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CYBURBIA

THE GOODS : Introducing a Colorful Page in Your Life

November 17, 1995|DAVID COLKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — Please allow me to introduce myself:

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That which appears to us mere mortals as gibberish, is in a language known as HTML, used by computers tuned into the World Wide Web on the Internet.

That line telling the computer that the "Cyburbia" home page on the Web has a tasteful, blue color background with the name at the top in all capital letters, centered.

Anyone who visits this page sees not the gibberish, but the resulting design labors, including the colors, background textures, text, graphics and photos, all, hopefully, arranged in an elegant composition.

Until recently, however, there was not much elegant about the process of creating one of these pages, which was done by painstakingly typing in HTML symbols and numbers, usually by trial and error.

Now, from Las Vegas (speaking of tasteful design), where the giant COMDEX computer trade show has been in session all week, comes news of far more humane methods of creating home pages.

PageMill, just released by the Adobe Systems company that is well-known for its pioneering work in computer typography, leads the pack. With its graphic approach to making a home page, it provides welcome relief for anyone who has ever been in HTML hell.

To get an idea of how it works, I tried my hand at creating a quick prototype of a "Cyburbia" page.

You can start by using your mouse to drag onto a blank page any company or personal logo graphics you want to feature. I didn't have any available, but that's all right.

Using PageMill, it's easy enough to "borrow" from other Web pages.

Signing on to the Web and turning to one of Adobe's own sites, I lifted a 1950s-style graphic of a kid enjoying a glass of milk. I moved the scene onto my own page, re-sized it and then duplicated it several times to make it look especially cool.

Of course, just because PageMill gives you the ability to steal graphics doesn't make it right. From a legal standpoint, it would be wise to steer clear of any graphics that might be copyrighted. And even if you are sure a graphic is free of that constraint, it's good etiquette to at least ask the owner of the page if it's OK (he or she might be flattered).

Lacking a "Cyburbia" logo, I simply typed it in as text, but couldn't make it as large as my design sense or ego dictated. This is because the HTML language, which was designed so that it could be read by all the popular Web browsers, allows for only three text sizes (none of them very big) and no variations in fonts. PageMill makes using HTML much easier, but it still has to play within the rules of the language.

You can designate some words or graphics on your page as links--anyone who clicks on them will be transported to a related Web site.

When you get all the elements in place, you can put your page out on the Web.

PageMill has a list cost of $99 and is currently available only for the Macintosh platform. Company officials promise a Windows version will be available early next year.

If you're a Windows user and can't wait that long, the Incontext company has a product now available called Incontext Spider. It's harder to use than PageMill, but still far more handy than the traditional HTML tools. It also lists for $99.

* Cyburbia's Internet address is David.Colker@latimes.com.

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