HTML documents are made of plain old text. You can make one with a basic text editor like Notepad. Once upon a time, that was all Web authors used.
As the Web has evolved, so have the tools used to create Web pages. Nowadays, Web authoring is so complex that a simple text editor is a big headache unless
As you get more experience with HTML, you’ll build your HTML toolbox. This chapter helps you stock that toolbox. Some of these tools may already be on your system, quietly waiting to help you create amazing Web pages.
When you go shopping for items for your HTML toolbox, look for good buys. Students and educators often qualify for big discounts on major-brand software, but careful shopping can save on just about any software purchase.
This book explains how to create and maintain (X)HTML pages with nothing more complicated than a pocketknife and a ball of string. But HTML editors can turn the chore of creating complicated (X)HTML pages into an easy task.
HTML editors come in two flavors. The flavor you need depends on the complexity of the Web page you are creating or editing.
- Helper editors have fewer capabilities.
- WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors do everything but your laundry.
An HTML helper works like it sounds. It helps you create HTML, but it doesn’t do all the markup work for you. In a helper, HTML is displayed “raw” — tags and all. You can reach right into the code and tweak it.
But good helpers save time and lighten your load. Functions like these make HTML development easier and more fun:
- Tags are a different color than content.
- The spell checker knows tags aren’t misspelled words.
Use a helper editor when you’re building complex tables or multilevel lists. The more complex your markup, the more help a helper editor can provide!
1. HomeSite+: The champ
HomeSite+ is an HTML editor suitable for both beginners and professionals. It requires HTML knowledge to use, but it assists you at every step. We like the HomeSite+ interface. You can
- Browse images directly in the editor.
- Customize the toolbars and menus for your personal needs.
- Create a browser view instantly by clicking a tab.
- Move and use context menus with a right-click of your mouse.
Text is easy to enhance and modify with
- Color-coded HTML
- Integrated spell checker
- Search-and-replace tools to update whole projects, folders, and files
- Internal HTML validation
- Extensive online help with accessing documentation on HTML and other popular scripting languages.
HomeSite+ helps you perform
- Project management
- Link verification
- File uploads to a remote Web server
If you don’t have HomeSite+, try one of the following challengers as your helper editor instead.
There are many more good HTML helper editors than there are good WYSIWYG editors. Here’s our slate of alternatives.
BBEdit rules the Macintosh world. It comes in two versions:
- The free product formerly known as BBEdit Lite is still free, but has been superseded by a newer, free text editor called TextWrangler.
- BBEdit ($200 retail)
If you don’t need the powerful and specialized set of HTML editing, preview, and cleanup tools of BBEdit, use TextWrangler and save!
HTML-Kit is a compact Windows tool with
- Menu-driven support for both HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) markup
- A nice preview window for a browser’s-eye view of your markup
If you want to download HTML-Kit.
A WYSIWYG editor creates HTML for you as you create and lay out Web page content on your computer display (often by dragging and dropping visual elements, or working through GUI menus and options), shielding your delicate eyes from naked markup along the way. These tools look much like word processors or page-layout programs; they do a lot of the work for you.
WYSIWYG editors make your work easier and save hours of endless coding —you have a life, right? — but you should only use WYSIWYG editors in the initial design stage. For example, you can use a WYSIWYG editor to create a complex table in under a minute and then use a helper to refine and tweak your HTML markup directly.
1. Dreamweaver: the champ
Dreamweaver is the best WYSIWYG Web development tool for Macintosh and PC systems. Many (if not most) Web developers use Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver is an all-in-one product that supports
- Web site creation
- Content management
The current version is Dreamweaver MX 2004. It also belongs to a suite of products, Studio MX 2004, that work together to provide a full spectrum of Internet solutions. Studio MX also includes Fireworks MX 2004, Flash MX 2004, ColdFusion MX, and Freehand MX.
Dreamweaver has an easy-to-follow-and-learn dialog box so you can style Web pages with CSS without even knowing what a style rule is! Many of the benefits of Dreamweaver stem from its sleek user interface and its respect for clean HTML.
If you’re too low on funds for a top-of-the-line WYSIWYG HTML editor like Dreamweaver MX (suggested retail price is about $500, but discounts of up to $200 are available), there are other possibilities. You can ponder the suggestions in the next section or go a-searching on the Web (the search string “WYSIWYG HTML editor” should do nicely) to find lots more still!
WYSIWYG editors generate allegiances that can seem as pointless as the enmity between owners of Ford and Chevy trucks. Both of the following editors have fans, and they can both produce great Web pages.
- FrontPage 2003 is Microsoft’s latest version of its award-winning Web site builder. It’s in all MS Office 2003 versions.
- GoLive CS is Adobe’s latest version of its Web publishing toolset. It’s included in Adobe Creative Suite Premium.