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 "HTML-Based CD Menus And Front-Ends:..." 
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Post "HTML-Based CD Menus And Front-Ends:..."
HTML-Based CD Menus And Front-Ends: How Make Them Look Really Professional!
by: mirabyte GmbH & Co. KG

Creating CD menus for CD-ROM's, DVD's or even USB sticks is a typical task you will encounter when working on projects such as cover mount CD-ROM's, digital business cards, auto start menus and front ends for software CD-ROM's, E-Learning publications, electronic catalogues, manuals, digital business cards or company and product presentations.

Basically you have two choices: You can either use a menu generator application which creates a Windows executable file (of course you can also program your own menu application if you have programming knowledge) or you can create an HTML-based menu. Creating an executable is a lot of work or you will be limited by the functionality that menu generator you are using offers (most results created with this kind application look highly unprofessional). Anyway you have to learn how to use a proprietary tool or you have to program and test your own application. Therefore the advantage of a HTML-based menu is clear: You can use the same technology and the same authoring tools as for creating Web sites. By integrating pictures, hyperlinks or even Flash media you can create a rich and interactive user interface with ease. The only problem with HTML-based CD menus is that these are run in a normal Web browser. Surfing Web sites in a browser is fine but a CD menu which is the first thing a user will see when starting your CD is awful. Even the nicest menu looks ugly in a normal browser window that typically has interaction elements such as menus, toolbars, an address field and a status bar. Also links to executable files (EXE) cause problems because disturbing warning or download prompts are shown. If you use popup windows in your menu, you will also have to fight with popup blockers that might corrupt your user interface.

A much approved solution for giving HTML-based CD menus a professional look and feel is a handy application called Discstarter from mirabyte ( Discstarter allows you to create professional looking auto run menus, front-ends and many other kinds of applications based on easy to create HTML pages (including multimedia elements such as videos, Flash, Java etc.). With Discstarter you can fully customize the look and feel as well as the behavior of the browser window to your individual requirements. You can for example define the style and size of the display window (simple border, no border, sizable or a themed window with a bitmap skin). Another good thing is the way how links to executable files (EXE) or other special files types (e.g. DOC, PDF, CHM, etc.) are handled: Discstarter executes these files directly when a user clicks on a link referring to such a file. You can even add more functionally to a normal hyperlink, e.g. functionality to copy the referenced file on the local computer. This is perfect for installation tasks of software menus.

With Discstarter you can customize any part of the browser window and its behavior. Configuring a project with Discstarter is quite simple because Discstarter comes with a special tool called Discstarter Designer. This tool allows you setup any aspect of your HTML-based menu. You can configure also things like title text, window icon, context menu, background music, additional GUI effects such as a smooth fade in, etc. A full list of all supported features is available on the Discstarter Web site: ... tures.html

Another interesting feature only Discstarter offers is the integration of Server2Go, a lightweight web server which allows you to not only use static HTML pages for your menu but also dynamic web applications that use server-side languages such as PHP or Perl and databases like MySQL or SQLite. Server2Go and Discstarter can be run directly from CD-ROM without requiring any installation on the target computer. This is a great solution for database applications like catalogs or directories since it allows you to create a Web version and an offline version based on exactly the same code! To find out more on Server2Go, take a look into the Discstarter online manual ( ... er2Go.html).

Another reason why many companies around the world have chosen Discstarter for their CD menu projects is that fact that Discstarter is absolutely reliable! It is used by many magazine publishers in Europe for cover mount CD-ROMs and millions of copies have been distributed over the years - trouble free! Discstarter works fine on prehistoric Windows 95 machines as well as on today's Windows Vista / Windows 7 high-end computers.

But most important is that Discstarter saves you money! If you know how to create web pages you can also create menus and front ends with Discstarter - use the same technology, the same tools and get a professional look & feel that can otherwise only be achieved by using a self-programmed front end made with an expensive authoring tool.

One more thing: Discstarter can not only be used for CD menus but also as a flexible user interface for kiosk computer terminals (e.g. on trade fairs, hotel lobbies or Internet cafes). This gives you the full control over the look and feel and protects the host system from unauthorized access. You can create any kind of front end using HTML and related technologies (CSS, JavaScript, Java, Flash, etc.) which is shown by Discstarter in a full screen window without borders on the kiosk terminal computer.

More information on Discstarter can be found at the vendor's Web site:

About The Author
mirabyte is a privately held software development and consulting company founded in 2005. The main focus at mirabyte lies on developing powerful and easy to use software applications that allow the efficient use of today's Web technologies.

Visit the author's web site at:

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Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:41 pm
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