Elemental Software Pounds Out Another Edition of Drumbeat
By Scott R. Garrigus
Product: Drumbeat 2000
Publisher: Elemental Software
Platforms: Windows 95/98/NT 4.0 or above
Price: $399, but through March 1999 at a special introductory
price of $249
A free trial version
of Drumbeat 2000 can be downloaded from Elemental's site.
Most tools for building dynamically generated sites still require low-level programming ability and familiarity with technologies like ASP, CGI, ODBC, and SQL. But Elemental Software's Drumbeat has the nonprogrammer in mind.
Elemental's latest release, Drumbeat 2000, packages tools for building intranet/Internet applications that access and update data in real-time with no manual coding. In its visual environment, you drag-and-drop elements on to a page and add interactivity by clicking on plain-English commands. Drumbeat automatically generates the code for client- and server-side interactive elements, including rollover buttons, pop-ups, streaming media, input validation, and database queries. It also generates customizable Active Server Pages (ASP) for dynamic database access, including all the logic, queries, and code.
Drumbeat 2000 takes the nonprogrammer about as far as they can go down this path. Programmers should also find it a helpful tool for creating these sites, and they can go further. Integrated Jscript and VBscript editors let them control how pages are generated.
Drumbeat 1.0 was praisedwhen introduced in 1997 as a tool for code-free authoring of database-driven sites in Netscape's Livewire environment, while integrating Java, ActiveX and plug-ins within Web pages. It was one of the first products to focus on site-wide Web development and component-based Web application assembly.
Drumbeat 2.0, released in 1998, was a major overhaul, adding support for building active server pages and DHTML in 4.0 browsers.
Drumbeat 2000 isn't as significant an upgrade as the last, but several enhancements make an upgrade worth your while.
- DataForm Wizard. In previous versions, this wizard automatically created ASP pages that performed the most common database operations, including browsing master detail pages, accessing records, updating and inserting database information, and searching and navigating records. The new DataForm Wizard still provides these functions, but it also generates code for drop-down lists, checkboxes, radio buttons, and edit boxes. When creating record detail pages, you can choose to display more than one record per page.
Figure 1: Drumbeat 2000's DataForm Wizard walks you through adding "SmartElements" (radio buttons, drop-down menus) on your pages, then generates the code.
- SQL Query Builder. Earlier versions let you type or paste in a SQL statement or build a query using the SQL Wizard. The new Query Builder imports views and queries from other ODBC database apps, so you don't have to recreate them. Better yet, you can store procedures that execute SQL logic on the server, and dynamic queries to execute SQL logic at run time with real-time variables.
Figure 2: The new Query Builder lets you import views and queries from other ODBC database applications.
- Interactions Center. View, filter and apply Interactions to your Web applications from an expanded window above the Layout. This is a much more efficient means than the previous right-click pop-up nested menu method.
There are also hundreds of new Interactions provided for database filtering, password protection, profile-based access, data validation and statement management.
Interactions have also been expanded to include server-side COM and ASP objects. This gives you point-and-click control over ASP objects, making it easier to maintain state across pages within an application.
Controlling COM objects is just as simple. You can now provide Web interfaces for IT and commercial applications built for COM/DCOM without writing code (or even understand the underlying technologies).
Figure 3: View, filter and apply Interactions to your Web applications from an expanded window above the Layout.
VBScript and Visual InterDev support
Some other important new features in Drumbeat 2000 include
- VBScript support for server-side interactions and scripting (previously only JScript was supported). This is a welcome addition for those of us more familiar with Microsoft's scripting language.
- Integral support for Visual InterDev Design Time Controls lets you take advantage of the Web add-ons provided by Microsoft and other third-parties.
- Advanced linking options let you create applications with clickable query results that trigger additional queries, which use the first results as parameters. You can do all this without any manual coding.
- The new Site Creation and Publishing Wizards take you step-by-step through the initial setup of a Drumbeat project and its publishing parameters.
I should also mention that Drumbeat's performance and publishing speed have been significantly enhanced as well. There's no more of that sluggishness found in previous versions, and generating an application via publishing is noticeably faster.
In the same niche
In comparing Drumbeat to other products on the market, I'd have to say NetObjects Fusion and Microsoft Visual Interdev would make the closest matches.
NetObjects Fusion is more design oriented, with its integrated SiteStyles and its ability to insert images inside of text objects. Drumbeat is more sophisticated in building interactive database-driven Web applications, however. While Fusion provides some DHTML-based interactive functions via its Actions feature, and support for dynamic database access via ASP, it's no match for Drumbeat's Point-and-Click Interactions and newly enhanced DataForm Wizard.
On the other end of the scale, Microsoft Visual Interdev allows you to create any kind of Web application that Drumbeat can generate, and more. But using Visual Interdev is much more complicated, and you have to really know your code.
As in version 2.0, Drumbeat 2000 still does not allow you to manually edit the HTML source code of your project within the program itself. If you want to tweak the code, you first have to publish it and then do your editing in a different application. Of course, since Drumbeat's output is often quite complex and doesn't contain any generated comments, you probably won't want to bother with source code editing anyway. Besides, Drumbeat is targeted for the non-programming crowd, and in that respect I'd have to say it's the best tool available on the market.
Next: A Tutorial: Getting Your Hands Dirty With Drumbeat