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[Review] Sothink DHTML Menu

{rw_text}Software reviewed in this article:

Sothink DHTML Menu [1]

Version reviewed:

v9.30 Build 932

Supported OS:

Windows 2000 and higher


$65 (USD) but you can get it for free for a limited time at Giveawayoftheday.com [2]!

Software description as per the developer:

It is an easy and productive drop down menu builder to create SEO friendly drop down menu, JavaScript menu  for web navigation without writing a single line of code. Rich templates and preset styles let you create professional JavaScript menu in no time. Free integration enables you to add the menus to webpage using existing HTML editor. The JavaScript menu appearance can be fully customized.

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{for=”Ease of Use” value=”9″}Makes creating JavaScript menus very easy, although there is still a little bit of technical knowledge needed.
{for=”Performance” value=”8″}Works very well and generates very nice menus. However, there is one problem: The menus are not built to degrade gracefully if a user has JavaScript disabled; in other words users that have JavaScript disabled will see no menu at all – the developer did not build in the ability to gracefully degrade the menus so non-JavaScript users would see some other, simple menu.
{for=”Usefulness” value=”3″}Firstly this program will only be useful to people creating websites (either web developers, or individuals looking to make their own website). Secondly, most people using CMS(s) for their website probably won’t find this useful, unless you are a CMS web developer, and even then you may not want JavaScript menus.
{for=”Price” value=”7″}$65 is a bit high for software, but considering the audience this software is aimed at (web developers) the price isn’t bad.
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Sothink DHTML Menu is a program that helps you create menus for websites using JavaScript. For those people that don’t know what JavaScript is, JavaScript is a scripting language often used in website development. For those people that don’t know what a website menu is, just look above to dotTech’s menu; scroll over “Other”. See how there is a drop down menu? That is just one example of the kind of things DHTML Menu can do (no DHTML was not used to created that). You can find more examples here [3].

That being said, if you don’t make websites, or you never plan on making websites, DHTML Menu is completely useless to you so you may as well save yourself some time and not download it. However for those people that do create websites, DM (DHTML Menu) can be a very handy tool (more discussion on this later).

DM is extremely easy to use and you can have a menu created within minutes. The menus are fully customizable; if you want a horizontal menu you can have that. If you want a vertical menu you can have that; if you want it to drop down, it can; if you want it to be a scroller, it can; if you want it to be a flyer, it can.; etc. There are many really nice looking predefined templates you can use to build your menu or you can build your menu from scratch.

The great part is that DM not only creates your menu for you but also gives you a little bit of guidance on how to make the menu appear on your website.

To learn how to use DM just view the following tutorial provided to us by the developer:

Part 1 [4]

Part 2 [4]

Part 3-A [4]

Part 3-B [4]

Part 4 [4]

Part 5 [4] ***Note: Dreamweaver is shown for demonstration purposes. You do not have to have or use Dreamweaver to use the menus created by DM.

***If you cannot see the links of Part 1-5 that means you have JavaScript disabled in your browser. Click here [5] to view the videos.

The tutorial shows you everything you really need to know. If you would like to learn more than just the basics, there are plenty of more tutorials you can view – click here [6]. What I could discuss is the purpose/usefulness of Sothink DHTML Menu.

For the person building a website from scratch (maybe using Dreamweaver or other heavily code dependent website building tools) or for someone designing a template, DM is definitely a god-send with its ability to create JS menus easily. However nowadays most people use, or they should be using if they are amateurs at web development, CMS (content management systems) or WCMS (web content management systems) to build websites.

CMS like Joomla, Drupal and WordPress make it extremely easy for a complete novice to build a website; there is no programming involved and you can download/upload everything you need for free, including templates/themes, plugins, widgets, etc. You can have a decent looking website up in a weekend with a CMS if you work hard enough.

For people using a CMS to build a website, DM has limited usefulness. Nowadays these dynamic drop-down menus are a fad. So if you use a CMS, you can very easily find a free template that will have a drop down menu already built into it (for example this [7] template for WordPress).

Additionally there are also plugins that give you the ability to have drop down menus. For example if anyone using WordPress wanted a drop down menu, and for whatever reason their template did not come with one, they could download the Suckerfish plugin [8] and put it on their website; the plugin will allow anyone to easily add a dynamic drop down menu to their website and integrate it easier than with DHTML Menu. Usually when you use a CMS to build your website, if you need a certain thing on your website, like a drop down menu, you can most likely find a plugin to install that will help you create that thing on your website. This is why DM has limited usefulness for people using CMS to build their websites: there are tons of plugins associated with each respective CMS that already do much of what DM does and they are free and they integrate better.

Now that does not mean Sothink DM is completely useless. The JavaScript used can be embedded in say a template or used in some other creative fashion. All I am trying to say is that in today’s world a program that creates a JavaScript menu is mostly only useful for those people who build their websites from scratch and/or are designing a template and/or don’t use a CMS (which is very dumb in my opinion anyway).

There is also one thing you should know: DHTML Menu builds menus using JavaScript while most (But not all) of the menus in templates and plugins for CMS(s), like the Suckerfish plugin for WordPress, use HTML and CSS for their menus. The advantage of using HTML and CSS for your menu over JavaScript is that some people have JavaScript disabled in their web browser. If a person has JavaScript disabled in his/her web browser, he/she will be unable to view your website menu or if they do view it, it will look like garbage (regardless of what program you use to build the JavaScript menu). On the other hand, a menu built with HTML and CSS only will work for 99.9% of people. Some developers deal with this JavaScript issue by “gracefully degrading” their code. In other words, users that have JavaScript disabled would see, for example, a simplified version of a menu instead of the JavaScript menu. However, Sothink DHTML Menu does not gracefully degrade the menus at all. If someone has JavaScript disabled, they will not even see a menu created by DM. I know this because I tested it: I disabled JavaScript in Firefox and did a menu preview in Firefox. I saw nothing; on the other hand when I enabled JavaScript, I saw the menu just fine.

Regardless, though, of everything stated above, Sothink DHTML Menu is a great program nonetheless and deserves a thumbs up. However there are two gripes that I do have with DM. In the JavaScript files that are created, Sothink leaves a “watermark”:

2009-05-05_040012 [9]

Now it is industry standard to leave credit back to yourself if you coded something, so I understand why Sothink did this. However, being a commercial software I expected better; I find this to be a very annoying and distasteful, the leaving of watermarks in files it created. However this type of watermark is acceptable although undesired (and is done by most everyone anyway). What is not acceptable is the other sneaky watermark the developer tries to insert.

When you publish your menu, there are quick directions displayed to you on how to display the menu on your website. In the second box that contains code instead of just displaying the necessary JavaScript code needed to display your menu, the developer insert an extra line that serves sort of as “advertisement” for their products:

2009-05-05_042018 [10]

To put it simply if you copy + paste that code directly, a link to the developer’s website will be inserted into your webpage. Now it won’t display on your website directly; the properties of the link make it so it is “invisible” per se. However if someone was to view the source of your webpage they would see the link/watermark and search engines will index the watermark. This is a completely unacceptable type of watermark for a commercial product. If you ever put a Sothink DM created menu on your website, you don’t need that first line of code.

This review was conducted on a laptop running Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. The specs of the laptop are as follows: 3GB of RAM, a Radeon HD 2600 512MB graphics card, and an Intel T8300 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor.


DynamicDrive.com [11]

From DynamicDrive.com you can select many prebuilt menus. You can incorpoate the menus into your websites. Most of them are CSS-JavaScript hybrids.

CSS Menus [12]

From CSS Menus you can download and use free menus that are solely based on CSS and HTML – no JavaScript. You can incorporate the menus into your websites.

Lastly, as stated above, Sothink DW is mainly useful for those people who don’t use a CMS to build their websites. The following free alternative suggestions are kind of unorthodox in the sense that they are not “alternatives” to Sothink DM per se but rather alternative suggestions on how to build a website; suggestions that will allow you to download plugins that can create dynamic menus like Sothink DM (although some may not be as fancy) or that will allow you to download free templaters that already have dynamic built in menus. The suggest is to use a CMS to build your website. My three favorite, and three of the most popular, are Joomla [13], Drupal [14], and WordPress [15]. You can find more listed here [16].

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{rw_verdict2}The usefulness of the program will vary greatly from persona to person, but Sothink DHTML Menu is a good program. I give it a thumbs up. If you need it, get it. Personally though, unless you are a web developer, I highly recommend looking into a CMS instead of trying to build your own website from scratch.
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