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Web Techniques Magazine
July 1997
Volume 2, Issue 7

The Ten-Percent Solution

When you think about it, the Web is an amazing space-a collection of incredible diversity, creativity, and artistry that's all hyperlinked. Even more amazing is the plethora of tools used to create this collaborative work; in fact, my first count came up with 463 unique software tools for creating some aspect of a Web site.

So, when publisher Manny Sawit suggested that Web Techniques confer awards on outstanding tools, I was reluctant. There are so many awards already-for excellence, lifetime achievement, and so on. "The world," I thought, "doesn't need another award." But, to be fair, no one has yet honored the tools Web developers use to create those amazing sites.

However, there are so many tools, that it could take several years of work just to create a taxonomy of Web tools, compile a complete list of all known tools, and categorize them, let alone evaluate them. And that's when the power of the Web hit home. The Web grows at such a phenomenal rate because it is a collaborative effort. We could manage the enormity of the tool-evaluation project using a similar divide-and-conquer approach.

Early this year, I began compiling two lists: The first was a list of known Web-development tools; the second, a list of experts. Our experts come primarily from the ranks of Web Techniques' contributing editors and writers-Lincoln Stein, Lynda Weinman, and former Dr. Dobb's Journal editor Ray Valdés-but also include other notables like Web Review publisher Dale Dougherty and author Richard Koman. The number of products considered totaled nearly 530. Once the field was narrowed by our experts, a small team of editors convened to evaluate the finalists. The results are the 1997 Web Tools awards, which reflect all of the biases and opinions of our expert team.

And the Award Goes To ...

Of the 75 HTML editors considered, the editors' choice for the best HTML authoring tool was presented to Microsoft for FrontPage 97. Honorable mentions were given to Adobe's PageMill 2.0 and Allaire's HomeSite 2.5. When it came to site design and management tools, NetObjects Fusion 2.0 was a clear winner. (Fusion was used to create the home page at WebTechniques
.com.) Honorable mentions here went to Backstage Internet Studio from Macromedia and to Corel's WebMaster Suite.

The preferred tool for graphic designers was Adobe Photoshop; the two other tools every designer needs are JASC's Paintshop Pro and Equilibrium's DeBabelizer.

With the number of Web database tools quickly approaching that of HTML editors, the choice was difficult. Ultimately, the award went to Allaire for Cold Fusion 2.0, with honorable mentions going to Apptivity and NetDynamics.

The clear choice for best search tool went to Verity for Search'97. However, the editors felt compelled to extend honorable mention to SWISH, which is both freely and commercially available, and to askSam.

When it came to VRML-authoring tools, the Cosmo Worlds tool suite from Silicon Graphics and VRealm Builder 2.0 from Integrated Data Systems emerged as close favorites. Ultimately, the editors selected VRealm Builder because of platform support and its low price tag.

The editors' choice for best multimedia-authoring tool went to Vivo for its VivoActive Producer 2.0. Honorable mention goes to Geo's relatively unknown, but technically interesting Emblaze Creator, and to Macromedia Director.

The Web-publishing category was meant to include large-scale tools that support the entire Web-site development team. The editorial staffs at both Web Review and Web Techniques felt that such systems still had a way to go. Despite its lofty price tag, the award for best Web-publishing system went to Vignette for StoryServer 2.2.

It was my pleasure to award the editors' choice for scripting languages to a free tool, Perl. Other freely available languages like Tcl and Python were also considered, but the judges awarded honorable mention to JavaScript and VBScript.

Finally, editors' choice for best Java tool went to Symantec for Visual Café Pro. Honorable mentions were extended to Microsoft for Visual J++ and to Sun for Java Workshop.

Next year, we plan to include new categories. Of course, we'll be examining products for the next twelve months in preparation for the Second Annual Web Tools Awards. We'll see you then.

Michael Floyd

Michael Floyd
editor in chief

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Last modified: 7/21/97