Macromedia Contribute 2.0 review: Macromedia Contribute 2.0

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Macromedia Contribute 2.0

(Part #: CTD020D000) Released: Jun 17, 2003
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Easy to use and flexible; better security, thanks to SFTP support and encryption; basic CSS support; good user-management tools.

The Bad Working with dynamic pages requires tweaks; limited editing features; some features are Windows-only; sluggish performance.

The Bottom Line Macromedia Contribute makes it easy for nonprogrammers to work on Web pages, but beware of sluggish performance and limited editing features.

7.0 Overall
  • Setup and interface 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Service and support 6.0

In recent years, many blogging tools such as Nucleus and scripting languages such as Frontier have allowed diverse groups of users to collaborate on Web site content. But most of those tools require a working knowledge of at least HTML and often of PHP or more arcane languages. Contribute 2.0 helps noncoders, well, contribute to a common site. Contribute certainly does what it promises: it makes editing simple Web content point-and-click easy. But while Contribute 2.0 can neatly solve basic content needs, it has limited capability to work with dynamically created and scripted sites. It also requires someone on the server side to set up Contribute; you can't just load it at home and expect to start working on your company's site. If you're looking for a more powerful, and possibly faster, solution, consider Vignette and its ilk, or custom tools.

Unlike most professional graphics applications, Contribute 2.0 runs in a single-window interface; this works because Contribute is designed for editing a single Web page at a time. The screen includes three panes that list pages being viewed or edited and a persistent help section (labeled How Do I).

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It looks like a Web browser, but it's not. Contribute is good at presenting competent tools in a form familiar to Web users who aren't coders.

The primary editing pane mimics a Web browser; in fact, you can use Contribute to navigate to any Web site, which the application renders fairly well. When you click the Edit Page button, however, a toolbar similar to those of early visual Web editors appears. You can click any static content and change it as long as you have made a connection to the site.

The connections system is the key to Contribute. Users can access (Make Connections To) only sites that have been configured through Contribute to be administered. That means someone with server access must run Contribute, set user permissions, and distribute encrypted keys to allowed users. As a result, random visitors can't edit the United Nations' home page, for example. This doesn't mean the site is locked to other appropriate users; Contribute integrates well with Dreamweaver, for instance.

Contribute 2.0 offers few new features compared to its debut version. As in version 1.0, there's support for Dreamweaver templates. Administrators can "lock out" sections of pages against changes, manage groups as well as individuals, and protect scripts and folders from certain users. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are supported. Text, links, and images can be dragged and dropped into page drafts; the generated HTML is fairly clean. The biggest news is that Contribute 2.0 now supports Mac OS X; Macromedia sells a lot of copies of Dreamweaver to Mac users.

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