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Adobe Muse design and build tool: a closer look at the latest update

Adobe has made it its mission to let designers build websites that will function pleasingly on all modern web-browsing devices: desktop/laptop, tablet, and smartphone. It's all too common these days to visit a site on your tablet that doesn't behave the way it did when you use a desktop or laptop web browser.

Muse, one arrow in Adobe's quiver aimed at attacking this problem, is a website design application that comes along for the ride for subscribers to Adobe's Creative Cloud, the subscription version of Adobe Creative Suite 6. The suite includes a host of tools that any professionals building websites likely already use — Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash, and Acrobat.

Now, the company announced a welcome update for Muse, which is available as a standalone for non-Creative Cloud subscribers for £13.67 a month in a yearly plan.

To get you caught up, Muse started the beta process back in the summer of 2011, and as its site tagline says, it's all about creating a website without writing code. Designers can draw and insert widgets and fonts (either local or web-safe) in a way resembling the process used with Adobe InDesign. The web font type library available to Muse users has grown to more than 550 fonts, so you can usually find one that suits your aesthetic requirements.

One concept in Muse is that of the Master layout, from which your site is built out. New with this release is the concept of the "hierarchical master pages"—the ability to have multiple masters that can inherit page elements from other masters. Also new is the ability to customise master page elements — headers, footers, logos — for specific sub-pages. The new release also adds the ability to preview the site in landscape on phones and tablets.

Another key concept in Muse is that of Widgets — interactive elements like slideshows, contact forms, navigation buttons, downloads, and animations. New with this release, all widgets have been updated to allow the designer more control over their behaviour. Widgets are all now touch-enabled, too, so for example, the slideshow lets you swipe through the images, just as a tablet user would expect.

Something many a designer will welcome wholeheartedly, a spellchecker, lands in Muse now as well.

Sites you build in Muse can very easily be published to Adobe's Business Catalyst hosting servers or you can FTP the assets over to your own web servers. The latest update adds the ability to publish your site to a subdirectory on either your FTP server or Business Catalyst, for easier site management. Creative Cloud subscribers get to host five sites on Catalyst, while purchasers of standalone Muse get one site.

Finally, the Muse team has improved performance of sites built using the tool, as well as ensuring compatibility with all commonly used web browsers, taking advantage of newer techniques like CSS3 when it's available.

We spoke with Adobe's group product manager, Danielle Beaumont, on Monday, who demonstrated Muse's new features.

"It's interesting to see how far we've come in nine months," said Beaumont, "it's come a real long way. Up until the 1.0 release we focused on static sites."

The software is now moving more into the realm of interactive, data-driven CMS-style sites, while still squarely focused on the needs of designers. "Because Muse designers aren't hiring a coder," said Beaumont, "they're much more inclined to experiment and just try things, and it's delightful to see the kind of work they come up with."

You can see what some crack designers have done with the tool at, where a site of the day is highlighted for your perusal (see image, top). Beaumont noted that "you don't get that WordPress template structure feeling" in these example sites. There are now even third-party market sites offering Muse themes for sale, if you don't want to design your site from the ground up. To keep up with musings of the Muse team, check out