WebAssist Super Suite Review
Super Suite is WebAssist's premier Dreamweaver extension collection and includes every WebAssist extension. We've used the various Super Suite extensions for over a year on many different websites and this review is a summary of our experience with Super Suite and how we apply it to our own website design and development.
What's in the "Box"
Our initial reaction to Super Suite was "Wow, there's a lot here." And there is. After purchasing the extensions, you are given access to all the extensions in a convenient Order Summary page on the WebAssist website. From that page, you can download each Super Suite extension individually and have quick reference to your serial number for each product.
Super Suite Extension Downloads
WebAssist provides an extensive number of downloads with Super Suite, and they are all well organized in the download section. The downloads includes the following downloadable items:
- The individual extension .mxp files
- Extensive PDF help documentation
- WebAssist "solution recipes" which are a combination of multimedia and other documents which help you implement the various extensions
- Getting Started Guides for the majority of extensions
- Sample databases and files for the PHP and ASP Database Starter Kits
- Fireworks graphics files and language packs which allows you to easily customize various buttons and backgrounds using in the extensions
- A sample eCart online store to help you get started with their e-commerce extensions
- FedEx subscription files for installing your meter number in eCart
- Interactive guides for DataAssist and using Database Search
Your order history page also conveniently tells you which version of each extension you purchased and which version is the most current version available. If you notice that an extension has been upgraded since you purchased Super Suite, you can simply download the upgraded version of each extension.
Super Suite Serial Number Activation
You will need to activate each extension at the first use, and WebAssist uses an innovative registration system that will prevent you from using the extensions after too many registration attempts. This is strictly to prevent software piracy and you can easily go into your order history page and reset your activations if you've reached your limit.
Installing the Super Suite Extensions
All of the extensions included in Super Suite are installed either by double clicking the .mxp file to open Dreamweaver's extension manager, or by entering the extension manager in Dreamweaver and choosing the extension to install.
As you install each extension, you will notice a new toolbar in Dreamweaver under the WebAssist tab. eCart tools are organized under it's own tab. You can also access the WebAssist extensions through a new WebAssist category in your Insert menu. The Site Import extension creates a new menu item under the File menu for easy access.
If you are creating a dynamic PHP, ASP or ColdFusion page, your Bindings and Server Behaviors panels will have additional options and tools added depending on the extensions installed. This is where extensions such as Cookies Toolkit, SecurityAssist, DataAssist, Digital File Pro, Validation Toolkit, Dynamic Dropdowns and Universal Email do most of their magic.
Once you have installed the various Super Suite extensions, you will have an extensive set of new icons on your toolbar
There are so many tools available in Super Suite, that we really recommend installing them as you need them in order to familarize yourself with the new menus and toolbar icons. Installing all the extensions at one time can be a bit overwhelming.
The Guts of our Super Suite Review
Ok, so by now you're asking if these extensions are worth the money. WebAssist Super Suite sells for $899 and that seems like a heck of a lot of dough to drop on web design tools. We were a little hesitant to spend that kind of money, but we were working on an extensive PHP/MySQL site at the time and we were looking for some extensions to reduce our development time.
We figured if spending $899 would gain us 10 hours of productivity on this one project, we would not only pay for Super Suite, but we would essentially be using it for free from that point on, not to mention the added productivity and additional features we could offer our clients in the future.
We were primarily interested in DataAssist, SecurityAssist, Universal Email, and Validation Toolkit, but we figured since buying those extensions separately would have cost $500, we were well over half way to having the full Super Suite so we might as well get the whole enchilada and have a bunch of other useful website design and development extensions in our arsenal.
We bit the bullet, bought Super Suite, and put it to the test. The site we were developing at the time was for a non-profit community recruitment organization that needed to have the following functions built into their website:
- Allow different groups such as educators, employers and job seekers to register for an account on the site
- Allow registered users to manage their profile, upload detailed job listings and manage existing job listings
- The site also had to allow job seekers to upload resumes and apply for jobs online, as well as automatically email their uploaded resumés to various employers based on the employers recruitment efforts as specified in their user profile
- A complete administration section for the non-profit to be able to manage everything that was going into the databases
- An articles and press release section of the site that could be added to, edited and updated by users with no HTML experience
- Searchable database of jobs for website visitors
- Monthly newsletter uploads with archive database
- Database of area businesses for sale
- Database of area businesses with complete profiles and photos
The site had many different features that required database connectivity. We needed some tools to help us shorten the development timeline, so that's where WebAssist and Super Suite came into the picture.
DataAssist - The Workhorse of the Databases
This site was no small task and Super Suite provided us the tools we needed to create all the above mentioned functions in a fraction of the time it would have taken us to hand code similar features. DataAssist and SecurityAssist were the workhorses of the project, with DataAssist providing the tools needed to create all the profile management, job listing management, articles management and other database-related features.
DataAssist is just incredible, pure and simple. If you work with databases at all, you have probably had to code all the individual pages for adding, updating, deleting and searching your data. DataAssist does this automatically in about 15 seconds. If you use a Dreamweaver template on your site, you can simply tell DataAssist which template you're using and it will build the database management pages directly into your template.
SecurityAssist - Securing our site
On our non-profit site, SecurityAssist allowed us to restrict access to secure areas of the site and prevent unauthorized access to the databases. SecurityAssist includes Cookies Toolkit, and that little extension set was instrumental in creating user sessions and displaying specific page content depending on the login rights of the user.
SecurityAssist does a great job with user login/logout pages and anything to do with sessions or cookies. If you need to transfer form data between multiple pages, Cookies Toolkit does the trick. Securing pages and authenticating users is very simple through a server behavior option.
Universal Email - Form to Email with ease
Universal Email is one of the smallest extensions in Dreamweaver but was one of the most handy in not only the non-profit site, but we've used it extensively in over 50 sites since the non-profit site last year. If you've ever struggled with form-to-email processing, Universal Email is your savior.
Simply create your web form, and Universal Email walks you through setting up the backend email processing of the form data. Set a few variables, specify who you're sending it to (which can be database-driven), and create your email message by easily inserting the form fields you already created. You can send simple text-based emails or go all out and send any type of HTML formatted email. It's fast and it configures everything from within Dreamweaver, so you don't have to mess with any third-party form email processing scripts.
Cookies Toolkit - Cookies and Sessions met their match
We'll be honest and say that before we took on the non-profit site, we had ZERO experience using any form of cookies or sessions. We needed to be able to control what was displayed on the page based on what type of user was logged in to the site. If it was an employer, we needed to show employer-related data and specific navigation for that user type. If it was a job seeker, it was a different set of information.
Cookies Toolkit, combined with SecurityAssist, provided everything we needed to accomplish this dynamic feat. When a user logs into the site, we can determine which type of user they are and display the appropriate data. This follows them through their entire site visit, displaying their specific user navigation and pages as they go along. SecurityAssist provided the access restrictions so employers couldn't view educators or administrator pages and vice versa. Cookies Toolkit is another one of those small but powerful extensions included in Super Suite.
Pro Maps for Google - Database-driven Google Maps
Pro Maps for Google is geared toward a very specific application, and that is inserting the Google Maps API into your website through Dreamweaver. This was another extension that wasn't available when we purchased Super Suite, but we bought Pro Maps earlier this year for a directory-type site we were building. We needed to be able to dynamically generate a Google map based on the address information we were pulling from our database.
Again, we'll be frank and say we wasted a lot of time trying to configure the Google Maps API by hand to do what we wanted. We spent the better part of an afternoon trying to figure out the geocoding aspect of the API and why it wasn't generating our maps properly. We jumped onto the WebAssist site, bought Pro Maps and in less that 15 minutes, we had implemented the dynamic maps we had wasted the previous 4 hours on. Live and learn, right?
The Pro Maps for Google interface is just slick. It's WebAssist's usual step-by-step walk through and it gives you complete control over the presentation of your maps. Include a variety of map styles, zoom functions, various map pointer icons and even build in driving directions and live traffic. If you ever have a need to include a static or dynamic Google map on a site, don't walk, RUN to WebAssist and get this extension!
CSS Sculptor and CSS Menu Writer
CSS Sculptor and CSS Menu Writer weren't available when we bought Super Suite (makes you wonder why we bought it, huh? Remember, DataAssist, SecurityAssist...). We picked up these two extensions after-the-fact and they have very quickly become our favorite Dreamweaver web design extensions.
You can view a sample of a CSS Sculptor layout and CSS Menu Writer menu implementation on our Trellian template available on our free Dreamweaver templates page.
To put it bluntly, these two extensions rock! CSS Sculptor creates standards-compliant CSS layouts very quickly and the code is incredible thanks to Eric Meyer. CSS Menu Writer can be used on any Dreamweaver website and can also be integrated with Sculptor for a complete CSS solution. They are both major time-savers when generating CSS websites.
eCart - A Dreamweaver CSS Shopping Cart
eCart is WebAssist's shopping cart and online store extension set. We aren't going to go into much detail on eCart primarily because we don't have a lot of experience with it. We've played around with setting up a store just to see how it operates, but we haven't had any clients needing a shopping cart installed. It's not our forte I guess.
What we do know, however, is that one of our website visitors emailed us to get some help on implementing eCart into his website. We didn't beat around the bush, we told him to contact Mark Haynes at WebAssist to get some help because we weren't the eCart gurus. We corresponded back and forth a few times and he showed us his website before the shopping cart was added.
He had never used eCart before and had never implemented a shopping cart system into a website. WebAssist support helped him install the shopping cart and the results were really spectacular. The product pages were very professional, not like a lot of the shopping carts available, and he had customized the CSS to work the cart into his site very seemlessly. I was a little bit proud to have been the middleman on that one.
Site Sculptor - The website generator
Site Sculptor is a great extension if you want to generate complete websites at the click of a button. It walks you through the configuration options and you specify the site theme, color schemes, navigation style, page structure and included pages and Site Sculptor generates all your pages with the navigation already linked.
Using Site Sculptor is a great way to generate websites very quickly and then customize them to your liking. It eliminates much of the time needed to create your website structure and navigation so you can focus on the content. Because we know how much search engines love content!
Validation Toolkit - An essential extension for form data input
This is another of the Super Suite extensions that we find we use quite often. Validation Toolkit allows you to control the input on web forms to meet any criteria you set. You can force users to enter valid email addresses, credit card numbers, zip codes, telephone numbers, and just about any other type of text entry possible.
A great way to use Validation Toolkit is to reduce spam form submissions on your contact forms. There's nothing more irritating that when your form is compromised by spammers and you receive hundreds of worthless emails from automated bots. This extension can prevent that by requiring the form input to be validated to your specifications before submittal. It's a very handy extension and it permits both client side and server side form validation.
The Super Suite Review Conclusion
That just about concludes our WebAssist Super Suite review. There are a few extensions we didn't touch on like Dynamic Dropdowns, mainly because we don't use either one very often. Dynamic Dropdowns creates drop-down lists based on a prior selection, which is handy if you're drilling down products in a database. SiteScribe is a website screenshot PDF generator that is great if you need to do in-house or client presentations of a website.
Our experience with WebAssist Super Suite has been extremely favorable. We use some extensions more than others, but they all serve a specific purpose and perform the task well. We've noticed some other "review" sites where people have given Super Suite the thumbs down because it crashes their system or some other half-baked excuse. Super Suite, as with any of WebAssist's extensions are simply tools to help you do your job faster and more efficiently. Don't expect Super Suite to make your coffee in the morning because it's not designed to do it. Use the extensions for what they're designed for, and they will do a fabulous job. Try to cram a square peg in a round hole and you're going to have problems.
We can't even begin to estimate the number of hours Super Suite extensions have saved us over the last year. We CAN say that it was $899 well spent and we more than recouped that in our non-profit project alone. It saves us a lot of head scratching and also allows us to be more confident in our dealings with our web design clients. Knowing we can easily implement a custom CMS, integrate any number of database functions into a site or simply prevent the client from receiving contact form spam helps us get more work and pay the bills.
Does Super Suite have it's drawbacks? Sure it does. There are features we wish it had but overall Super Suite is an excellent set of tools for any web design professional or part-timer looking to build websites faster while letting Super Suite handle the coding.
As you may have noticed above, there were several extensions that were released after we purchased Super Suite. They are CSS Sculptor, CSS Menu Writer, iRite, Surveyor, Pro Maps for Google and SiteScribe. These extensions are now included in the Super Suite bundle at no additional charge. So what we paid $899 for last year, is still the same price, but you're getting $415 worth of new extensions. This makes Super Suite almost a no-brainer as far as we're concerned. It's an excellent extension collection that will allow you to work more efficiently, offer your clients more functionality and ultimately allow you to make more money as a web designer. You won't be disappointed with WebAssist Super Suite.
That's a wrap on our WebAssist Super Suite review! For more information on Super Suite including a multimedia feature tour, visit the Super Suite page at WebAssist. They occassionally offer discounts on their extensions, so if you're lucky you may catch a discount.