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First Impressions ...

Okay, I've been playing with CityDesk over the past day, and here are some of my impressions.  I hope I'm not duplicating what others have already said, there are so many posts already and I'm new to the CityDesk beta.  But here goes:

First of all, good job, Joel.  =-)  I like CityDesk.  I think it's great.  I think it fills "a well needed gap".  I remember four or five years ago when I was a website maintainer for the MSE department at the University of Arizona, I almost wrote my own CityDesk to do the same article/formatting thing.  A good thing I didn't, of course ... I would have written a much worse CityDesk.  =-)

Okay, enough kissing up, now the fun happy slander comments:

The WYSIWYG editor is nigh-on useless for designing templates.  No way of doing table layout.  No way of adding a BODY background image.  No way of doing IMG width="100%" (I was trying to do a graphical HR tag).  Nice try though.  Let's accept the necessity of hand-coding a template file and move on.  =-)

Why does citydesk use EM instead of I and STRONG instead of B?  Although I'm sure every browser known to man considers them synonyms, it just seems "wrong" to not use I and B, which are explicitly italic and bold markup tags, respectively.

When I was importing images to citydesk, I had to import them one at a time.  Most other programs have "Open" dialog boxes that allow me to select multiple files to open.  That would have been very useful.

A very handy feature for CityDesk 2.0 is to offer a variety of pre-designed formats and a variety of pre-designed colour schemes.  Sort of like how MS Word has a wizard to automatically format tables twelve different ways to Sunday.  As a first-time user of CityDesk, I may not be all that keen on spending a couple hours trying to design a template, but I don't want to use the default example one either.  Maybe you can solicit CityDesk users to send back their favorite templates, sort of like what winamp does with winamp skins?

On my index.html page, suppose I just wanted the most recent 10 articles, and then have a second page that has an "archive" of all of the articles?  I couldn't find a way to code the foreach loop to do just the top ten last articles, or articles posted over the last week.  That'd be a useful feature.

I wish the article compiler would put the line number of the offending file when I make a cityscript error ... and also give me the option of opening the offending file at the point of error so I could edit it automatically.

Variables aren't recursive?  Okay, this really is a minor thing, but I tried defining two variables:

  abtcashton: Chris Ashton works at {$ .companyname $}
  companyname:  Foo Corporation

But when I use {$ .abtcashton $} all I see is, "Chris Ashton works at {$ .companyname $}" not "Chris Ashton works at Foo Corporation."

Also, I can create a variable called "abtcashton" but not "aboutcashton".  When I tried using it I just got "{$ .aboutcashton $}".  I think this is a bug.

Okay, that's all my comments for now.

Sunday, November 04, 2001

Unfortunately the WYSIWYG editor is not ideal for complicated templates. It should be good enough for adding articles to a predesigned site, though, which was our real goal... most professional web designers won't want to give up their beloved Notepad/bbedit/homesite/dreamweaver/etc to use our lame ol' editor.

Hopefully we will have an opportunity to beef up the WYSIWYG editor for the next version.

We recommend using a full-featured editor for creating the initial templates (like Dreamweaver, my favorite) and then using CityDesk for minor changes.

I agree that we should allow multiple selections in the Import dialog, that would make it easier. In the meantime, to import multiple images at the same time, you can use drag and drop -- just drop a bunch of files on the folder where you want them.

You're definitely right, there is a bug that if a variable name starts with a defined name it won't work. (Thus the .aboutcashton issue) I'll get on it right away!

Joel Spolsky
Monday, November 05, 2001

I'd make three points about the discussion above:

1) Joel, you're right to leave template authoring to Dreamweaver, HomeSite and the like. Those tools are done. Feature-complete. Working.

2) Joel, you're even righter (?!) to give the non-designer users minimal design facilities. Given the ability to design, many users will start trying to design. And most won't be good at it. Let the ordinary users structure the data - the real challenge for a tool like CityDesk - and let the designers transform based on that structure. You should not be defensive about the editor's level of power. It really IS a feature.

3) I suspect the target market would welcome the ability to impose a controlled markup vocabulary - break tags, the full range of headings, plus certain types of paras and spans(.note, .alert, .greyed-out, .reversed etc). That way, everything can be XHTML-compliant and controlled through CSS. I understand that this is hard to implement with existing Microsoft editing widgets. But you should be the guys to do it.

4) A templates exchange is a fine idea.

5) Recursive variables would help, though I can live without them.

David Walker
Tuesday, November 06, 2001

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