Adobe InContext Editing - An Introduction
In April this year there was so much huffing and puffing about the fact that users of Adobe InContext Editing would probably have to pay a monthly fee for it, Adobe (news, site) had to clarify some of the issues.

First, it was explained that InContext Editing is not a paid additional feature of Dreamweaver, but is, in fact, a standalone editing service even though it provides integration features for Dreamweaver CS4 using its design view and commands.

Second, they explained that the monthly fee would entitle websites of smaller businesses, or non-profit organizations, to update and edit their websites at a relatively small fee compared with other solutions built for large websites, whose costs are not justifiable for smaller ones.

So, with all the dust settled, what is it that InContext Editing does?

First, let's also be clear on this, InContext Editing is also separate from Adobe Contribute, Adobe's answer to creating and editing web pages in the browser (see our recent Adobe Contribute review).

InContext Editing is an online service that allows clients make their own content updates, while enabling designers maintain the integrity of their Dreamweaver-built website.

Adobe has recently updated InContext with a number of new features, along with fixes for the previous version that was released last September, based on contributions in their product forums.

InContext Updates

The basic idea of InContext Editing is that a site's editable content is mediated by an Adobe server, configured to have FTP access to the site. Edits are performed on the Adobe server, using a browser and pushed back to the site on completion, review and acceptance.

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Adobe InContext Editing -- Homepage
 

It does this by enabling Dreamweaver designers to designate editable areas within their web pages that non-technical clients can update in the browser from any location.

And because the software is delivered as a service -- to be paid for on a monthly or yearly basis -- this can be done without having to install software that comes with an interface similar to other word-processing packages clients would be used to working with.

[Editor's Note (29-Aug-2009): Adobe's InContext Editing service is currently being offered as a "Free Preview". It is not entirely clear when Adobe will begin charging for the service. The InContext Editing FAQ explains some of the planned payment details.]

Three New Features

With the new 1.5 version, which has been getting some decent reviews despite the pricing issue, there are three principal features that are being touted as new.

These include;

  • Ability to create and define editable regions directly in a browser
  • Easy-to use administration controls
  • New permissions assigning

These come with at least ten new fixes on the previous version.

To get into the editing mode, clients are sent an invitation by email to update their site. They are previously assigned specified areas to edit by the client. The client has access to these areas of the site only so that the integrity of the site design remains intact.

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Adobe InContext Editing -- Landing Page

At this point the new features kick-in.

Defining Editable Regions

Editable regions can be accessed from your web browser with a set of easy-to-use tools that can be applied to the editable area.

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Adobe InContext Editing -- Creating editable regions

You can easily create repeating regions to enable editors and authors to easily add, delete and edit the order of content.

InContext Editing supports three user roles: web developer, publisher and editor. Anyone registered with the InContext Editing service can sign in to the InContext Editing Administration Panel, but your ability to perform certain operations in the Administration Panel depends on your specific user role.

After that there are a number of (simple) steps and off you go on your merry way.

New User Interface

The second new feature is a new multi-step user interface that enables users to register a given site faster and easier than in the older version.

You add websites to the InContext Editing service through the InContext Editing Administration Panel. When you configure the site, you provide all of the necessary FTP information InContext Editing needs to connect to your site and make the pages editable.

The new interface allows you to register your site with InContext Editing by requesting the information at the right moment and providing browsing capabilities for selecting folders. Updating connection information is also made easier though an updated user interface.

If this is not clear, don’t throw your mouse at the screen, because the prompts are clear enough so that even . . . well even a web developer could do it.

New Publishing Roles

The third new feature is straight forward and gives publisher more control over whom and -- more importantly who cannot -- edit site content. Users can be invited at will, or expelled, depending on whether they are a hindrance or help.

With all that comes a list of fixes that are too long to list, but should add considerably to InContext’s performance. If you want to go into this in detail it is worth checking it out.

CS4 Paid-For Add-On

InContext Edting is what Adobe says it is -- a paid-for add-on to Dreamweaver that allows designers to pick the editing options and CSS styles that clients can use.

If the company made a mess of explaining this when it was first released they have been quick to react to some very trenchant criticism from developers who took InContext on board but didn’t realize that there would be a price to pay for it.

That aside, it only stands to reason that if you get a new editing tool from Adobe, deep down, you know you will have to pay for it.

At the end of the day everyone knows, particularly in the software business, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.