Macromedia Contribute Gains Enterprise Skills

Macromedia's Web site authoring tool offers good controls, simplicity.

With the release of Contribute 2, Macromedia Inc. has made attractive, if not exactly compelling, improvements to its user-friendly Web authoring tool. Current users will find it a worthwhile upgrade, and those interested in a controllable but simple Web site authoring tool for novice content contributors should take a look at Contribute 2.

Contribute 2
Macromedias Contribute 2 is an easy-to-use Web authoring tool that includes many of the management features found in content management systems. While the product isnt designed for running large sites with many contributors and managers, it will meet the needs of many intranets and informational company Web sites.

  • PRO: Highly intuitive Web editing interface; good content management features; support for Secure FTP.

  • CON: Difficult to edit stand-alone HTML files; FlashPaper feature not available on Mac OS.

Ektron Inc. content management solutions • Microsoft Corp. FrontPage • Word processors and browser-based HTML editors •

One of the biggest new features in Contribute 2 is that, unlike Version 1, it runs on Mac OS X, joining the rest of Macromedias tools, which run on both Windows and Macintosh platforms.

Although Contribute isnt likely to displace a full Web content management system at any corporation, it can be a good fit for businesses looking for a way to offer simple, intuitive authoring capabilities for users with little or no Web development expertise, without surrendering control over where and how users can add content to sites. Thats because on top of providing a simple word-processor-like interface for creating content, Contribute 2 provides common Web content management controls such as check-in/check-out, versioning and content rollbacks, as well as site templates that can be created in Macromedias Dreamweaver MX.

Contribute 2 was released last month. Prices start at $99, with upgrades available for $49.

/zimages/2/26680.gifRead about the latest additions to Macromedias MX line of Internet tools.

Because Contribute is designed for a controlled site management system, all content is accessed, edited and created from within a preconfigured site configuration structure. Although this generally works well, it does present a few hurdles.

One feature we would have liked to see in this version of Contribute is the ability to open and edit any local HTML file. Because content could be created or edited only within the site structure, we could not create a test file to work on outside the site or work on a file that had been sent via e-mail by an outside collaborator. The file must be physically added to the site before it can be edited. This also makes it very difficult to use Contribute to create a site from scratch.

The FlashPaper capability is an interesting new feature in Contribute 2. With this feature, we could convert a graph, document or PowerPoint file into an interactive, embeddable application that uses Flash. This proved especially useful for slide shows or complex graphics, and we liked the ability to easily zoom in and out of graphics. However, the FlashPaper feature is not available for Mac OS-based users of Contribute, although any Flash-based system can view FlashPaper content.

Contribute now supports Secure FTP for delivering and receiving site content, making Contribute an option for sites where contributors work outside the company network. However, Contribute does not support Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning for connecting to Web sites. Macromedia has also improved Contributes ability to maintain site connections, even for those with slow Internet connections.

Another notable new feature in Contribute is embedded support for PayPal Corp.s e-commerce payment system. With this integration, PayPal subscribers can easily add buy-now and shopping-cart capabilities to Web pages, as long as they use PayPal.

Technical Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@