Namo Web Editor v5.5

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: Namo Interactive, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP, Internet Explorer 4.0 or newer, minimum 800x600x256 color display, 64MB RAM, 110MB hard disk space for Standard installation
MSRP: $109 (retail box - recommended), $99 (download)

There are a billion web sites out there. The problem is that many of them look like absolute trash, or they look like clones of one another, or they simply don't look like anything worthwhile at all. Of course there are lots of entreaties in the e-mail flooding your Inbox shouting about how much more various and sundry web designers can do with your site. It's all mostly nonsense of course - too many teens and unemployed 20-somethings with web editors and a fistful of templates, eager to take your money even though you can come awfully close to doing the same work yourself (with a little help). Herein, we examine the latest offering from Namo - Web Editor v5.5. This little number is advertised as the solution to all your web site design, creation, editing and maintenance efforts.

As web editing offerings go, Namo puts a lot of stuff in one box. You get the HTML editor itself, plus Web Canvas (a vector graphics design tool), 58 templates, 205 themes, 120MB worth of good quality ClipArt, a couple of hundred theme objects and loads of other odds & ends sufficient to fully populate nice looking web sites. We had a couple of web chores to do during the course of this review, so in keeping with our motto of "real reviews by real users" we put Namo to work on a small associate site which was in severe need of some TLC. We ran Namo Web Editor on a workhorse Hewlett Packard Pavilion 8575c Pentium III/550 with 512MB of RAM and an onboard nVidia graphics card. Namo was stable and quite quick on the somewhat elderly machine.

Using Namo Web Editor is straightforward. Beginners can get rolling fairly quickly although genuinely intuitive use is not at the top of the Namo usability list. Mind you, with all the features and functions built into this program, it's difficult to criticize its usability. One example of something we'd like to see fixed right away is the location of templates. We went looking for templates in the File menu, expecting to find a Load Template function or something similar. Instead, we ended up selecting Site>Site Wizard in the File menu. The Site Wizard is where you choose an actual template, apply a Theme (lots to choose from!), after which your selection loads as a tree view of the templates. Click one of the objects in the tree view (the Home object for example) and the template loads, complete with buttons, scripts and backgrounds, read for your text and custom graphics. It's a straightforward system which works well.

A bit of initial confusion resulted from our pursuit of the location of 120MB worth of ClipArt supplied and installed. You'll find it near the middle of the Insert menu under Image Elements. The Insert menu also contains an item for Image at the very top of the menu, where you can load graphics from elsewhere on your system or network. Also under Insert you'll find Site Element - click on it to select the Theme Objects (buttons which match various themes supplied with the software). We like all this stuff, but we really think these sorts of functions - Themes, Theme Objects, Insert Image & Insert Image Elements should be grouped together at the top level of the same menu.

We got a lot of hard work out of Namo - no crashes, no corrupt documents, no hiccups which changed formatting and so on. That's nice to see considering the number of web editors on the market right now which are less than reliable. There are a lot of features in Namo, so many in fact that there simply isn't space in a review of this scope to list everything. There was nothing on the moderately extensive site we worked on which Namo didn't deal with effortlessly. The only slowdown - if you can call it that - resulted from the basic process of learning Namo's layout and the location of all the controls we expected to find.

Here's what we dealt with while renovating the project site:

  • removing all broken HTML
  • converted a bunch of vaguely aligned text into separate tables
  • added a bar chart of some text stats on-the-fly (very handy)
  • propagated all formatting and image changes across the whole 41 page site
  • restyled the site using one of Namo's templates and themes
  • plenty of manual poking at our original text formatting (replacing paragraph breaks with "<br>" codes for example)

The verdict? Well if you've been horsing around (or struggling perhaps?) with FrontPage 2002, ditch it now and buy a box of Namo. If you've been dithering about the high cost of Dreamweaver, forget about it and buy a box of Namo. You'll be much happier, you'll be able to see and control what you're doing, and you'll spend far less compared to Dreamweaver MX @ $399 and Microsoft FrontPage @ $169.

The software includes a thorough 363 page printed manual (which includes a 7 page index - just adequate in our opinion) and an extensive online help system. The online help is not context sensitive and contains some topic information which is buried 4 and 5 levels deep. Dig carefully. We always look for solid documentation in products powerful enough for business and home use. Namo has done a creditable job here.

Cons: No opacity or transparency setting in the Web Canvas vector editor. The template thumbnails in the Site Wizard dialog are terrible - barely legible. You can't drag & drop between Web Canvas and the Web Editor windows - very inconvenient and not what we expected from an integrated package. This is not a Dreamweaver clone, so if you are used to Macromedia programs be prepared for a bit of a learning curve while negotiating the variety of control palettes. Some formatting was messed up when we moved a FrontPage project into Namo, but note carefully that the same thing happens no matter where you move a FrontPage site - Dreamweaver, Golive and NetObjects all have occasional difficulties with FrontPage files.

Pros: No problems moving HTML files back and forth between Namo and Dreamweaver. Dozens of templates and hundreds of themes to choose from - lots of variety in dozens of different categories - a great selection of very interesting and attractive designs. We love good content (just fix the thumbnail view in the Site Wizard please!) The Web Canvas vector graphics editor is powerful (albeit with a couple of curious omissions in its tool palette). Thorough Help system which will lift you over the humps. The web site we worked on was posted without a problem - Namo has competent Publish and FTP features - the software works and you can be productive with it. The page zoom feature is unique to Namo and makes it possible to do very precise object alignments among other things. The price is right. Recommended.

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