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Macromedia hones Web publishing tools

The company plans to release a new software combo for building and managing Web pages.

Macromedia announced plans on Monday for a new software package intended to help companies easily build and manage Web sites.

The new Web Publishing System includes Studio MX 2004, a collection of Web design and development tools that includes the company's Flash and Dreamweaver applications, plus new versions of Contribute and FlashPaper.

Contribute, introduced two years ago, is a light-duty Web publishing tool designed to enable regular office workers to easily and safely make changes to company Web pages. New features include the ability to drag and drop content from a Microsoft Office document onto a Web page, along with tools for integrated image editing, collaborating and submitting site changes for approval.

Contribute includes a update of FlashPaper, an implementation of Macromedia's Flash that uses the format to produce attractive pages of text for Web display. Initially seen as a potential challenge to Adobe Systems' Portable Document Format, FlashPaper 2 now uses PDF to format documents for offline storage and transmission.

The Web Publishing System (WPS) package also includes Contribute Publishing Services, a new server application that enables IT and Web site administrators to centrally manage access to Web content. The application works on Windows, Linux, Unix and J2EE servers. It integrates with back-end systems that use the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, or LDAP structure used by Unix or Microsoft's Active Directory protocols.

"Content management systems have historically been an expensive roll of the dice, with a lot of set-up costs and user complexity that limited their adoption," Macromedia CEO Rob Burgess said in a statement. "The WPS empowers anyone to publish without the pain and expense of traditional solutions."

A preview version of WPS is available for download now. The full version is set to ship next month for Windows and Mac OS X, with pricing starting at $2,499 for a package that includes 10 user seats.