Artisteer 2.1 review

£31
Price when reviewed

These days, whether you’re working on a static website, dynamic application or content management system, the final appearance of your pages comes down to cascading style sheets (CSS). Artisteer is designed to reinvent the way that CSS is handled, and it does so with considerable success.

To understand what’s so radical about Artisteer, it’s necessary to understand the advantages that CSS brings – and the problems. The great strength of CSS is its centralised control, flexibility and efficiency: update a single rule and the look and feel of your entire site updates accordingly. It’s simple in theory, but not in practice. The inherent complexity of trying to manage all the possible elements of a design through CSS, with its hundreds of parameters, cascade of rules, and infuriatingly different browser implementations, means most users never stray beyond the default templates provided by Dreamweaver or their CMS.

To get around this, you can visit one of dozens of online directories to download preset themes created by real CSS experts. But even this approach isn’t ideal, as the design you choose is neither unique nor tailored to your content. And if you try to adapt the design to ensure that it is, you’re thrown back into the complexities of directly editing CSS.

This is where Artisteer comes in. At first sight the program seems very much like one of the online theme directories. It looks as if it simply provides a number of preset templates to apply to your layout, but this isn’t how it works at all.

Instead, when you hit the large Suggest Design icon on the ribbon bar’s Ideas tab, Artisteer randomly generates something for you. It’s a clever idea that takes full advantage of the flexibility and power of CSS, but it also sounds like a recipe for disaster. It’s hard enough to find an attractive hand-crafted template, so what are the chances that a computer-generated theme will fit the bill?

The good news is that the Artisteer approach works brilliantly. It’s clear that, rather than changing parameters at random, it intelligently varies groups of elements together to produce consistent, coherent and attractive designs. And the advanced dropdown menus and use of generated bitmap textures show Artisteer is going well beyond straight CSS.

Details

Software subcategory Web development

Requirements

Processor requirement N/A

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no

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