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Fusion MX: Win9X/ME/NT4/2K review:

Fusion MX: Win9X/ME/NT4/2K

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The Good Extremely easy to use; extensive style choices and add-ons; professional-looking results for first-time users; dedicated community of users shares tips.

The Bad Generates truly horrific code; nested tables make for nightmares when imported to other programs; text handling takes extra effort from the user.

The Bottom Line The low price and powerful functionality make Fusion MX a godsend for small businesses and nonprofits seeking a practical and good-looking Web site.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall

Review Sections

NetObjects Fusion MX offers novices a sophisticated array of tools in a WYSIWYG environment. While not a code-crushing monster like DreamWeaver UltraDev, the user-friendly, intuitive tools and layout and the astonishing $99 price tag make this the software of choice for a first foray into page-making. Do-it-yourselfers can be up and running on the Web quickly and painlessly with highly customized pages that have sound design and high-end, professional Web effects. NetObjects Fusion MX offers novices a sophisticated array of tools in a WYSIWYG environment. While not a code-crushing monster like DreamWeaver UltraDev, the user-friendly, intuitive tools and layout and the astonishing $99 price tag make this the software of choice for a first foray into page-making. Do-it-yourselfers can be up and running on the Web quickly and painlessly with highly customized pages that have sound design and high-end, professional Web effects.

Build a site in less than six hours
The graphical interface and intuitive tools for manipulating pages and elements make Fusion MX a comfortable environment for beginners. The Site Wizard guides you step-by-step through choosing layout and pages based on business type (products, services, organization, or general) and offers selections of appropriate, preformatted pages. The Online Style Viewer offers a bevy of clean and attractive choices for your total look, with common elements such as master borders that carry over from page to page and easy asset management that cuts down on duplicative or extraneous entries, saving precious file space. After generating your selections, Fusion MX takes you to a site layout, showing the hierarchies and links and letting you edit pages and move them around by clicking the template, making the sometimes harrowing process of linking and ordering your files quite easy.

Speed is almost as important as ease, and this software was built for speed. The WYSIWYG environment makes time-consuming chores such as layout, previewing, and scripting seem instantaneous, and tools that will be familiar to anyone with even a little desktop-publishing background reduce the learning curve substantially. With pixel-by-pixel control over object placement, drag-and-drop positioning of elements is painless. More complicated effects such as mouseovers are easy to implement with the built-in scripts. Gaining control of banners and text styles may prove more difficult, but the online help and the extensive user guides and tutorials will quickly set users on the right path and can make even more complex scripting such as CSS relatively painless. Importing whole text files is more time consuming and may require a leap to a text editor to get rid of formatting conflicts.

But publishing is quick and easy. The finished page files are not too large, and you can opt for a hosting service that comes with the program. The test sites looked and functioned beautifully in both Netscape and IE browsers, and modifying published files is also relatively simple.

Expanding functionality
Fusion MX comes with the option of adding on third-party services. These services include everything from counters, traffic monitoring, and search-engine submissions to e-commerce solutions, graphics, and JavaScript effects, and are priced anywhere between free and $89. Also, the Support Knowledgebase (a kind of online help on steroids) offers step-by-step instructions on implementing CGI scripts-- including forms and e-mail--that will help any small-business Web site.

Hide the HTML
Fusion MX is not an HTML editor, period. The very things that make this software produce such nice-looking pages, such as nested tables, can make it a coder's worst nightmare. For example, the program doesn't verify code (even though you can edit the source in this version), and editing of Fusion-generated pages in any other HTML editor is difficult to impossible. You could use Fusion MX to grind out as many dime-a-dozen Web sites a day as you cared to and still have time for café society, but you couldn't boast about your coding skills. Also, Mac users are left out in the cold by NetObjects' decision not to support the Mac with this version.

Coding foibles and Mac users notwithstanding, this is the hands-down front-runner of the do-it-yourself Web page programs. Widespread lamentations about the cookie-cutter sameness and text-lite qualities of template-generated Web sites don't really hold water here. The only limitation of Fusion MX is how much time you care to put into generating a customized Web site. It's easy enough to get a good-looking site up quickly, but you're free to continue to evolve your Web site along with your skills. For first-timers, the instant gratification factor could be enough to propel them to create more elaborate and unquestionably unique Web sites, as some of the legions of devoted Fusion users have already done.

Fusion MX offers a wide variety of ready-made site styles.

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