All-in-one tool for building HAHT sites
- By Jason J. Meserve
A colleague in the Information Systems community said to me once: "I wish there was a Web tool with everything built into it." We may have found such a tool with HAHTsite 2.0 Integrated Development Environment (IDE) from HAHT Software Inc., Raleigh, N.C.
HAHTsite is a true IDE with content and page creation tools, database access utilities, site management and programming language support -- including its own Visual Basic-like scripting language called HAHTtalk. It can connect to most popular databases natively, as well as any ODBC-compliant data with a simple drag and drop. Version 2.0 is also cross-platform, running on both Unix and Windows NT and 95. HAHTsite also comes with its own Application Server for running server-side applications and scripts. The IDE only ships with a single-thread version for local testing purposes. The full multithreaded version is available separately for $4,995 per CPU running NT and $6,995 per CPU running Unix.
For this review, the IDE, Application Server and included trial-version of QuarterDeck's Web Server, were tested on a Windows 95 system running on a P120 processor, with 32Mb of RAM and 1Gb hard drive. The application and Web servers ran a little slow during testing because the computer was acting as both client and server. Performance would be greatly improved had the two been running on a remote machine -- as it would in a normal production environment. The good news is that the entire IDE and Application Server only require approximately 33Mb of disk space under a "typical" installation. Not bad considering Microsoft Office 97 requires over 120Mb of space for a similar installation.
The installation process is as simple as it gets. The HAHTsite manual states it only takes five minutes to have the system up and running; it took me a bit longer -- nine minutes. HAHTsite and its accompanying programs are contained on a single CD, and the installation is the same as virtually any Windows-based program. Just say what and where you want components installed, and bingo, it's done.
As with most applications today, the HAHTsite IDE launches straight into a tutorial when loaded for the first time. While I think most tutorials are of little benefit, I highly recommend following along in this case. The sample XtremeSports Web application gives good examples of the overwhelming functionality contained in HAHTsite, as well as provides some reusable code, HTML, etc. for later applications built with the product.
BUILDING WEB SITES
HAHTsite's interface can be a little cluttered and upon first inspection, may look more difficult than it is in reality. There are three window panes: an Explorer-like pane for viewing the contents of the current project; the near-WYSIWYG layout and coding pane for creating pages and scripts; and a pane at the bottom for debugging and checking the status of various project pieces as they are "published" to a server.
Building simple HTML pages is as easy as dragging an element from the project window, such as an image, and dropping it on the page. The tool bar contains almost every page attribute necessary to modify the appearance and placement of objects and text. However, the design area is a bit cramped and some formatting does not appear as it will when viewed through a standard Web browser. HAHTsite tells which attributes do not appear accurately in design view. For those that prefer other page editing packages, such as Adobe PageMill or Microsoft Front Page, they can be integrated into the HAHTsite IDE. The only layout problem I encountered was with aligning text with the input boxes in a HTML form.
HAHTsite's interface has three window panes: one for viewing the current project's
contents; another for layout and coding; and the third for debugging and checking
The true beauty of HAHTsite is in its ability to manage a project and track links -- a daunting task for a large site if done manually. If a page is moved from one place to another within a project, all the referring links are automatically updated throughout the rest of the project. The tool will also take care of renamed pages and their associated links and objects within the project.
Adding functionality beyond simple page design is rather easy as well. HAHTsite comes with a handful of Widgets that can be dragged onto the page and which accomplish a number of tasks. Users can create their own Widgets using HAHTtalk, or save "clips" of code and HTML in a marked folder for use in later projects. I used a Widget to quickly add a "mailto" to link onto one of my pages.
Prior to testing HAHTsite, I had never attempted to manually connect a Web site to a back-end database. This IDE made it easy. First, one must specify the database(s) they will be working with under the "Database" icon in the project window. A pop-up window asks for the type of file and where the file is located; HAHTsite takes care of the rest.
HAHT Software Inc.
My Access database contains an archive of information about newspaper articles,
containing the headline, author, text and other things. I made queries that sorted
articles based on which section of the newspaper they appeared within. To add
the list of headlines to a "Contents" page within my HAHTsite project, I dragged
the "DB Table" Widget from the project window and dropped it on my page where
I wanted it to appear. A pop-up dialog box allows you to set the database table
attributes as well as edit the accompanying SQL code, if needed.
DOCUMENTATION AND ONLINE HELP
The documentation is very good. The accompanying paper-based manual acts as a good reference for many of the functions and tools, as does the online help, which looks the same as any other Windows help system. HAHT Software's Web site (www.haht.com) is also very helpful. It contains a searchable knowledge base to help answer many questions not covered in the included help documentation.
HAHTsite 2.0 is a viable tool for companies looking to build or manage large
Web projects and applications. It is designed for team development use and integrates
with a number of configuration management and version control tools to ensure
consistency. With a list price of $1,995 for the HAHTsite IDE, Application Server:
Developer Edition, the HAHTsite SDK (not tested in this review) and a 30-day
trial of QuarterDeck WebSTAR Web server, HAHTsite is definitely worth investigating.