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Spider Writer 5.2 review:

Spider Writer 5.2

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The Good Includes lots of wizards that help you create buttons, forms, and frames; offers a wizard to help you connect to a database; Spider Writer's MoneyMaker can help you to earn a buck or two.

The Bad WYSIWYG view doesn't support many Spider Writer features, including wizards; doesn't create site maps.

The Bottom Line Spider Writer's weak WYSIWYG view makes it inappropriate for newbies and amateurs. But small-business owners will appreciate the database connection wizard.

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CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall

Review Sections

By Kim Wimpsett

At first glance, Spider Writer seems to have it all--views in both code and WYSIWYG, database connection tools, and lots of wizards. However, many features, such as the wizards, don't work in its Design mode, and Spider is missing some of the basics, such as a properties inspector to set HTML attributes quickly. So unless you're a small-business owner who wants to use the nifty MoneyMaker wizard, skip Spider Writer and shell out a few extra bucks for Namo WebEditor. By Kim Wimpsett

At first glance, Spider Writer seems to have it all--views in both code and WYSIWYG, database connection tools, and lots of wizards. However, many features, such as the wizards, don't work in its Design mode, and Spider is missing some of the basics, such as a properties inspector to set HTML attributes quickly. So unless you're a small-business owner who wants to use the nifty MoneyMaker wizard, skip Spider Writer and shell out a few extra bucks for Namo WebEditor.

Coding pages
After Spider Writer's quick installation, you'll be all set to build your site. To start, Spider Writer lets you choose between one of two interfaces: the Document Source view and the Design view. The HTML-based Document Source view lets you code your pages by hand and opt to format your code for easy reading and editing via syntax coloring, word wrap, line numbering, and indentation. Spider Writer also automates some typing for you with IntelliPrompt, which suggests complete tags as soon as you start typing them.

You can also get tag help from the Script Outline (View > Script Outline), which displays a list of tags in the left pane for HTML, CSS, ASP, CFML, JavaScript, and DHTML. This is a handy reference for anyone who hasn't memorized hundreds of tags and attributes. You can also set it to include dozens of other helpers, from Microsoft ActiveX Data Objects libraries to DirectX libraries, by clicking the Edit References button and choosing from the list that pops up. To insert a tag from Script Outline into your document, just double-click it. It'd be nice if you could also drag and drop the tags. Unfortunately, although Script Outline lists the HTML tags themselves, it doesn't list each tag's attributes (as CoffeeCup does). To view a tag's attributes, you can select View > Attributes, but it would be much better if these two tabs were integrated.

Design flaws
Regrettably, the Design view isn't impressive. True, it's easier to use than Document Source; you simply import or enter your images and links through dialog boxes and menu selections. But, unlike the other editors we reviewed, it doesn't offer an always-open properties inspector so that you can add attributes to HTML tags without opening a separate dialog box or touching the code. Further, Design View ditches Spider's helpful wizards and Script Outline, which is weird; if you're using the WYSIWYG interface, you probably need a bit of assistance. Talk about counterintuitive.

Wizards galore
Even though you can't access wizards in the Design view, Spider Writer offers quite an assortment to help you create buttons, calendars, metatags, photo albums, scripts, or SQL queries. Furthermore, Spider Writer packs a bunch of neat wizards that are ideal for a small-business site. The MoneyMaker wizard, for example, uses the BeFree affiliate program to help you place ads on your Web site. This means that every time someone uses your ad link to make a purchase, you earn money. To allow surfers to search or filter your site, the Internet Ratings wizard scans your site and generates a description of it based on the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) standard. Finally, a handy Connection wizard (Environment > New Data Connection) helps you create a database connection by just pointing and clicking.

Other than the cool Connection wizard, however, Spider Writer lacks other easy features for creating and managing large sites. For example, we'd like to see a site wizard that would automatically create several pages with links between them.

Although Spider Writer provides technical support through an online developer forum or 24/7 through e-mail, it offers the skimpiest technical support of any HTML editor we've reviewed. By contrast, CoffeeCup offers free live chat support.

It's true: Spider Writer offers some handy tools, including wizards. But this program flubs up some very basic elements, such as the wizardless Design view. Small-business owners might find the MoneyMaker and the Database wizards useful. But if you're building a large business site, we recommend GoLive; it costs more, but it also offers more.

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To insert a tag into your document using the new Script Outline, place your cursor appropriately, highlight the tag, then double-click it.

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