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NetObjects Fusion XII

Product Overview

NetObjects Fusion XII (© 2010) is a more recent version of NetObjects Essentials (© 2003) — the free version. The latest patch is dated November 22nd 2011. The upgrade price was just £24.95 on a special offer.

The program itself doesn’t seem to have changed much internally — my old sites opened without difficulty, though new sites won’t open in the older version.

Most changes seem to be with the interface, which has improved significantly, and is customisable to a great extent.

Contents

Customising the Workspace

Improvements

Bugs

Support

Performance

Conclusions

Customising the Workspace

Anyone familiar with customising Serif™ applications will find NetObjects Fusion XII very similar. It also has panels (Studio tabs) on each side of the window. This can be set to docked, auto-hide (which will collapse to a tab), or off. The panels that I use the most — Site Navigation and the Properties Inspector — both have shortcut keys (F2 and F3 respectively), so they can be turned off and shown only when needed. The Image Bank is like the Media Bar in PagePlus X5, and shows all of the images used in the current site.

After arranging the panels that you need, the workspace can be saved for reuse.

There are eight preset Themes (GUI Colour schemes) to choose from — I chose the Native XP Theme. Others are Office 2007 Aqua, Black, Blue, or Silver, Office XP, Office 2003, or Studio 2005.

The Toolbars can use large (32 pix) or small (16 pix) icons, and each toolbar can be docked, floating, or off. Individual toolbar icons can be removed, or added to any toolbar. New toolbars can be created, and new menus can be added to toolbars, but as far as I can tell the menu bar cannot be edited, which is unfortunate because many menu items are lacking access keys.

A fullscreen mode removes the toolbar, status line, and Windows title bar, leaving only the menus and scroll bars. The fullscreen toolbar has only one icon on it by default — to exit fullscreen mode. Using the customise options in fullscreen mode, other frequently used icons can be added to this toolbar so that working in fullscreen mode is more efficient.

The “Fullscreen” toolbar that is shown when not in fullscreen mode is actually a different toolbar, so the fullscreen icon can be added to another toolbar and the “Fullscreen” toolbar can be hidden in windowed mode. This enables fullscreen and window views to be customised independently.

The Views toolbar switches between site view, page view, assets, preview, and publishing modes.

After taking the trouble to customise the workspace, make sure that you save it, and keep a backup copy. It may be a lot of work to redo even if you can remember exactly what you did before. My workspace profiles are stored in:

\My Documents\NetObjects Fusion 12.0\NetObjects System\Profiles\<Username>\Layout\

The files have an *.xml extension.

Improvements

  • NetObjects Fusion Essentials suffers from rendering problems at zoom levels greater than 100% — this issue seems to have almost disappeared.
  • Transparent PNG images now display correctly in design mode.
  • A tab bar remembers recently viewed pages on your site, for quicker navigation back and forth through the pages that you’re currently working on. Close any tab to remove it from the list. I couldn’t find any way to remove this toolbar to save space, but it saves opening the Site Navigation panel.
  • The image bank offers a quick and easy way to add images to any page with drag and drop. It saves a lot of time opening dialogues, finding the right image, then selecting it.
  • Publish selected pages. Instead of publishing all child pages of the current page, this version allows the user to select which pages to publish. Tip from forum: Use control + click to select/deselect the current page and all of its dependents.

Bugs

  • There is a severe screen flicker when moving the cursor or selecting text because the screen is constantly redrawn if the zoom is anything other than 100%.
  • It is not possible to type Latin Extended Characters other than ANSI characters like é using the keyboard. Any accented characters in the Latin Extended character sets like Ś ş ĉ or ā, which are required for Eastern European languages, Vietnamese, Pāli and Sanskrit can be pasted from the clipboard and will publish OK to HTML, but they cannot be typed. The best work-around I found for this so far is to launch a “Scratchpad.rtf” file in WordPad with the same shortcut that I use to open my web site in NetObjects fusion. WordPad has many undo levels, and so is more convenient to use than notepad.
  • The same limitation apply to spell-check and Find and Replace. These limitations are significant bugs for those of use working in languages other than English, French, Spanish, or German.
  • There’s an option to show text invisibles (non-printing characters like ¶ or · ). After restarting the program, this option is always enabled again.

Support

There is a free support forum to get help from staff or other users. It is not great compared to the Serif™ forums and other software support forums that I frequent. Still, it is better than nothing, and the forum does show some signs of life. I have had at least a few replies that really helped me.

Performance

Saving my main website of 293 pages, which is 35.7 Mbytes on disk, takes just a couple of seconds. Starting the program with the site takes 5 seconds from cold, or 2 seconds for a warm start. A warm start with my very large site of 3,885 pages took 7 seconds. This is noticeably slower than the older free version. Site navigation is quick and very easy with the navigation tab bar. Shortcuts work as before — Ctrl + Left/Right Up/Down — to navigate to sibling, parent, or child pages. Crashes are rare, and recovery always seems to succeed as the program keeps lots of backup files.

Conclusions

If you can get it for £25 it is well worth the upgrade from the free version, though I do not see enough reasons to justify the full price. It is more suitable than WebPlus for large sites, but it lacks the excellent graphics tools, proper Unicode support, and shortcut customisation. Unless you need to work with very large sites, or must have the option for fluid layouts, I think WebPlus X6 would be better value since that is now only £20. The latest WebPlus X7 at £89.99 is similar price to NetObjects Fusion 2013.

Due to the problems with Unicode text, which is vital for my work, I have moved my main site www.aimwell.org to WebPlus X7, and now use NetObjects Fusion XII only for my Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, which at nearly 4,000 pages probably would not be practical in WebPlus, even if I had to time to transfer it.