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Posted Sep 1, 1998

A Review of Drumbeat - a product by Elemental Software - Page 2

By Steven Wynkoop

Don-E Merson

Drumbeat is a software package from Elemental Software that claims power to make a website in about an hour without programming. While it is true that the pure object functionality allows the user to layout the website in a process similar to Visual Basic, there are more than a few issues that will leave the professional programmer perplexed. The software would be a great find for a person who wants to create a "pretty" site with cool features but it not quite ready to bridge the gap to the professional programmer.

Drumbeat's interface is superb and will be familiar to anyone familiar with Visual Basic. The same type of toolbar appears in Drumbeat and you can just click on a item and drag it onto your web page. The set of items includes the basic set of HTML items: images, text, forms, buttons, etc. The toolbar of "elements" can also be configured to include other types of premade items or add new user made items.

This design concept also extends to media items. The design was geared for a professional artist who wants to drop the "pictures where I want them to be." Drumbeat allows user to make templates to give the site the same look and feel. Plus, the user has a section where you can search through folders for specific media items and preview them. Media items can include pictures, sound, video and just about anything you can imagine.

As a matter of fact, Drumbeat has also including more features into a RAD web designer than any other of the market. They have pre DHTML components, Javascripts, Database items, multimedia and several other special items. However, I believe their best feature is their SmartPages. SmartPages allow the user to make special elements for a page's display depending on the Browser that the client is using. You can do this two ways, Server Side with ASP, or client side with Javascript. The user starts with a page and then right clicks the page to turn it into a SmartPage. A select box appears that gives the user four different options for the page: Internet Explorer 4.0, Any version 4.0, Navigator 3 or Generic. By selecting Internet Explorer 4, the user can pick any type of DHTML elements or function available to that Browser. Right clicking on a image with give you the types of "flashy" components available in IE 4. Pick Netscape 3 and you are restricted to just using that set of HTML code. This feature is really great because it allows you to customize for different browsers while still working with background compatibility. This feature alone would probably make it worth buying from a marketing standpoint. Upgrading your site from the dull generic site to a flashy site without comprise would be a great sell. However, this is where I started to experience problems.

I was not able to import most of my sites. It probably has to the complexity of the ASP pages that being used on my site. When I tried to import more generic sites, it seemed to work well. However, importing my site caused the application to crash consistently. I used the Drumbeat website to search for an answer to this issue and could not find it within their FAQS or online search. That wasn't the only shortcoming that I found.

Drumbeat has an SQL wizard that allows you to make an SQL statement with a wizard. It works well with most basic SQL statements and even allows you to make DataForms, similar to the functionality of Microsoft's Visual Interdev. However, more complex SQL statements were hard to make and you could not have a field named the same in different tables. For example, this statement could not be saved:

Select * from Users inner join Groups on users.usergroupid=groups.usergroupid

This was due to the fact, according to the error message, that the fields were named the same. The SQL wizard is a long way from the Query Designer in MVI. While these features were troublesome, they were not the worst feature.

The concerning issue with Drumbeat is that it never lets you look under the hood. If something doesn't go right, you are clueless to find out the true HTML using Drumbeat. You can fire up Notepad or another HTML editor to look at code, but it can be quite a nuisance. If you are used to writing the code components your self , then you might be similarly distrurbed.

However, Drumbeat is a full feature application that will let the novice make a pretty sophisticated web site. It has more features than any competitor, with only a few flawed components. While I can't vouch that you can make a web site in a hour, you can make a pretty good web site.

Editor's note:
Elemental Software, the maker of Drumbeat, is an advertiser on SWYNK.COM. This doesn't impact our review, but this notice is posted in the interests of full disclosure.

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