly make that process less painful and even a little fun.

WEB Office
Blue Sky Software
800-793-0364 or 619-459-6365
Web: www.blue-sky.com Price: $399