WEB AUTHORING TOOLS
PART ONE: SEMI-WYSIWYG & TEXT PROGRAMS
There are literally hundreds of software packages available to assist you in designing your own website. And a great majority of them are freeware, shareware and public domain. As this is a rather large topic, I will be covering it over several articles. While there are many semi-WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and text only web authoring tools available, I have selected three of the best, one public domain and two commercial products, to review this month. Plus I'm giving readers the location of a couple of sites which list and review web authoring tools.
Directories of Web Authoring Tools
As usual, I went searching on the World Wide Web to find the information for this article. As another example of how you can cut down on the number of entries found when using search engines, here are the numerical results of my search. On the Alta Vista search engine using the string +web +authoring +tools +Macintosh produced 2,852 possible webpages to explore. So I narrowed the search by using +"web authoring tools" +Macintosh, in other words making the first three words into a phrase by putting quotes around it. This produced 1074 webpages which use both the phrase "web authoring tools" and the word "Macintosh". Less than half the first amount, but still a lot of material to wade through. The two sites below, which I accidentally found while looking for something else, are very informative.
The Macintosh section of Software Tools for the World-Wide Web (www.ncl.ac.uk/wwwtools/) is an excellent resource. This Directory was originally produced in 1996 by the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom as a survey of then available web authoring tools. However, they are updating it periodically, the last time in August. The section on "Macintosh HTML Tools" is particularly good. Most of the items have been tested and reviewed by them.
Another interesting resource is Jon Wiederspan's Macintosh Internet Resource Database (host.comvista.com/Internet.tfm). This is a FileMaker Pro database, with full search capabilities, which lists hundreds of Macintosh Internet products. Jon has tested and review a lot of the items.
HTML Editor is a semi-WYSIWYG public domain program which was written by a Canadian, Rick Giles of Acadia University in Nova Scotia, and it's only $25! I have been using it to design all my websites for a couple of years now and really like its ease of use.
This program features tag insertion from a toolbar, great tag menus and a user configurable tags floating palette. Headings and styled text are shown in their actual size and style, which together with the Hide Tags function, provides a rough preview without graphics. Full preview is via an external browser which you can launch from within the program. It also has forms and table support and drag'n'drop text editing. It automatically creates the codes for special characters, such as accents, as you type or if you paste text into a document. And when you paste in text which contains curly quotes it automatically converts them to regular quotes.
The feature I like best is the coloured HTML tags. The tags are smaller, with three different categories of tags (images, links and other) being displayed in different colours. This makes it much easier to pick out the tags from the page's text, and each other, especially when changes are needed. I also like being able to select text and use the usual commands for bold, italic, etc. or to simply click on a symbol in the toolbar to do so.The toolbar also contains symbol you can click on to create paragraph and break tags, links and image tags.
In general, this program has been well thought out and is very easy to use.
World Wide Web Weaver
Miracle Software Products has a line of web authoring tools which features their semi-WYSIWYG editor, World Wide Web Weaver ($50 US). While, a demo (it doesn't save) of the current version is available, I downloaded beta 3.0 for testing. While the beta copy is a bit buggy, it has a lot of cool features, including support for tables, forms, frames and colour. It shows the tags in three different (but ugly) colours and also shows font formatting, colours and sizes. The toolbar has a lot of features, floating menus are available and it has a spell checker. Miracle also has a non-WYSIWYG shareware version, HTML Web Weaver Lite ($25 US), which I tried out. The tags in the lite version are all shown smaller and in one colour (purple), but there are no different colours for links or image tags. There is a small toolbar and editable floating menus. Miracle's other products include Artbeats WebTools ($59 US), a CD-ROM containing an extensive library of buttons, bars, backgrounds, icons, and sounds optimized for Web page design which I would love to have, and SiteWeaver, a web site management tool.
While BBEdit ($119 US) by Bare Bones Software, Inc is a text, not a semi-WYSIWYG program, it still shows the tags in three colours, making editing much easier. Designed originally as a text only program, it has been very successfully adapted to create webpages. It has a large floating toolbar which puts almost all the tag commands at your finger tips.
It has a very interesting function called "PageMill Cleaner" that makes good readable HTML out of the dog's breakfast that PageMill creates and it will actually sign onto your Web site by FTP and allow you to directly edit the HTML remotely. (Thanks to Bill Sveinson for these two tips.)
BBEdit Lite, is a freeware version of BBEdit with very few of the features of the commercial version. It doesn't include basic HTML, however, you can download BBEdit HTML extensions r14 and BBEdit HTML Tools v1.3.1 from the Internet to give the program more features. It is a more clumsy to use than the other programs mentioned here and does not colour the HTML tags, which makes editing a lot more difficult.
While I didn't have the time to really give Web Weaver and BBEdit a real workout, I still prefer HTML Editor for simplicity and ease of use.
Further to last months article on HTML Resources on the Web: while researching this article, I found a really great list of resources on SoftQuad's website (www.sq.com/htmlsgml/html/).
Beware of virus hoaxes! There is absolutely no way that you can get a virus from an e-mail message. As Trevor Inkpen, (VMUG member and owner of Quill Services) pointed out recently on the VMUG member's listserv: "There is no way that an e-mail message can do the damage claimed. An E-mail is just text and does not contain any programming code. Someone could send a program file as an *attachment* to an e-mail, which had virus programming within it. If you get any unsolicited file attachments, you can trash them *without opening them* and there will be no risk. Further information about this and other hoaxes is available at webworlds.co.uk/dharley/anti-virus/hoaxes.txt and the Computer Incident Advisory Committee's (CIAC) website (ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACHoaxes.html). Please resist the temptation to pass on any E-mail virus reports - they will almost certainly be hoaxes. If there are real viruses discovered, there will be more than adequate verification of them in the reputable computer media and web sites."
This article was published in the December 1997 issue of the Victoria Macintosh Users Group's monthly newsletter "MACtalk" in Vicky's monthly article "VMUG On-Line" and in the Spring 1998 issue of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria's quarterly on-line newsletter.
Vicky Vickers is the owner of Word Crunchers, Etc. which specializes in website design and HTML training. She is a past-president (1994-6) and former webmaster (1995-8) of Victoria Macintosh Users Group (VMUG). She also founded and was the first president (1996) of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria (WEAV).
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