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The Contribute Interface

To start, you'll learn a little about the Contribute 2 interface. This isn't going to require much of an attention span, so don't worry.

The Browser Panel

When you crack open Contribute 2, you'll notice one very big and odd section in the interface called the Browser panel. You can't miss it—it takes up most of the space your other programs suck up with tools. Am I saying that Contribute 2 lacks tools? No. I'm saying that they are so easy to deal with that you barely need to know they exist to get something done, and they don't actually take up any screen real estate. The other thing that may strike you as odd is the fact that it's, well, a browser. And you just paid $99 for it. But before buyer's remorse sets in, you should know this browser has a dual purpose. Once you are set up to edit a Web site, this browser will be used to find the page and then edit it and show you the results.

If you've got a minute, go ahead and use Contribute 2 to browse to http://informit.com so you can notice something else: You can't edit a page on InformIT.com (unless, of course, you happen to be an employee). The Browser panel will tell you, right then and there, why you can't edit the page you're staring at (see Figure 4). In this case, you haven't established a connection to InformIT's Web site and, therefore, are completely out of luck. Another reason you won't be able to edit a site is if someone else has already "checked out" the page you're eager to leave your mark on and is already editing it. (If you're familiar with Dreamweaver MX or MX 2004, you might recall the check in/check out options that prevent two people from editing a page simultaneously.)

Figure 4Figure 4 You can't edit InformIT.com because you don't have a connection established, and you likely never will. So there.

In the Browser panel, when you first open Contribute 2 you will see the Start page (see Figure 5). This takes the work out of thinking by showing you a list of sites that you have connections to, providing a quick way to walk through a tutorial, offering a tour of the program, and letting you fly off to Macromedia's Web site for tips and tricks. Up at the top is also an address bar so you can browse your way over to your favorite gambling site without the IT staff ever knowing about it.

Figure 5Figure 5 The Contribute 2 Start page, common to all Studio MX 2004 products and, well, Contribute 2.

Sidebar

Over on the left side of the Contribute interface are a couple of other panels designed to make your life easier. One is Pages and the other is How Do I (see Figure 6).

Figure 6Figure 6 The sidebar in Contribute 2, answering the age-old question "How Do I."

The Pages panel simply shows you a list of pages that you have left unpublished since editing them. This means, obviously, that you can edit pages offline and save copies of drafts until you're good and ready to publish them. Any time you want to get back to a draft, just go ahead and click on that page name in the Pages panel, and it'll pop right open in the Browser panel. This is great, by the way, for time-sensitive information. Let's say you have a promotion that needs to start promptly at midnight, and you've been suckered into doing the job. So you swear to keep your eyes half-open until the moment arrives, but it occurs to you sometime earlier that afternoon that the page needs to be edited before it can be published, and the design department has already left for the day (not that they have time for you anyway). What's a geek to do? Well, edit the page now, use the powerful Save for Later button to put a draft into your Pages panel, and then when midnight rolls around, wake yourself up long enough to hit the Publish button. Not the Snooze button—the Publish button. Just be sure to add the nap to your timesheet before leaving the office.

To make things even more convenient, the How Do I panel offers a tutorial on how to survive this very scenario (except for the napping part). It includes lessons on how to get started, add pages to a site, add content to pages, modify pages, convert documents to FlashPaper (more on this later), and even administer a Contribute 2 site.

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