Wheeler, who bills herself as “The Computer Lady from Motherboard Books, promises this e-book for ages 8 and up “takes you by the hand and shows you how.”
The author advises that you download a free trial version of Visual Site Designer (VSD) from CoffeeCup and includes screen shots from that program in the e-book. The e-book states that it works on Windows XP and newer (we tested it with Windows 7), and also states will run on a Mac if you are running Parallels Desktop . There are no surprises; she fully discloses her reasons for recommending the program and tells you up-front you’ll need to pay for it ($49.00) if you want to use VSD past the trial period. As a result, however, most of this e-book is instructions, hints and tips for using VSD.
The lessons are written for ages 8 and up and as promised, they are easy to understand and there are plenty of screenshots to help. Later lessons provide great resources for free animations and backgrounds to add to your web page. There’s also a troubleshooting guide to help.
The Table of Contents are as follows:
Lesson 1: An Interview
Lesson 2: Download and Set Up the Program
Lesson 3: Add Text
Lesson 4: Add Photo
Lesson 6: From The Internet, Add Animations
Lesson 7: Browser Check, Backgrounds, Photos
Lesson 8: Sound
Lesson 9: Links
Lesson 10: Post Your Work
Appendix A: How to Upload to the Internet
Appendix B: Troubleshooting
Please note: The omission of “Lesson 5” is not my typo. More on this later.
Because of a recent surgery, I asked my husband to assist with this review. I have been “living better through chemistry” due to post-op pain, and I reasoned he would be (between the two of us) best suited to oversee this particular review. He chose “The Artist” as his
guinea pig, test subject. Here’s how they did:
Lesson 1: An Interview – If you’re going to post a web page, you must have information to post. The author recommends having your child interview an adult and asking them five questions about themselves, their work, etc. Seeing as my husband has a standing policy of always being available to the media, “The Artist” chose him as his subject and his work (Tech Support Rep for a Wireless Communications Company) as the interview topic. They followed Wheeler’s recommendation to type the interview results into Notepad and save it for later use. She also recommends taking a digital picture of your interview subject to add later, but my husband already had several to choose from saved on the computer.
Lesson 2: Download and Set Up the Program – This step was fairly simple and straightforward. They followed the instructions provided, and had no difficulty installing the program. Wheeler also takes the opportunity here to get your web page file started by typing a small amount of text into your file, then saving the file within VSD. She also has you view the file in Notepad so you can see what VSD adds to that tiny bit of text to make it a web page! My husband was impressed by this.
Lesson 3: Add Text – Here the author has you re-open the file you’ve been working on so you can add the text of your interview. In addition to re-opening your web page file, she has you re-open the interview file you saved earlier in Notepad so you can copy and paste it into your web page.
Lesson 4: Add Photo – Here, Wheeler tells you how to add the digital photo you took earlier
Lesson 5: Mystery Lesson – I am assuming this was simply an error the editor missed; there is no Lesson 5!
Lesson 6: From The Internet, Add Animations — Great tips in this lesson! First, turn on Google Safe Search when you need to take your child out into the Wild, Wild Internet! Second, oversee your child’s trip on the net. Third, the author gives you a great source for kid’s animations, Animation Playhouse which lets you use the animations for free as long as you link back to the site (you’ll only need to do this if you post your page on the Internet). Here, “The Artist” chose a couple of appropriate animations to add to his page.
Lesson 7: Browser Check, Backgrounds, Photos – Here, the first thing “The Artist” did was check his work in Internet Explorer using the Preview function in VSD. Note: when “The Artist” tried to preview, a popup in IE said Active X content was blocked and gave us a button to allow it. Go ahead and select that button. We haven’t added any malicious code to our page (yet, anyway), so it will be safe to view. The page looked great!
The Backgrounds section of the lesson was a little confusing. Here, the author takes us on a little side trip by searching for “free background image” and going to a site that was chock-full of ads. You had to be very careful to select the icon which took you to the free backgrounds. She states she’s using this side trip to help us “learn to be wise.” If you feel your child needs this Internet lesson, then it’s a great addition. However, if you are an Internet Pro (as is my husband) and you are overseeing your student’s trip on the Information Superhighway, it might seem like an unnecessary side trip. They went straight for the “good” link the author provided, GrSites . This is another site that will let you use stuff for free, provided you link back to their site. Because “The Artist” knows I like purple, he chose a light purple background.
The author does not mention that you may need to resize your background. When “The Artist” originally downloaded the background, it showed as a tiny, little purple square on the white background of the page. However, when they went back to the web site where they selected their background and scrolled down, there was a Resize tool. The resized the background to the same approximate size of the web page they were creating.
The next step covers using images from the Internet, specifically Google Images. While Teacher and Student did go through the steps, Student didn’t find anything he wanted to add.
Lesson 8: Sound – This is another spot where “The Artist” ran into a snag that could be attributed to an editing error. After downloading a sound file and moving it to the correct folder, the e-book tells you to go to the Tools option in the Menu Bar and select “Insert HTML” to add the sound file to your web page. There has apparently been a recent change to the VSD, as it was labeled “Add HTML” in the Tool Menu. This threw off “The Artist”, as when dealing with computers, he is quite literal. Dad was able to help here and get the music file to play on the web page. However, if you do not have your own in-house tech support, I would recommend reviewing the Help PDF file or going to their Support page (both accessable in the VSD Help Menu).
Lesson 9: Links – Since the sources of the animations, background and sound files require attribution, this was a good place to add those links. “The Artist” followed the author’s instructions to copy and paste from the browser address bar to text boxes he made on the web page, then convert them using the Links icon in VSD.
Lesson 10: Post Your Work – We had no intention whatsoever of posting this page on the Internet. However, the author provides complete instructions for making it the Home Page for your browser. The Artist and my husband tested this in both Internet Explorer 10 and the Google Chrome, and they report excellent results!
Here is a picture of “The Artist” working on the project . . .
Here is the project in progress . . .
and now, the finished product!
In the course of helping “The Artist” with this e-book, my husband had occasion to read the Help.pdf file included with the VSD. He is of the opinion that the author has done a very good job of taking the basic operating instructions of Coffee Cup Visual Site Designer and restating them in terms that 8-14 year olds can easily understand. She includes helpful tips (Google Safe Search) and resources for free images, animations and backgrounds. In addition, she provides examples of how the changes you make in the VSD changes your web page by viewing those changes using Notepad. There are also plentiful screen shots to assist.
However, he also feels that the editing errors in the version of the e-book given to me to review (omission of Lesson 5; not keeping up with the phrasing changes in the program’s drop-down menus so the e-book matches the program) make the product look somewhat unprofessional. Because the product is digital and not printed, it costs practically nothing except time to update the e-book to accommodate changes VSD. I do not know if the e-book has been revised in the interim. In addition, he feels that if anyone in the family is technically proficient, they could download the CoffeeCup VSD program on their own and save the cost of the e-book.
While he and “The Artist” did enjoy going through the lessons and building a webpage, my husband said it seemed like the customer is purchasing a commercial for CoffeeCup Visual Site Designer. The guide becomes virtually useless once the trial period expires, unless you spend $49.00 to purchase VSD. Once you purchase VSD, you have access to internal help files and the CoffeeCup Support Site, making this e-book redundant.
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