Product Review: HTML Transit makes Web work a snap

Designing a World Wide Web site for your organisation can be fun, especially if you have the opportunity to employ the latest bells and whistles. The really tedious work, as any webmaster can tell you, rears its head if you need to convert masses of legacy files for presentation on the Web.

That's where InfoAccess' HTML Transit comes in. Using HTML Transit, webmasters can create conversion templates that automate the process of converting files from a variety of popular document formats into Hypertext Markup Language. The product, which already was the industry leader, has just been released in a 4.0 version that offers a host of new features for creating more attractive Web pages.

The basics of HTML Transit are easy to grasp. You create a Web project by specifying source documents, selecting a template and then translating the source documents. You can specify that the program maps styles using either named styles used by your word processor or specific patterns -- such as paragraph breaks or chapter headings -- specified in the documents.

HTML Transit offers 20 predefined templates that specify combinations of backgrounds, page breaks and navigation buttons. Of course, unless your documents are simple and predictable, you're going to want to fine-tune the templates or even create new ones from scratch. The program makes this chore relatively easy, thanks to intelligently designed dialogue boxes that offer a high level of control over formatting. You also can manually insert HTML tags into templates.

There's no denying that there is a bit of tedium involved in editing templates. The sheer number of formatting controls can be daunting to the new user. Fortunately, InfoAccess has provided wizards to lead users through the process until they become familiar with the landscape.

And once you've created your templates, the conversion work is a snap. Even if your boss comes along and wants everything changed, all you have to do is change the template once and then apply the changes to all the documents automatically.

HTML Transit offers decidedly stronger formatting tools than the competition. With its new support for cascading style sheets and enhanced frame capabilities, ambitious designers can create rich and complex pages. And you can use frames to display data from a variety of sources, including outside data sources, Web applications, logo banners and navigation bars.

Version 4.0 of HTML Transit also introduces the ability to generate Extensible Markup Language (XML) map files that show the structure of the Web site. You can write scripts that refer to the map file for such purposes as controlling user access.

Another new feature is HTML Transit's ability to use metadata from the source document. That means that you can pull data from a Microsoft Word header -- such as author or department information -- and display it in a specified location in the body of the Web page. As in the previous version, HTML Transit offers flexible handling of graphics, allowing you either to embed them on the pages directly or to link to externally stored graphics so that users only download the image if they specifically indicate they want to do so by clicking on a thumbnail hot spot.

Transit also makes it easy to automatically generate tables of contents, keyword lists, lists of tables and lists of figures -- a feat beyond the reach of other converters, such as Lotus Development's FastSite and Trellix Corp's Trellix.

This new version of HTML Transit also offers expanded format support. All the major office suite word processors, spreadsheets and presentation packages are supported, including those in the new Microsoft Office 2000 and Lotus SmartSuite Millennium. Version 4.0 also has added support for Portable Document Format and XML. And HTML Transit can handle graphics in more than a dozen formats, including all the most frequently used ones.

If your company is continually generating files that need to be moved to the Web, you can employ InfoAccess Transit Central to automate the process.

After installing Transit Central, you can specify what directories the program should monitor. Then, when users add files to those directories, Transit Central will automatically convert the documents to HTML and publish them to your Web site.

The bottom line: We don't know of a stronger product for converting legacy documents to HTML.

HTML Transit 4.0

Remarks: HTML Transit offers more control over formatting than other HTML converters, broad file format support and an interface that's easier to use than ever. The product, in short, is the standard-setter in this software category.

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