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Macromedia Contribute for Windows review: Macromedia Contribute for Windows

Macromedia Contribute for Windows

Kim Wimpsett
5 min read
Any Web site worth its salt must stay fresh. Keeping your site up-to-date isn't an easy job unless you're a Web maintenance expert or have one on call. If you're HTML-challenged and can't afford to keep a dedicated maintenance team, invest in Macromedia Contribute. This fuss-free program hides the complex code that makes up a site and provides a word-processor-like tool for tweaking text and tables. Keep in mind, however, that Contribute just lets you update existing Web sites. To design pages, less experienced designers need a WYSIWYG Web design app such as FrontPage. Contribute, on the other hand, is perfect for sites designed in Macromedia Dreamweaver.
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Macromedia Contribute: Streamline the maintenance of your Web content
Thanks to a standard Windows wizard, which walks you through the entire process, Contribute is easy to install. Once your software is up and running, you'll need to establish a connection to the site that you want to edit--a complicated-sounding procedure. Fortunately, everything you do in Contribute requires just a few clicks. To set up your site, click Create A Connection on the Welcome screen. A wizard asks you a few questions about your Web site address and type of Internet connection--from your server to the Web. Once you've entered the correct information, Contribute's main window displays your Web site, and you're ready to browse or edit it. That's all there is to it!

Updates made simple: add images, links, and tables in just a few clicks.
Macromedia is right when it says that you don't need Web development experience to use Contribute; anyone familiar with Web browsers and word processors can master this app in minutes. Contribute consists of a main window on the right that displays your Web pages and two windows on the left. The top-left window lists the pages in your site, including drafts that you're working on. The bottom-left window lists help topics to get you started.
If during setup, you identify yourself as an administrator, you must create a username and a password for the site. This lets you set up permissions for groups of users. Click Edit > Administer Websites, then select your site. Enter your administrator password and in the resulting dialog box, you can select who gets access to designated areas on the site.
To administer Contribute sites from within Dreamweaver, download the free Dreamweaver MX Updater for Contribute.
To make life easier for Web managers, Contribute locks all of the parts of a Web page--say, the template design--except editable content, so that nontechie updaters won't accidentally muck up important code. Unfortunately, in the process, Contribute limits its own functionality. You can add tables, links, and images to your pages through Contribute, but you can't do much else. For instance, you can't insert any scripts into your page, verify links with an automatic link checker, or divide pages into frames.

To add a table, click the Table button and fill out the options.
That said, Contribute does its limited job beautifully. In particular, this program's true strengths become apparent when it's used in a team environment alongside Dreamweaver. Contribute supports Dreamweaver templates, which Web designers can use to lock certain areas of a page--a company's corporate statement and a daily news section, for example. A content creator using Contribute could then edit the site's daily news section but wouldn't have access to the corporate statement.
In case someone does manage to publish a mistake on the site, Contribute has a cool rollback feature. Simply click File > "Roll back to previous version" to publish an earlier version of your site. You pick from a list organized by date and by who published the sites. Contribute supports up to 99 former versions of your site. (The default is 3.)
We experienced few obstacles as we worked with Contribute. It works exactly as promised and let us create and edit a site without using a drop of HTML. To edit your site, you need only browse to the page you want to edit and click Edit Page to access the editing view. When you edit text, you can easily change font properties, add formatting such as bullet lists, and insert special text characters and even content from Microsoft Word and Excel documents.

To select a Dreamweaver template, just click the New Page button.
Similarly, you can add a table to your page: Position your cursor where you want your table and click the Table button. In the resulting Insert Table dialog box, fill in the number of rows, columns, and additional options, such as cell spacing (the space between the border and cells) and cell padding (the space between cells), or you can load a preexisting data from Word or Excel.
When you finish editing your page, click Publish, Save For Later, or Cancel. Publish sends the page and any dependent files (such as images) to your live Web site. Et voilà!--your Web page is ready for the world.

The How Do I topics display short, step-by-step instructions on many operations.
As always, Macromedia offers great help text within the software itself. In the main Contribute window, the bottom-left How Do I window displays help topics. You can minimize the window by clicking the down-pointing arrow if you want. You just need to click a particular topic to display short step-by-step instructions on any of Contribute's functions. There's also a Contribute tutorial under the Help menu and a PDF quick-start guide.
In addition, if you select Help > Macromedia Contribute Help, you can view complete documentation with a Windows Help-like index and search engine. And if you select the Help > Contribute Support Center menu when you're online, you end up at Macromedia's Contribute Support Center, where you can browse TechNotes, read how-to articles, participate in forums, and search the support site.
To get customer service help from Macromedia over the telephone, you'll have to buy a support program. The prices and hours vary by software program and level of support. For instance, a per-incident support program costs $200, while the Bronze program, which includes five telephone calls, a four-hour response time, and free follow-ups within a year is $799. That's pretty expensive for such an inexpensive tool. Too bad there's no free e-mail support. However, if you post a question on Contribute's online forum, you'll usually get a response within a few hours from a Macromedia representative or another user.

Macromedia Contribute for Windows

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 6Performance 8Support 6