Easy Web site creation

“Web Easy” is a program with a perfect name. This is a very easy way to create a Web site. You can then post it to the Web for free for 24 hours and see how it looks.

The program comes with 120 ready-made Web site templates in the new Professional version 6. A new built-in animation tool lets you add movement to text and pictures. And to top it off, the completed Web site is automatically registered with major search engines like Google and Yahoo.

A couple of features impressed us immediately. One was the ability to drag pictures, or any other element, anywhere on the screen. You cannot do this in Microsoft’s category leader, FrontPage. Another was the “help” pop-ups. When you want to insert a new image, for instance, but have forgotten just how to do it, a little information box pops up and tells you how to do it. It actually told us two ways to do it, and we picked the one we thought was best.

The animation feature mentioned earlier is just one of many in a bonus program called Motion Artist 2. This lets you add sounds and videos saved elsewhere on common multimedia files, such as QuickTime, AVI, MIDI, etc.

The program comes with shopping carts, so you can set up your own Web store, and a search optimization feature that makes your site name come up more frequently on Web searches. An automatic RSS feed generator lets you promote and distribute the site through Really Simple Syndication (RSS).

There are a lot of features here, and the price is right. Web Easy Professional 6 has a suggested list price of $60 (all prices U.S.), and there’s a free trial available from www.v-com.com.

DATABASE HEAVEN

Alpha Five, our long-time favorite database, just came out in version 7. The most impressive new feature is the ability to take data from almost any source and create custom databases. These can be private or made into online catalogs like those seen at Amazon and many other large Web sites. The beauty of it is, no specialized programming languages are needed.

The program has dozens of genies that let beginners perform complex data management tasks. A trip to the Alpha Web site, www.alphafive.com, has lots of examples and some interesting testimonials from users. One that struck us is from a California doctor who uses Alpha Five to automate the paperwork for his practice. He said he let his 9-year-old son try the program and the boy quickly created some games and a personal contact program. The boy refers to these as his “applications.” A California energy company uses the program to monitor its equipment; remote transmitters send the data via phone lines. An apartment complex owner uses it to monitor utility usage.

The program can view, edit and modify data in almost any format. It can, for example, read Excel spreadsheets. One of the smaller new features is graphical charting (pie charts, bar graphs, etc.) created on the fly for either Web sites or your database reports.

Alpha will host your Web site if you don’t have one established. They charge $300 for the first year and $30 a month after that. The program itself costs $99, which their Web site lists as a “special introductory offer.” After that the price goes to $349. You can download a free trial of Alpha Five version 7 from the Web site: www.alphafive.com.

This is easily the best database program we’ve ever run, and has been since we ran the first version more than a dozen years ago.

SEND IN THE CARDS

How’s this for a holiday idea? Let someone else stuff the cards into envelopes, address them and put on the stamps.

The someone else is called cardstore.com. They charge $24 for 12 cards and $140 for 100, stamps included. We found a wide choice of cards, and you can put a personal message on all of them or on each one separately. If you have names and addresses in a database you can export those to the card company. This seems like an easy way for businesses to send cards to their customers.

PICTURE BOOKS

You can have custom photo books made for holiday gifts by kodakpicturegallery.com or www.mypublisher.com. Both online services provide a bound book of 20 double-sided pages for $30; you can specify one to four pictures per page side. The finished book measure 9 by 10 inches.

Kodak Picture Gallery is the former Ofoto, one of the first online services to provide both viewing galleries and prints for people sending in their pictures. We looked at this one first, and ordered a book. We sent the pictures in on a Sunday and got the finished book back in the mail on Thursday. We were quite satisfied with the results.

My Publisher has received high praise from other reviewers, but we ran into some annoyances fairly quickly and dropped it. You start by downloading their software. This enables you to choose pictures singly or in a large group all at once. We did this, but the program rejected many of our pictures as being in the wrong format, even though they were in fact in the format it asked for.

BOOKS

Adobe Photoshop Elements Crafts Book by Elizabeth Bulger; $22, Peachpit Press (www.peachpit.com).

An excellent book and an excellent time for it to come out. Adobe’s “Photoshop Elements” has most of the features of their high-priced Photoshop program and has sold millions of copies. This book shows the user how to make a gingham gift box, a needlepoint pattern, aprons, place mats, put pictures on candles and lots of other tricks. Along the way it has better instruction on how to use many Photoshop Elements features than you get in any of the books weíve seen on this program.

** ** **

Readers can search several years of columns at the “On Computers” Web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.

COPYRIGHT 2005 UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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