Review In Brief
The ‘Dog has a new look and a new slogan to match. The guys at Sausage are calling HotDog Professional 6.0, "The Gun Coder’s Solution". I found this description apt as the program sports almost every feature you could imagine in an HTML Editor.
Finally, one of the big complaints about the previous version of HotDog Pro was the amount of resources it consumed on a Windows 9x System while it was running. Streamlining the program to speed it up and trim it down was one of the main focuses in the development of the new version, and it appears that they have succeeded. The new version consumes an average of only 19% of system resources, with no increase due to the number of open files!
A 30-day trial of HotDog Pro 6.0 is available free from Sausage Software. Give it a try. If you’re a "Gun Coder" like me, you’ll find it’s definitely worth the $99.95 price to register.
Sausage Software has released the long-awaited update to its flagship HTML editor, HotDog Professional. Since Matt Mickiewicz did a good job of covering the guts of HotDog Pro in his review of version 5.5, let’s jump right into some of the new features and improvements you’ll find in HotDog Pro 6.0.
Scripting Languages and CSS
Speaking of Cascading Style Sheets, users may have been disappointed with the weak support that was offered for them by HotDog 5.5. In addition to the new features mentioned above, HotDog 6.0 adds a new Cascading Style Sheets Resource Panel. Like all the other resource panels in HotDog Pro, it may be placed anywhere on the screen, docked to either side of the HotDog Pro window, or hidden until it is needed to reduce clutter. This resource panel allows you to use a nice Wizard to create and apply CSS formatting to elements in your document. You can even import your existing CSS files right into this resource panel. Once you’ve defined a style sheet, you can also insert it into your HTML files, although once this is done you’ll have to edit the CSS code by hand to make any changes.
In theory, this resource panel also lets you link the CSS files you define to any number of HTML files, allowing control over the formatting of many documents just by making changes to the single CSS file. Since this is how CSS is meant to be used, one would expect this to be a great feature! Unfortunately, since the CSS Resource Panel places all CSS files created with this feature into the CSS subdirectory of HotDog Pro, and then makes the HTML documents refer to the CSS files there, this feature is of virtually no practical use. The sole exception is if you elect to apply your CSS files to entire WebSites (created with the WebSites Resource Panel), at which point the CSS file will be copied to the root directory of your WebSite. This feature only allows you to apply CSS files to all documents in a given WebSite, and forces you to re-apply the style sheet every time you make a change to one of the styles. As a result, the Cascading Style Sheets resource panel is a very blunt instrument that is far from practical or easy to use. Fortunately, the exceptional support for hand-coding your own style sheets as described above more than makes up for this weakness.
HTML Navigation View
Another new Resource Panel in HotDog 6.0 is the "HTML Navigation View", which provides a tree view of all the tags in your document. This resource panel provides for an impression of the structure of a document at a glance, which is helpful when making a change to a complex file you haven’t touched in months! It also helps you diagnose problems such as unclosed or incorrectly nested tags (a blessing for anyone who uses nested tables in their page designs!).
Just like everything else in HotDog Pro, the HTML Navigation View can be customized extensively. A tag filter allows you to hide tags you’re not interested in seeing to reduce the clutter of the tree, a show attributes button lets you choose whether to show just the names of tags or to include their attributes in the tree, and an accessibility button hilights places in your document where accessibility considerations may have been neglected.
Who among us hasn’t been guilty of leaving an ALT attribute off of an <IMG> tag now and then? HotDog 6.0 includes full support for checking that your HTML documents meet the recommendations set by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative. A one-button "Accessibility Check" will go through your entire document and list places where accessibility can be improved, allowing you to make the appropriate change at the click of your mouse.
Server Pass-Through Previews
With support for Active Server Pages (ASP), a server-side scripting language, as a major feature in the new version, it wouldn’t make sense if you could only preview your documents from your hard disk, now would it? By setting up a small Web server (such as Microsoft PWS) on your computer and pointing it at your HTML work directory, you can preview your pages and have the ASP (not to mention PHP or PerlScript) interpreted by the server for display. HotDog Pro 6.0 makes this easy by allowing you to define mappings between local directories and Web addresses, so that both Rover (HotDog Pro’s real-time WYSIWYG preview) and external browser previews get pointed through the Web server, rather than directly at the local files.
Web Site Backups
A simple, yet welcome new feature in HotDog 6.0 is the ability to instantly back up all HTML files in a WebSite to the directory of your choice by clicking a single button in the WebSites Resource Panel. This is especially handy when you’re about to make a change that could affect multiple files (such as a site-wide find and replace operation), and you want to keep a "safe" copy just in case you make a mistake.
The flexible, powerful user interface of HotDog Pro 6.0, which gives the impression of a more power-packed version of the HomeSite interface, has long been one of the big selling points of HotDog Pro. In this new version, a lot of little changes help bring the interface another step closer to perfection.
The tabs that allow you to switch between docked Resource Panels can now be placed either at the top or bottom of the HotDog Pro window. Users can select their preferred tag mode (uppercase or lowercase) for code completion, and the editor can be set to automatically close tags as you open them (typing the closing > for you when you type the opening <).
Reduced Resource Requirements
One of the main weaknesses in HotDog 5.5 was that it consumed a lot of System and GDI resources on Windows 9x, leading to unpredictable behavior and crashes if you tried to run, say, a graphics program at the same time. Furthermore, the number of resources used by HotDog Pro seemed to be proportional to the number of files you had open for editing, which made editing of large sites impractical at times.
In HotDog Pro 6.0, Sausage have addressed these resource usage problems, and streamlined the performance of the entire program at the same time. System resource consumption has been reduced to a flat level of around 19% no matter how many files you have open, and the program generally starts up and runs faster.
No review of a Sausage Software product would be complete without making mention of their fantastic customer support. Not only do they maintain a one business-day delay on responses to their e-mail support address, but they maintain a fantastic support forum on their Sausage Island web site. There not only will you find both customer support staff and other users willing to answer your questions, but you’ll find a friendly and helpful community of Web developers covering topics both HotDog-related and not.