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Issue 2.3


Navigation Builder

Issue: 2.3 (December/January 2003)
Author: Brian Jones
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 3,975
Starting Page Number: 10
Article Number: 2307
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Full text of article...

Navigation Builder from Realmac Software is essentially a WYSIWYG editor for the automated creation of websites with graphical toolbars. For most websites, you might use Navigation Builder for no more than ten minutes at the beginning of hours of work on the content itself. The number of variables that can be tweaked is not particularly extensive, and the whole process quickly proceeds through a very small number of steps. As a result, the benefits of Navigation Builder immediately seem somewhat trivial. Imagine, as an alternative, that the same graphical navigation bar would have to be put together anyway, this time by more traditional means. The result would include a significant amount of time spent slogging through some repetitive tasks in your graphical editor of choice. If it works for your purposes, Navigation Builder gives a pleasant respite from this monotony.

The process is easy. Select your visual theme, set up a background color and some settings for the appearance of the text, and enter all of the names of the buttons you'll need and to where their links will point. After that, all that is left to do is to click "Build" and save the generated HTML and image files to your disk.

Navigation Builder implements the toolbars it builds using HTML and Javascript. All of the code it creates is neat, basic, and compatible. The user, of course, would want the generated code to be clean and simple for the sake of stability and editability. However, this same simplicity challenges the usefulness of Navigation Builder as a code generator. It is not building pages that perform any technologically challenging or creative tasks; rather, it does what any of its users would do if working by hand. For those without the knowledge to implement a basic toolbar themselves, a bit of time spent with the code that Navigation Builder gives them would show them how.

Navigation Builder does not make use of any technology or technique that many of its users would not already have access to. Its graphics generation abilities are useful, but not essential. The same could easily be done in any graphics editor. Also, if the user wants to use something other than one of the stock button styles provided by the application, he will have to go open up his favorite graphics editor anyway. Overall, this does not sound like a ringing endorsement.

To the contrary, I think Navigation Builder is a worthwhile application for a very specific set of users. Beginners are one obvious group. Other hobbyists who have an intermediate or better understanding of web development techniques and tools, on the other hand, would probably not benefit very much. There is one group that could really benefit from this application's convenience given the right set of circumstances. Web developers who are building lots of sites from a relatively limited palette of client options would be able to invest a bit of time up front with Navigation Builder for big time-saving payoffs down the line.

End of article.