Low End Mac Reviews

Review: Mizer 1.3

Compress Your Web Pages

Dan Knight - 1999.02.28

Whether you have a personal web page, manage several sites, or just surf the World Wide Web, you always want faster loading web pages.

The savvy webmaster knows all the tricks for reducing the size of graphics: selecting the best compression ratio for JPEGs or the optimal bit-depth for GIFs. Keeping images large enough to view but small enough to load quickly.

The key, according to Web Site Garage, is for your page to download in under 20 seconds using a 28.8 modem.

We've all seen pages that don't. Or, more likely, tried to visit pages that took too long, then gave up in frustration. We're impatient with slow pages.

Thanks to Mizer by Antimony Software, there's now a way to compress HTML files as effectively as graphics.

For instance, most pages on my site are designed like this one: a banner at the top, a navigation bar on the left, and a main content box on the right. A snippet of HTML code in Claris Home Page (my design program of choice) looks like this:

<HTML>
<!--This file created by Claris Home Page version 3.0-->
<HEAD>
   <TITLE>Review: Mizer</TITLE>
   <META NAME=GENERATOR CONTENT="Claris Home Page 3.0">
   <X-CLARIS-WINDOW TOP=42 BOTTOM=522 LEFT=4 RIGHT=644>
   <X-CLARIS-TAGVIEW MODE=minimal>
<LINK REL=STYLESHEET TYPE=text/css HREF=/styles.css>
</HEAD>
<BODY BGCOLOR="#FFFFFF">
<P><!--#include virtual="../ad.shtml" --></P>
            
<DL>
   <DT><CENTER><TABLE BORDER=0 CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=6>
      <TR>
         <TD VALIGN=top WIDTH=158 BGCOLOR="#FFCC33">
            <P><!--#include virtual="../menu.shtml" --></P>
         </TD>
         <TD VALIGN=top>
            <H1><CENTER>Review: Mizer</CENTER></H1>
            
            <H2><CENTER>Compress Your Web Pages</CENTER></H2>
            
            <P>Whether you have a personal web page, manage several
            sites, or just surf the World Wide Web, you always want
            faster loading web pages.</P>
            
            <DL>
               <DT><CENTER>
               
               <HR>
               
               &lt;back to <A HREF="index.shtml">Low End Mac
               Reviews</A>&gt;</CENTER></DT>
            </DL>
            
            <P><!--#include virtual="../footer.shtml" --></P>
         </TD>
      </TR>
   </TABLE>
   </CENTER></DT>
</DL>
</BODY>
</HTML>

Notice how much white space is used to make the code easy to follow.

Mizer gets rid of unnecessary code such as leading spaces and empty lines. The same code run through Mizer looks like this (I've forced it to break at 80 characters to keep it on the page):

<HTML><!--This file created by Claris Home Page version 
3.0--><HEAD><TITLE>Review: Mizer</TITLE><META NAME=GENERATOR 
CONTENT="Claris Home Page 3.0"><X-CLARIS-WINDOW TOP=42 BOTTOM=522 LEFT=4 
RIGHT=644><X-CLARIS-TAGVIEW MODE=minimal><LINK REL=STYLESHEET 
TYPE=text/css HREF=/styles.css></HEAD><BODY 
BGCOLOR=#FFFFFF><P><!--#include virtual="../ad.shtml" 
--></P><DL><DT><CENTER><TABLE BORDER=0 CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=6><TR><TD 
VALIGN=top WIDTH=158 BGCOLOR=#006600><P><!--#include 
virtual="../menu.shtml" --></P></TD><TD VALIGN=top><H1><CENTER>Review: 
Mizer</CENTER></H1><H2><CENTER>Compress Your Web 
Pages</CENTER></H2><P>Whether you have a personal web page, manage several 
sites, or just surf the World Wide Web, you always want faster loading web 
pages.</P><DL><DT><CENTER><HR>&lt;back to <A HREF=index.shtml>Low End Mac 
Reviews</A>&gt;</CENTER></DT></DL><P><!--#include virtual="../footer.shtml" 
--></P></TD></TR></TABLE></CENTER></DT></DL></BODY></HTML>

Antimony anticipates hand coded HTML files will drop in size by about 12%, while code produced with WYSIWYG programs (such as Home Page), will lose about 22% in size. And it takes just seconds to compress a whole folder full of files on my Power Mac.

Advantages of size reduction:

  • The file takes less space on your hard drive.
  • The file takes less time to upload to your web site.
  • The server spends less time reading the file.
  • The server can process the file more quickly since it doesn't have to spend any time ignoring unnecessary spaces, blank lines, etc.
  • The visitor receives the page more quickly.
  • If you are billed by megabytes served, you can also save money.

I was skeptical about Mizer, but realizing that Low End Mac is designed for people with older Macs and often older, slower modems, I decided to try it. After all, they promised to refund my $69 if it didn't live up to expectation.

It did.

I created a small spreadsheet in ClarisWorks to track file and folder size before and after Mizer. A paper I wrote on Dutch Reformed churches in Canada, which is mostly text, dropped from 101,374 bytes to 88,835 - a 12.4% reduction. A research paper I did on local Christian Reformed churches did a bit better, dropping from 138,767 bytes to 119,816. This shaved 13.7% from the original file size. Considering these pages were served on a Mac IIfx, that little bit can be really helpful.

But that was nothing compared with Low End Mac and other sites I maintain. Compressing entire folders such as Mac News Today (since closed) and Mac Merit Badge, I saw compression of 25-26%. (Most of my pages on MacTimes use tables, which benefit greatly from Mizer.)

A couple other pages that make heavy use of tables dropped by 37%.

Overall, my experience with Mizer shows that pages such as this one average 24-28% smaller after running them through Mizer.

And running them through Mizer is a breeze, since it's a drag-and-drop application. Just drag a file or an entire folder onto the icon and let it do it's thing. Mizer can even make backup copies of your pre-Mizered file (just in case it damages the file during compression) and a log file telling you how much you've saved. I've rarely seen Mizer damage a file - mostly when I'm impatient and click elsewhere while it's compressing a batch of files (not a folder).

In my opinion, Mizer was worth the $69 it cost. Antimony Software provides free upgrades - three since I first bought the program. It's worth the price of admission just because it makes my pages load faster.

Another side of the savings

But there's another advantage that commercial sites can see. If you pay for site hosting based on the amount of data served, Mizer can save you money.

Checking site statistics for the MacTimes Network, I note that 47.3% of bytes downloaded are HTML files, 47.2% are graphics of one type or another, and the remaining 5.5% are .pl, MIDI, or stuffed files.

I don't know how much space all of that takes up, but it's a lot of files. For argument's sake, let's say your web site is 100 MB in size and over the course of a month it serves 10GB of data. If 47% of that is pages using tables, which can be compressed an average of 26% by Mizer, you can reduce storage space by about 12 MB or 12%. At the same time, you're using 12% less bandwidth, which should save you 12% on your monthly server fee.

Again, for the sake of argument, let's say you're currently paying $50 per month to have your site hosted -- and this is based completely on bandwidth used. Mizer would save you $6 per month, paying for itself within a year.

And all you need to do to see this benefit is have Mizer compress your HTML files before you upload them.

Update

Since first writing this review, I have discovered one great drawback to using Mizer: it removes the quote marks around commands such as <A HREF="index.shtml">.

On the plus side, it works and helps reduce file size. But on the minus side, it is not proper HTML 4.0 syntax. HTML 4.0 says the quote marks have to be there.

Since it works, and since Claris Home Page (my current program of choice) automatically puts the quote marks back, this may not seem like a problem. But I also use two other programs to supplement Home Page: BBEdit Lite, a powerful free text editor, and Site Ranger, a utility that automatically updates links as I move or rename files on my site.

If I know every page has been condensed with Mizer, BBEdit isn't a problem. I just have to remember that the quote marks won't be there when I do a search and replace.

But Site Ranger, like HTML 4.0, requires the presence of those quote marks. If the reference doesn't have quote marks, Site Ranger doesn't recognize them and won't automatically update links. This forced me to spend hours opening and saving each HTML file on my site in Home Page before make a few changes in site structure when I moved to lowendmac.net.

Finally, there's a new browser out called iCab. So far, I really like it, although it is incomplete. One nice feature is a smiley face that appears if the page you are viewing is 100% HTML 4.0 compliant. Between Claris Home Page, which introduces some oddities of its own, and Mizer, not a single page on my site gets the smiley; instead, iCab shows a frowning red face.

Still, until Mizer can leave the quote marks in place or I find a similar program that leaves them where HTML 4.0 says they have to be, I'll continue using Mizer. After all, it's not often that I restructure my website - that would be hard on anyone with bookmarks or links.

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