Macromedia updates Contribute

Macromedia will begin shipping a new version of Contribute, its desktop application for Web content maintenance, in Australia in August.

The software is aimed at users who need to update Web pages but don't want to learn to code HTML or use complex editing tools.

New features in Contribute 2 include Flashpaper, a way of transforming graphics from other software applications into Web-ready Flash animations by sending them to a virtual printer; support for SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), and a tool to create buttons for automating payment on Web stores using PayPal's online payment system, according to product manager Erik Larson.

The new version will also be available for Apple Computer's Macintosh operating system, although the virtual printer driver needed to create Flashpaper graphics will only work with Microsoft's Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems, Larson said.

Web designers typically deal with 10 content providers in any given month; letting those content providers maintain content on their pages directly, rather than passing all changes to the designer, can dramatically speed the process of updating Web pages, and reduce costs to boot, Larson said.

Designers who create Web pages using graphical editing tools such as Macromedia's Dreamweaver can safely delegate responsibility for maintaining text or images to colleagues using Contribute 2, Larson said, because Contribute uses the same access control and file check-out, check-in system as Dreamweaver. Letting those users edit pages with a tool like Microsoft FrontPage could be dangerous because "It doesn't have access controls, so they could blow away part of the site," he said.

One change to Contribute that users may be less pleased about is the introduction of product activation, a means to curb software piracy.

On installing Contribute, users will be asked to enter a serial number from the product packaging. The application will then calculate a unique ID number based on the serial number and the machine's hardware configuration, including information about the hard disk and processor, which must be sent back to Macromedia to activate the product, tying it to that machine, Larson said.

By default, the application tries to do this over the Internet. Macromedia chose this route because, "It's a Web editing application, and 99.9 per cent of our customers have Internet access," Larson said. However, a worldwide 24-hour telephone support service is available for those that can't, or don't want to, register the application over the Internet, he said.

For now, Contribute 2 is the only Macromedia software to use product activation, Larson said. "We are piloting it there to see whether we roll it out to other products."

With product activation, a license permits the activation of the software on two machines, for example one at work and one at home, as long as they are not used concurrently, Larson said. That's a change from the first version of Contribute, where the license only allowed installation on one machine. The product activation system also allows users to move the software from one machine to another, Larson said.

Macromedia Contribute 2 will cost $226. Contribute 2 is also available in value packs, with 5 copies for $854.30 and 10 copies for $1587.

Education, corporate, and government volume licensing is also available.

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