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The UltraDev Site Map Tools

The built-in site mapping tools in the UltraDev package make maintaining and setting up your Web site a breeze. They do not negate the need for a site map to be drawn up by hand, but they do make the process of going from a map on paper to a real-life Web site much easier. Without so much as opening a single file or making a single link, you can create your entire Web site (devoid of content of course) through the use of these tools.

You've already been using the basic form of the site tool to navigate through the files that you're using on your site in a simple list form. Another mode, however, will show your pages in a map form and let you define and redefine links between pages. There are two ways you can use this function—either as a way to work with an existing site or a method of designing a new site. Let's go ahead and take a look at how the site map window looks on an existing site, and then see how it can be used to design a site from scratch.

Using the Site Map on Existing Web Sites

If you have defined a site and created a few pages, go ahead and switch to that site using Open Site under the Site menu. If you haven't yet worked with a site, you can use one of the UltraDev tutorial sites to see how the site map function works.

After you've opened up a site, you can switch to the Site Map view by clicking the site map icon (the third icon from the top left in the site window) in the Site window. Alternatively, you can just select Site Map from the Window menu to automatically switch to this mode. Your display should look similar to the one shown in Figure 3.2. Nice feature isn't it? What makes it even better is that this view is actually very useful besides being pretty. Let's go through the parts of the site map screen and their uses, and then take a look at the things you can do from within this view.

Figure 3.2
The site map view gives you a visual overview of your site's layout.

The site map display looks familiar, doesn't it? The UltraDev site map tool is very similar to a hand-created site map, but offers some definite benefits from having direct access to the HTML itself.

Icons

Each of the icons in the site map display represents a page that it is linked to in the site. Two primary types of icons are local and remote. Local site documents are shown using the standard UltraDev document icons. Documents that are linked to remotely are shown as a generic text style icon with a small globe in the lower right corner.

These two icons are the primary place holders for a page on your site map. You can take the map one step further and display all files that are linked into your site (images, style sheets, and so on), by choosing Show Dependent Files from the Site Map View under the Site menu. This can be a bit overwhelming and rarely seems to be of much use—on Windows platforms this is accessible directly from the View menu in the site window.

By default, the names of the icons are set to the name of the HTML file. You might find it more intuitive to switch the files to display the name of the HTML page (derived from the <TITLE> tag) rather than its filesystem name. To switch to this view, visit the Site menu again and choose the Show Page Titles option from the Site Map View submenu. You can also set these options from within the Site Map Layout section of the Site definition dialog box.


Tip - Titling your HTML documents is very important in providing a perfect browsing experience to your viewers. Without page titles, bookmarking a page is more or less useless. Properly defined page titles help the user navigate and find previously saved information quickly.

Using the Show Page Titles option makes it easy to locate the files that don't have their <TITLE> tags set. Just scan for the Untitled label.


If there is a file that you don't want displayed in your site map, you can mark it as hidden under the Site menu using Show/Hide Link options. Unfortunately, if you hide a link, it's difficult to select it to use the Show option. Luckily, you can choose Show Files Marked as Hidden to show everything. This is another one of those strange UltraDev interface elements that doesn't seem to be completely intuitive. Hidden files will be shown in italics.

One last feature of the icon view is the coloring of the icon label. Broken links are highlighted using red—this makes it very simple to find problems with your site just by looking through for the highlighted icons.

Links

As you've already seen, the links between files are represented by the connecting lines. Often lines are not spaced as carefully as one would hope. You can change the spacing between linked files by positioning your cursor over the vertical spacing lines and using your mouse to drag the lines over. Near each icon representing a local page is a small target icon, similar to what you've seen for making links from the properties palette to other files on your site. You can add links between pages by clicking and dragging between the target and the page you want to link to. This will add a simple text link at the bottom of the HTML page to the target page. You'll need to open the page and put the link where you want it—don't expect it to automatically show up in your nice graphic navigation system. An alternate way to perform this function is by choosing the Make Link option under Modify.

If you want to change the spacing of the icons in the site map view, just position your mouse over one of the connecting arrows, and drag.


Caution - Connecting to remote links from local files does include the link in the local file, but in the release version of UltraDev that I am using, the link is formatted incorrectly (an extra / is added to http://) and shows up as being broken in the site map.


If your site is more than a single layer deep, you've noticed that pages are missing from the map. The UltraDev mapping tool only shows the main level of the site. The lower levels of links can be revealed by clicking the plus and minus icons located near every document icon. You can collapse and expand the tree of links to show or hide as much of the site as you need.

If you'd like to move down the tree, you can select another file to be the root node of your site map. Clicking one of the icons in the site map and selecting View as Root will move that icon to the top of the site map display window. The top of the site map window shows where in the site hierarchy you're currently viewing, as seen in Figure 3.3. You can click the levels shown in the window header to move up in the site tree.

Figure 3.3
Use the top of the site map window to navigate through the levels of the site hierarchy.

Similarly, if you'd like to redefine which file is the homepage of your site, you can select the file in the local file listing and use the Set as Homepage selection. You can also use the New Home Page option to create a new HTML file that will become the root of your site. Personally, I've never really found an applied use for these options.

A few useful options are Change Link and Remove Link. If you select an icon and then Change Link, UltraDev will bring up the standard link selection dialog box. Selecting a new link will replace all links in your site so that they point to a new location. Choosing Remove Link will remove links in the site that point to that file. It might seem a bit confusing at first, but you're not really modifying the file that is selected, you're modifying the files that point to the selected file.

Selected Files

Within the site map, you can use a standard file selection rectangle to select multiple (or single) local files. Cumulative statistics for these files will be shown in the status bar of the site map window. As you select files within this view, notice that the corresponding site files are selected in the file list on the right side of the window.

Miscellaneous Site Map Options

A few other options can be set that alter the display of the site map. Choosing Layout from the Site Map View menu will open the Layout portion of the site definition window. Again, the UltraDev interface is a bit confusing here. The only settings found here that you haven't seen already are Number of Columns and Column Width. The Number of Columns parameter is used for configuring how many columns of icons are shown in each row of the site map. Column Width is a value, given in pixels, that will be used to set the default width of an icon and its label as shown in the site map view.

Using the Site Map on New Web Sites

If you already have an existing Web site, you can immediately start using the site map tools to organize it. But what if you're starting from scratch; how can the site map help you? If you've designed a map by hand, the UltraDev tools can be used to immediately implement a skeleton version of the site without actually needing any content, or even the elements that you'll need to navigate the site.

Define a New Site

The first step in designing a site within the site map view is to define a new site. Create a new folder on your computer to hold the local copy of the site files. Set up the site as if you were going to immediately start adding pages. Set a homepage for the site and let UltraDev create the file for you. Next, switch to the site map view. You should see your single homepage file at the top of the window.

Create Content Pages

Your site obviously is going to need more than a homepage. You can create the other pages in the site and the links between them in one simple action. Assume, for a moment, that you're linking to three pages from your homepage: content.html, links.html, and about.html. Click the homepage icon, and then choose Link to New File from the Site Map View menu or the contextual menu. As shown in Figure 3.4, you'll be prompted with a shortcut file creation screen. From this simple screen, you can set the Title and filename for your new file.

Figure 3.4
Creating new files in your site is a very simple process.

After the file is created, the corresponding icons appear in the site map view, linked appropriately to the homepage. You can continue this process on any of the new pages in order to create all the pages in the site.

Define the Links

Although you've defined part of your links while creating your new pages, links between the new pages themselves will need to be defined. If you read the earlier portion of the chapter related to defining links on existing sites, you know what to do. If not, defining links between pages is very simple. Use the target indicator by each file icon to click and drag links between files.

Within a few minutes, you can graphically create an entire site, including all the links between the pages. This "instant prototyping" is a good way to test a site's navigation and get a feel for how the site will work. You can slowly fill in the content of the pages in the site as it becomes available.

Organize the Files

One thing that might cause a bit of concern (especially if you read my earlier comments about maintaining a clear directory structure) is that all the created files are in the main root level of your site. The good news is that UltraDev's link-rewriting capabilities make it simple to add structure to your site after the files have all been created and linked.

You can create new folders by using the contextual menu inside the file list view to the right of the site map. After your folders are created, just drag the files into the folders in the list view. UltraDev will offer to rewrite all the links to the file so that they point to the appropriate location.

Save Your Site Map

If your Web site is constructed, and you're happy with the site map, you can save it to a graphic file if you'd prefer using the Site Map View menu. This is very useful if you want to put the site map online. You can use an image map to provide point and click functionality from the site map image to the different pages on your site. Doing this will turn your site map into a navigation tool for the users accessing your pages.

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