NetObjects Fusion 10 review
It’s less than a year since we reviewed Fusion 9, so it must be galling for anyone who paid £135 then to find their running “outdated” software. If that’s you and you want the latest release, it will cost you over half that much to upgrade.
But at least you get some significant improvements for your money, starting with an even better front end for managing your site and an overhauled design environment. Taking its cues from Office 2000, it’s attractive and intuitive, but can still be swapped out for one of three other styles. The toolbars are supplemented by a series of fly-out panels that run up and down the edges of your screen. These expand the range of features to hand, and are something we’d love to see in the next release of Dreamweaver now it’s an Adobe product.
One unexpected but welcome palette is the site-building checklist. This will appeal to first-timers who may not know where to start, but is also useful for old hands who now have no excuse for forgetting to spell-check their pages, build a site map or optimise their pages for search engines. This supplements the already familiar planning tree, which, if followed, makes it impossible to produce a poorly structured, mis-linked site.
Yet it does nothing to stop you producing an onscreen eyesore. Although Fusion pages are built from templates, there’s nothing to stop you creating more pages than the template menu spaces can comfortably accommodate, thus ruining the finished appearance. By necessity, they’re generic, and so are bland and markedly transatlantic. They’re also slightly dumb, as their understanding of changing contents is patchy. You can’t type directly onto a page without first dragging out a textbox, DTP-style but, once set, the bounding frame will at least resize vertically to accommodate extra words, pushing the template’s footer down the page. All well and good. If you widen the box so it’s no longer so deep, though, the footer stays where it is, leaving an ugly gap in the middle of your page.
If you want to build styles from scratch, you’ll be using the bundled Style Builder and Theme Builder. It’s a shame these aren’t part of Fusion itself, as they’re bespoke tools that have no use beyond this single application. The ability to see your changes reflected immediately on your pages would therefore have greatly enhanced their appeal. They’d also then share a familiar interface, but as it is they differ from each other just as much as they do from Fusion itself, forcing you to learn three ways of working to perform three related tasks. The site mapper only works once you’ve published your work, as it doesn’t read NetObjects Fusion files.
There’s an excellent CSS editor through which you can manually tweak the underlying code using your keyboard rather than just drop-downs and a mouse. The only letdown is that the results aren’t updated until you close the palette, so you can’t see whether you’ve achieved your desired results before going on to make further changes.
A wide range of Flash components, animations, 3D text, headers and shapes are thrown in and can be customised from within Fusion itself. Colours, contents and actions can be tweaked to produce more tailored results than you’d achieve using Dreamweaver’s Flash Text components. However, there’s no Flash Video, which is Dreamweaver’s killer feature in this respect.
Some objects such as the guestbook or email form can only be previewed once you’ve published your site. So you don’t know whether the container you’ve dragged out is big enough without at least staging them on a testing server, if not the actual online space where you’ll publish your site. This is very bad.