Macromedia is poised to ship the latest version of Contribute, its desktop application for simplifying maintenance of website content, in the US on 29 July.
The software is aimed at users who need to update web pages but do not know HTML or use complex editing tools.
New features in Contribute 2 include Flashpaper, a way of transforming graphics from other software applications into web-ready Flash animations by sending them to a virtual printer; support for Secure File Transfer Protocol, and a tool to create buttons for automating payment on web stores using PayPal's online payment system.
The new version will also be available for the Apple Macintosh operating system, although the virtual printer driver needed to create Flashpaper graphics will only work with Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems.
Web designers typically deal with 10 content providers in any given month; letting those content providers maintain content on their pages directly, rather than passing all changes to the designer, can dramatically speed the process of updating Web pages, and reduce costs to boot, Larson said.
Designers who create web pages using graphical editing tools such as Macromedia's Dreamweaver can safely delegate responsibility for maintaining text or images to colleagues using Contribute 2, because Contribute uses the same access control and file checkout, checkin system as Dreamweaver.
One change to Contribute that users may be less pleased about is the introduction of product activation, a means to curb software piracy.
On installing Contribute, users will be asked to enter a serial number from the product packaging. The application will then calculate a unique ID number based on the serial number and the machine's hardware configuration, including information about the hard disc and processor, which must be sent back to Macromedia to activate the product, tying it to that machine in the process.
By default, the application tries to do this over the internet. "It's a web editing application, and 99.9% of our customers have Internet access," said product manager Erik Larson.
However, a worldwide 24-hour telephone support service is available for those who do not wish register the application over the internet, he said.
For now, Contribute 2 is the only Macromedia software to use product activation - where a licence permits the activation of the software on two machines, for example one at work and one at home, as long as they are not used concurrently.
Versions of Contribute in German, French and Japanese will be available later.
The US version will cost $99 for an individual licence. A pack of five licences will cost $399, a pack of 10 will cost $749. Users in education pay only $79.
Upgrading from the previous version of Contribute costs $9.99 before 30 September, $49 after. Pricing in other countries will be the equivalent in local currency.
Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service