[Pro] Should I give up on CSS and Freeway?

I have a site made with Freeway in the traditional table layout (non-CSS) mode. (http://www.galapagostravel.com) I am very pleased with how easy it is to maintain. It works well with old and new browsers. etc.

Geek friends suggested I move to CSS. Since I have Freeway Pro 5.4.1, I thought the change would be easy. But, I’m totally frustrated. I see two problems.

(1) I have a footer that is on the Master Page. Each page has a different length. With table layout, the footer automatically moves to the bottom of the page based on the amount of content. This doesn’t seem to work with CSS unless you use inflow items. So,

(2) I tried inflow items. The inheritance model for inflow items seems broken. The Use Master Content/Use Master Settings are missing. So you can no longer selectively restore the master content or settings to an item. This makes Master pages effectively useless.

Seems like moving from table based to CSS based page layout will make the site significantly more time consuming to maintain.

Am I missing something, or is CSS layout mode just “not ready for prime-time”?

Thanks All!

–mike


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The CSS inflow layout (nested DIV’s) works perfectly fine, I can tell you. But exactly what you point out; it’s the lack of ‘Master Content/Use Master Settings’ support that has to be improved. For now, Master Content/Use Master Settings only works for the main DIV (the container). That sucks. My enormeous Valveco project is a good example for that; it is completely inflow. And yes … some changes that I have/had to do while building this website kept me busy for quit a while, just because I had to change every single page. But I’m talking about a 400+ page website.

Freeway is evolving though … it has become a very, very powerfull application; thanks to the users’ feedback and Softpress’ listing ear it keeps evolving. Now the whole inflow layout is booming, the shortcomings show up as well. I am sure that -like in the near and far past- this will be fixed. Keep hanging in there, it’s forth it.

Richard


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Like Richard, I think it’s worth hanging on in there. It is possible to build a site part CSS fixed position and part inline box model to get master pages to work at least in part.

For instance, construct all the navigation at the top of a page using fixed position non inline css, with the page content underneath all done inline in a separate container. If the navigation is on a master page, it will now get updated on pages linked to that master when you alter the navigation section.

The problem still arises with floating footers though, so I can’t offer a solution for your particular case. In the past I’ve resorted to copying common inline content, including entire footers, and then pasting it in position on every affected page… (sigh).


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Hi Mike
I think your mail answers itself. If it works well with old and new browsers

  • is easy to maintain and doesn’t frustrate you, (your client or their/your
    customers/visitors) - you have a winning solution.
    The move to CSS has many benefits I am sure, but it is clear that at present
    it can also have drawbacks within the Freeway environment.
    For those that master the use of CSS based inflow layout - hooray!
    But I have not heard compelling reasons to change existing layouts over from
    table based to CSS - or indeed to inline CSS.

If Softpress can pull off a more practical way of implementing CSS then it
could have the best of both worlds. But no computer program should oblige
normal working practices that are mindlessly repetitive. These are also bugs

  • because they make the user do what the programme should be enabling the
    user to batch apply in one way or another.

The geek culture isn’t necessarily free from hype, fashion and prejudice.
Prevailing perception plays a very large part in human decision. To be seen
to be doing the geekly accepted norm can be the difference between a job and
no job. The Mac was dismissed as a proprietary toy by geeks when it first
came out and was not adopted by the larger business - at least in part
because of not validating the initiatory learnings of a geek culture that
managed perfectly well without mouse and cursor and pictorial
representations of files and directories.

I’m rambling on here ! :wink:

all the best
Brian

SoquelMike said recently:

I have a site made with Freeway in the traditional table layout (non-CSS)
mode. (http://www.galapagostravel.com) I am very pleased with how easy it is
to maintain. It works well with old and new browsers. etc.

Geek friends suggested I move to CSS. Since I have Freeway Pro 5.4.1, I
thought the change would be easy. But, I’m totally frustrated. I see two
problems.

(1) I have a footer that is on the Master Page. Each page has a different
length. With table layout, the footer automatically moves to the bottom of the
page based on the amount of content. This doesn’t seem to work with CSS unless
you use inflow items. So,

(2) I tried inflow items. The inheritance model for inflow items seems
broken. The Use Master Content/Use Master Settings are missing. So you can no
longer selectively restore the master content or settings to an item. This
makes Master pages effectively useless.

Seems like moving from table based to CSS based page layout will make the site
significantly more time consuming to maintain.

Am I missing something, or is CSS layout mode just “not ready for prime-time”?

Thanks All!

–mike


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On 3 Oct 2009, at 12:25, Brian Steere wrote:

I’m rambling on here ! :wink:

Ramble on, Brian — I always enjoy it.

best wishes,

Paul Bradforth

http://www.paulbradforth.com


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If you plan your site well, you can use the Includes action and not use master pages. I have used the Includes action for the navigation and footers before. Use it for any content that will stay the same on every page. I usually make a separate page that holds all the include information.

The action is here http://www.freewayactions.com/product.php?id=018

Marcel


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On 3 Oct 2009, 11:25 am, Bin-Ra wrote:

The move to CSS has many benefits I am sure, but it is clear that at present
it can also have drawbacks within the Freeway environment.
For those that master the use of CSS based inflow layout - hooray!
But I have not heard compelling reasons to change existing layouts over from
table based to CSS - or indeed to inline CSS.

If Softpress can pull off a more practical way of implementing CSS then it
could have the best of both worlds. But no computer program should oblige
normal working practices that are mindlessly repetitive. These are also bugs

  • because they make the user do what the programme should be enabling the
    user to batch apply in one way or another.

Thanks to all the authors for their comments.

Like Brian, I guess I’m also still listening for the compelling case for CSS in the current Freeway env.

I love Freeway’s ease of use and don’t see a reason to give that up just so I can get CSS code that only a browser will read.

I hope Freeway’s next release fixes the CSS problem. Until then I will be pretty selective about which site designs I will do in CSS.

I have a few thoughts and would be interested in the reaction of others.

(1) I wonder if Softpress hasn’t made their life extra difficult by allowing the co-mingling on a page of CSS and non-CSS objects. Wouldn’t the problem be easier to solve if an entire page generated (had to be in) older Table layout or newer CSS layout code? If the CSS implementation was done right, why would you ever mix the two styles?

(2) I think Softpress has muddied the waters by having CSS layers and inflow objects have a different inhertiance model. I grant that these objects may have different capabilites, but the inhertiance rules should be the same and work like layers: (1) that a object inherted from a master page has both settings and content which are seperately controlable, (2) an item clearly states what (if any) object it is dervied from and if the content is original master page content or unique to the page, (3) reapplying the master should never delete object/page unique content.

(3) I also think Softpress has muddied the waters by using one command to create CSS inflow objects and CSS layered objects. Now is there an “insert HTML item” command that means 2 different things depending on “mode”. Sometimes it means “insert HTML item as layered object” and sometimes it means “insert HTML item as inflow object”. As long as those items are going have different behavior, than the way you create them should be clearly different.

Mike


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On 3 Oct 2009, 3:59 pm, Helveticus wrote:

If you plan your site well, you can use the Includes action and not use master pages. I have used the Includes action for the navigation and footers before. Use it for any content that will stay the same on every page. I usually make a separate page that holds all the include information.

The action is here http://www.freewayactions.com/product.php?id=018

Marcel

Marcel,

Thank you for a viable solution. I still prefer the WSIWYG approach of the traditional table layout; but I do see how your approach would work if CSS became a requirement.

Regarding your comment “if you plan your site well”. I do try, but this specific site is now 14 years old! Freeway is it’s third development platform and we are on our 3rd major release of Freeway (3.x, 4.x, 5.x). Of course it has evolved over the years, and one of the things I have most appreciated about Freeway is how easily we’ve been able to incrementally evolve the site.

Cheers

Mike


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Hi Mike,
This is a really valuable thread and your views about the application
and what you want to achieve are exactly the sort of things that
Softpress are looking to hear about. If you can please find a couple
of minutes to complete the feedback survey (http://www.softpress.com/offers/feedback/
). It will not only go to make the product better and more focused on
your needs but you may also win yourself an iPod Nano at the same time.
Thanks,
Tim.

FreewayActions.com - Freeware and shareware actions for Freeway
Express & Pro.

Protect your mailto links from being harvested by spambots with Anti
Spam.
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http://www.freewayactions.com


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I wonder, rather than use a Master Page DTP concept (***which
incidentally the same scenario of inflow text/graphics breaks
QuarkXpress and InDesign master pages, so its not just a Freeway
problem but an inherent issue regardless) the problem should be
addressed more how a code editor would.

Why not have an extensive search and replace to include html elements
like border colour, html box width etc.

This is how the main DTP software packages have helped addressed this
issue. They have also used for example nested styles and object styles
to again help.

One issue that could help a lot is the slippery nature of building a
full inflow page elements. Its to easy too make one change of margin
or border and the whole page collapses and is then difficult to
recover from. It takes some understanding of what you are trying to
achieve in CSS, and very importantly “why” build an inflow page in CSS
in the first place.

I’m sure SoftPress have thought of this, and are considering the
implications. And where the product should be placed. Should it
target the professional web designer wishing to implement everything
possible (which it more or less can) or the web site owner wishing to
quickly build sites out of the box with ease and no complication
(which again it can).

David

On 3 Oct 2009, at 08:36, SoquelMike wrote:

I tried inflow items. The inheritance model for inflow items seems
broken. The Use Master Content/Use Master Settings are missing. So
you can no longer selectively restore the master content or settings
to an item. This makes Master pages effectively useless.


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Sometime around 5/10/09 (at 00:13 -0400) SoquelMike said:

I hope Freeway’s next release fixes the CSS problem. Until then I
will be pretty selective about which site designs I will do in CSS.

I have a few thoughts and would be interested in the reaction of others.

(1) I wonder if Softpress hasn’t made their life extra difficult by
allowing the co-mingling on a page of CSS and non-CSS objects.
Wouldn’t the problem be easier to solve if an entire page generated
(had to be in) older Table layout or newer CSS layout code? If the
CSS implementation was done right, why would you ever mix the two
styles?

There are all sorts of reasons why it might be fit and proper to use
both table structures and CSS-positioned structures in the same
layout. Even CSS purists, if they’re not blinkered and frothing at
the mouth, would say that tables are the right thing for presenting
structured data.

Okay, I know you mean layout table stuff, but this is also quite
legitimate. (And arguably slightly more legitimate than using only
tables for page design!) Table structures have some slightly
different behaviours to CSS-positioned structures, so it is good that
we have the option of using whichever, whenever.

I’d like to add here, and I hope that people can take this on board,
that while Freeway’s CSS implementation doesn’t cover every possible
option on offer, it does cover a decent amount of ground. Box-model
approach aside, using CSS positioning of objects in Freeway is damn
easy. Really damn easy.

Remember that “CSS layout” does NOT automatically mean that box-model
thing. And you can work perfectly well NOT using box-model
techniques. Hell, I do about 99% of the time!

Just as with table-based layout construction, using layered CSS
methods offers some benefits and imposes some method-inherent
limitations. The majority of this is down to how these things
actually work in browsers. For example, table-based elements can’t
overlap. And layered, absolute-positioned DIVs can’t know or react
when a neighbor grows into its space. There are ways to handle both
those issues and more, but they’re just par for the course - stuff
you’d have to work with even if you were hand-coding your pages.

Now, specifically about that box-model thing, which is what most
people are thinking of when they ask for improvements in Freeway’s
CSS layout features:
This is clever stuff, but yes, it isn’t what you or I would like.
Yes, the terminology isn’t consistent.
Yes, master page in-flow content doesn’t do all we’d like it to, and so on.
Me, I find today’s box-model approaches confusing and clunky, so I
rarely use them. You’ve raised some very valid points about box-model
layout creation.

On the other hand, keep in mind that this is currently a
first-generation implementation. In some ways it built around a
workaround, something that offers more than the core Freeway 5
featureset was, I imagine, originally designed to provide. I am very
glad that these things are possible, and I pray that v2.0 of this
feature represents a better-integrated and more designer-friendly way
of doing this stuff.

I think your comments will help. What I really wanted to clear up was
the difference between the ‘objects on a page’ CSS-based layout
creation (which is very easy) and that specific box-model thing
(which isn’t).

k


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Sometime around 5/10/09 (at 10:10 +0100) David Owen said:

I wonder, rather than use a Master Page DTP concept (***which
incidentally the same scenario of inflow text/graphics breaks
QuarkXpress and InDesign master pages, so its not just a Freeway
problem but an inherent issue regardless)

Heh. A very good point.

Why not have an extensive search and replace to include html
elements like border colour, html box width etc.

This is how the main DTP software packages have helped addressed
this issue. They have also used for example nested styles and object
styles to again help.

Both those things are great features and things I’d love to see in
Freeway. But they are absolutely not analogs, replacements or
substitutes for appropriate master page behaviour.

The problem of in-flow content not behaving like on-page objects when
it comes to master pages is simple. [Ahem] I mean simple to identify,
although not at all simple to solve. :slight_smile:

In essence, in-flow content is treated like text; what’s in a box is
just lumped together as the content within the ‘actual’ object. If
you follow the concept through, an in-flow item is like a character
in a string of text. Freeway doesn’t see individual letters in a text
string as distinct objects that have their own properties (beyond
text styling that is), so it doesn’t consider them when it comes to
master-child object relationships.

Getting around this could require a fairly hefty rethink of how
things work behind the scenes in Freeway. This absolutely doesn’t
mean we shouldn’t ask for it - but we should keep it in mind when
wondering why it hasn’t happened yet.

One issue that could help a lot is the slippery nature of building a
full inflow page elements. Its to easy too make one change of
margin or border and the whole page collapses and is then difficult
to recover from.

And this is one reason why I avoid this style of page construction.

k


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If Quark and InDesign never managed it, I don’t see Freeway doing it
without some neat party trick. Master pages frequently end up being
a template available for a only new page creation, duplicating a page
does the same thing. This whole way of working is possibly flawed
and a re-think is needed.

As an example Coda, you would use snippets (like a master page
template) to paste in a common structure of page Code, then to use an
extensive search and replace across multiple files site wide.
Admittedly Coda has only HTML text to deal with, but I suppose Freeway
has code under the hood to do the same.

Wouldn’t it be neat if you could search for any object in a Freeway
document with say… a width of 100px, a border of 2px, background
colour red > and change to this to a width of 120px, no border,
background colour black in one go? Maybe chuck in the positioning as
well?

However, much of this you can do now using CSS styles, but does
requires understanding and planning of what is possible before you
start building sites. So short of just building Freeway sites as a
basic skeleton, to apply CSS styles later, were stuck in sort of no-
mans land with no positive solution either way.

My musings here highlight the issues and dilemmas I find when building
a larger Freeway site. I feel sure the Freeway developers know only
too well. I do hope SoftPress can point a positive way forward.

David

On 5 Oct 2009, at 11:29, Keith Martin wrote:

Both those things are great features and things I’d love to see in
Freeway. But they are absolutely not analogs, replacements or
substitutes for appropriate master page behaviour.

The problem of in-flow content not behaving like on-page objects
when it comes to master pages is simple. [Ahem] I mean simple to
identify, although not at all simple to solve. :slight_smile:

In essence, in-flow content is treated like text; what’s in a box is
just lumped together as the content within the ‘actual’ object. If
you follow the concept through, an in-flow item is like a character
in a string of text. Freeway doesn’t see individual letters in a
text string as distinct objects that have their own properties
(beyond text styling that is), so it doesn’t consider them when it
comes to master-child object relationships.

Getting around this could require a fairly hefty rethink of how
things work behind the scenes in Freeway. This absolutely doesn’t
mean we shouldn’t ask for it - but we should keep it in mind when
wondering why it hasn’t happened yet.


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However, much of this you can do now using CSS styles, but does requires understanding and planning of what is possible before you start building sites.

This is the absolute truth. As it currently stands, to fully understand and utilize CSS in Freeway you must invest the time in learning the rudiments of CSS coding. It doesn’t mean you have to learn to code pages by hand, but it does mean you have to learn what the different CSS tags do and when to use them.


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Sometime around 5/10/09 (at 12:26 -0400) chuckamuck said:

to fully understand and utilize CSS in Freeway you must invest the
time in learning the rudiments of CSS coding.

[ahem]

I know what you are trying to say, but as it stands this really isn’t
the case. At the simple level, just work with the CSS Layers button
active. Your site will be 100% CSS-positioned and you won’t have to
touch a single ASCII character of code.

It doesn’t mean you have to learn to code pages by hand, but it
does mean you have to learn what the different CSS tags do and when
to use them.

You don’t have to learn that. You can do more if you understand a
bit about tags and how to address them with styles, and knowing
something about div structure, flow, and the quirks of floats can
help a lot if you delve into box-model stuff.

BUT… you don’t have to understand that to make a CSS site.

(Why am I jumping in here? Well, I know what you’re saying - but the
average surfer that comes along might get rather the wrong idea about
what they need to know in oder to use Freeway. Just clarification. :slight_smile:

k


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Well, I know what you’re saying - but…

From now on I won’t by troubling you, or others with my seemingly confusing statements.


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Hey Chuck,

Please don’t stop posting! Keith was just making a clarification for
others, please don’t see it as a negative dig towards you. He is a
lecturer after all, it’s his job to make things as clear as possible!

Joe

On 5 Oct 2009, at 19:15, chuckamuck wrote:

Well, I know what you’re saying - but…

From now on I won’t by troubling you, or others with my seemingly
confusing statements.


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On 5 Oct 2009, at 18:20, Keith Martin wrote:

I know what you are trying to say, but as it stands this really
isn’t the case. At the simple level, just work with the CSS Layers
button active. Your site will be 100% CSS-positioned and you won’t
have to touch a single ASCII character of code.

Keith, I think you’re being a bit disingenuous here; what you say is
true, but unless the person doing it knows what they’re doing, it runs
the risk of being a complete mess. I have to admit I’m with Chuckamuck
on this one.

best wishes,

Paul Bradforth

http://www.paulbradforth.com


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Sometime around 5/10/09 (at 19:53 +0100) Joe Billings said:

it’s his job to make things as clear as possible!

Yep, that’s me, the pedant. (I once corrected a colleague on the
pronunciation of ‘pedant’, which cracked him up…)

Chuckamuck, I’m sorry - I didn’t mean it as a personal dig at all. I
was reacting to a bit of a rash of CSS-related posts that, while
good, could be misunderstood. I’m also at the start of the new
academic year so I’m a little over-hot on things. Again, sorry!

k


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Sometime around 5/10/09 (at 20:31 +0100) Paul Bradforth said:

unless the person doing it knows what they’re doing, it runs the
risk of being a complete mess.

I do know what you mean, but this is still not really the complete
picture. Any layout process that involves the web can become a
complete mess. And I’ve seen far messier results from people who knew
some code and used different apps.

It is not perfect, and the biggest problems lie with in-flow,
box-model stuff. When people try this they generally have to learn
arcane stuff pretty sharpish. But are you really saying that drawing
boxes on the page with layers switched on has a high risk of mess?
I’ve taught Freeway to a not insignificant number of people, and this
honestly hasn’t been a significant issue.

k


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