Macromedia Lets Everyone Contribute to Web Sites

In a move designed to make it both easier and safer for any user to update a business’ Web site, Macromedia today announced Contribute 3. The goal, according to Macromedia, is to give users more capabilities to update a site while ensuring its stability. It “solves the problem of Web master bottleneck,” said Lawson Hancock, senior product manager at Macromedia. In many businesses, you have “lots of people going to one Web master.”

Of course, not having the Web master as the single point of contact for updating the company’s Web site introduces potential problems, which can occur when nontechnical users have access to the Web site. “Front Page is a powerful tool for nontechnical users, Hancock said, “and customers can end up breaking the Web site.”

New features in Contribute 3 include integrated image editing for things like resizing and cropping photos and graphics, Microsoft Office integration allowing you to drag and drop content from Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint into Web pages, and automatic electronic document publishing in PDF and Flash file formats via FlashPaper 2 (also announced today).

For Web designers and developers, Contribute 3 adds WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) support and incorporates the engine for Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) rendering from Dreamweaver MX 2004 for better control of Web page layout and styling. A new external editing feature enables technical review and editing of Web page source code in an external HTML editor before publishing. A Send for Review button is designed to make it easier to send new or updated Web pages to others for approval before publishing.

Macromedia also announced Contribute Publishing Services, a new server-based product that is part of Macromedia’s broader Web Publishing System. Contribute Publishing Services works on Windows, Linux and Unix servers and is built to provide managers responsible for larger organizational deployments of Contribute with centralized user management and Web site access control, including support for user authentication through integration with LDAP and Active Directory.

In its year and a half in existence, Hancock said Macromedia has landed more than 200,000 Contribute customers, many of whom are small businesses. One of the keys to its success with small businesses, he said, is that Contribute 3 allows users to edit any HTML Web site. Site administrators define who in the company has publishing permission and who can only edit and send pages for review.

Windows and Mac OS X version of Contribute 3 will be available in August, according to Macromedia. Pricing is $79 for upgrades, $149 for new users, and $699 for a Contribute six-pack.

Included with Contribute 3, Macromedia FlashPaper 2 is designed to let any application create documents that can be viewed within any Web browser. FlashPaper also supports the Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

FlashPaper 2 creates documents that display online using Flash Player technology, which Macromedia claims is installed on more than 98 percent of Internet-enabled PC. The company estimates that Flash documents open in less than a second directly in Web browsers versus the several seconds associated with launching a separate application for online viewing of PDFs or other document types.

The goal of FlashPaper is to generate one-click Flash documents that can be published using Contribute, Dreamweaver or any HTML editor. The new version includes support for text search and selection, hyperlinks, and bookmarks and integrates with all Microsoft Office products on Windows. FlashPaper 2 can also create PDFs that can be e-mailed directly from within Microsoft Office.

Single licenses of FlashPaper 2 will also be available as a standalone product for Windows for only $79, according to Macromedia.

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