WEB AUTHORING TOOLS

Vicky Vickers

PART TWO: WYSIWYG PROGRAMS
WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML programs are becoming very popular. With these programs, you can design a website without knowing a single bit of HTML coding. These programs are in their infancy, so they don't always create good clean HTML coding. As a matter of fact, a lot of the users of WYSIWYG programs "tweak" their pages in a text editor or semi-WYSIWYG program before uploading them to the web. However, as these programs become more sophisticated, it will become possible for almost anyone to produce good looking websites. Until that time, I recommend website designers learn some basic HTML so they can "tweak" away to their hearts content until they're satisfied with the results.

Jon Wiederspan's Macintosh Internet Resources Directory
host.comvista.com/Internet.tfm
This directory lists and reviews 20 programs in its HTML Editors (WYSIWYG only) section: CyberStudio (GoLive Systems Inc.), Composer & Gold (Netscape Communications), Dreamweaver (Macromedia), HexWeb Typograph (Hexmac Software Systems), Home Page (Claris), PageMill and SiteMill (Adobe), Visual Page (Symantec), Coda (RandomNoise), Freeway (SoftPress Systems), Fusion (NetObjects), Globetrotter (Akimbo Systems), HoTMetaL Pro (SoftQuad), Presto! Personal Page (NewSoft), Texture Designer (FutureTense), AOLPress (America Online), HTML Pro, Webtor, FrontPage (Microsoft). Only three of these programs are shareware or freeware, however, most of them have demo versions which you can download and try out.

The major, and most well-known programs are AOLPress, Dreamweaver, FrontPage, Home Page, PageMill, and Visual Page. While Netscape's Composer (with Communicator 4.0) and Gold (with Navigator 3.0) have built-in editing programs, I understand they are still somewhat primitive. WEAV member, Tim Hicks commented "Composer (in Netscape Communicator 4) is no more than you would expect for version 1.0 of something."

While researching this article, I asked for input from the members of both VMUG's and WEAV's listservs. Some of those comments are included below. I have also included Jon Wiederspan's comments. As I have yet to use WYSIWYG programs, I have refrained from making any comments myself.

AOLPRESS (America Online)
www.aolpress.com
Wiederspan: HTML editor that also functions as a web browser. Available for all major platforms. Can write directly to AOLserver servers.

David Lewis (WEAV member): There's another WYSIWYG HTML editor that I believe to be very useful, AOLPress. It is made by the same folks who run America Online (AOL), which I am NOT a fan of, but their free software is excellent. The software can be downloaded at no charge for: PC, Mac, and Unix platforms. There are a few features that I particularly like. (1.) It's easy to switch from WYSIWYG display to viewing and editing the source HTML. I find that I need to switch back and forth while fine tuning a web page. When viewing the "raw" HTML, it is parsed and coloured in an easy to read format. AOLPress doesn't "add" unnecessary HTML to the web page, so that it can display the WYSIWYG faster. (This is my major pet peeve of other HTML editors.) (2.) By setting the preferences conform to HTML 3.2, I get consistent results when displaying with either Netscape and MS Internet Explorer. (3) AOLPress can handle: complex tables, frames, server-side "include" support, Java apple support. (4) The cost - It's free. I imagine that a HTML novice would probably like an HTML editor that has lots of wizards, etc., which this software DOESN'T have. For any professional, however, I would recommend AOLPress due to its powerful features, versatility, and uniformity.

DREAMWEAVER (Macromedia)
www.macromedia.com/software/dreamweaver/index.html
Wiederspan: Site development tool with many controls over how the HTML is generated. Builds DHTML (for IE) and dHTML (for Communicator). Visual tools for all important HTML editing functions. Links to BBEdit for text editing. Comments: We'll have to see it in action, but the claims are pretty nifty. It won't touch previous HTML code, so you don't mess up your entire existing site. It allows you to have a lot of control over how the HTML is generated. It will generate browser-sensitive dynamic HTML. It has built in JavaScript behaviors. Provides Style Sheets and both CSS-P and Netscape layers.

Pema Douma (VMUG member): It's the best WYSIWYG program I've ever seen. Microsoft does have one, too. DreamWeaver is a Beta, so keep that in mind, but it should run on your mac, it ran fine on mine. Don't worry, it hasn't crashed on my mac yet, and I've run it for about four straight hours. Make sure you get all of it's great features, some are hidden.

HOME PAGE (Claris)
www2.claris.com/forms/homepagedownload.html
Wiederspan: WYSIWYG HTML editor. Includes graphic editors for imagemaps, forms, tables, and frames. Option to view the HTML text directly. Macintosh version can read/write files over FTP (use 'option-File'). Supports drag-and-drop with automatic conversion of graphics. Library stores commonly used HTML or graphics or even entire pages as templates. Includes commands for embedding Java or JavaScript. Comments: Claris Home Page is one of the better of the current crop of WYSIWYG HTML editors. As with the others, the environment works much like a word processor, making it very approachable for novices. Like the others there are also the usual problems for those who want to be a bit more daring with their HTML. The frames editor is easy to use but doesn't allow editing in the actual frame nor even viewing of the frame page (except by launching it in a browser). The form creator works fine but only allows one form per page. I love Home Page's ability to write files out over FTP (hold down the option key while selecting the FILE menu).

Tim Hicks (Weav member): Claris Home Page 2.0 is OK for laying out a page, but for ongoing work it adds too much weird code in an unreadable format.

FRONTPAGE (Microsoft)
www.microsoft.com/frontpage/
Wiederspan: WYSIWYG HTML editor with tools for site management, forms processing and more. No Macintosh server available to support special server-side features.

Ken Clarke (Program Director - WEAV): I use Microsoft Frontpage '97 on a Window 95 machine, but I believe you'll still find my comment valuable. My editor is very useful for the creative aspect of Web page design. It allows me to move images around quickly, try different fonts, font sizes, colour schemes and background effects. Changing attributes is easy. Just right-click on an object (text, image, horizontal rule...) to access a pop-up menu of attributes. If the editor doesn't use a particular attribute, it also allows me to type in name/value pairs, which it inserts within the appropriate HTML tag. It's also great for building tables. I often use tables within tables to achieve a desired layout. The editor allows me to make a "template" table, copy it as many times as I need, enter the data, then hi-light and drag it into the appropriate cell in the master table. I can cut & paste cells, rows and columns, or groups of rows and columns. This saves me from having to specify parameters such as cellpadding and fonts. If I need a few extra rows, I just insert them. WYSIWYG is not always true though. It should read "What You See Is ALMOST What You Get". No problem though, since clicking one button brings the page up in my default browser. Of course, as useful as I find it, there's no substitute for a final "tweaking" with a text editor!

PAGEMILL (Adobe)
www.adobe.com/prodindex/pagemill/main.html
Wiederspan: WYSIWYG HTML editor. Drag-and-drop support. Auto-conversion of graphics. Built-in graphics editor and imagemap editor. Graphical form builder. Displays background graphics, aligned graphics and flows text around graphics. Find and replace functions; Frames editing in WYSIWYG view; drag tables from Excel; Preview support for Netscape plugins, PDF, QuickTime and Shockwave files. Includes SiteMill 2.0 and a light version of PhotoShop. Comments: PageMill was the first of the second-generation HTML editors (and don't believe any that claim to be "third-generation"; it's not here yet). It had been passed by for a short while by others, but the changes in the 2.0 version put it back near the top. It is very easy to use and a good starting tool for the beginner.

James Brown (VMUG member): I have been using Adobe PageMill 2.0 for web design. I like it because it is a true wysiwyg program with some really easy tools for making frames and tables. Check out my wife's site at . You can view and edit your html if you want to tweak a few things. The new applications come bundled with SiteMill 2.0 and Photoshop Lite 3.0.5. SiteMill lets you effortlessly upload your site or just the changes, check your links and check linked URL's in a flash, a real time saver if you have a big list of favourite sites. Of course Photoshop will let you edit your images although the Lite version is missing some features. All this for @ $150.00 with provision to upgrade to Photoshop 4.0 for $249 U.S.. Adobe is working hard on PageMill 3.0 due out in the second quarter of 1998. According to the PageMill listserv, Adobe is listening to users for suggestions on what they would like to see in the new version.

VISUALPAGE (Symantec)
www.symantec.com/vpagemac/index_product.html
Wiederspan: A WYSIWYG Web authoring tool, with MRJ capabilities, drag and drop, frames editing, and tables creation. Comments: Visual page is a nice editor, but lacks the polish and some of the options that other editors in the same price range have.

Greg Ruffell (VMUG member): If you haven't looked at "Visual Page" then you owe it to yourself to do so!

Mike Laing (WEAV member): My personal favourite is Visual Page, by Symantec. I've used them all, I think, and this is the cleanest and most effective one yet. Page Mill is a dog's breakfast, and Navigator Gold required you to build your pages online, real time, on a server in California. WWWeb Weaver is another clean and small WYSIWYG editor that does a very competent job, but is a little limited re: Javascript/Java Applets and does not well support image placement. Visual Page has an FTP client built in, and several very nice utilities to make your page look good and load fast!

Acknowledgements
This article was published in the January 1998 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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Vicky Vickers, Word Crunchers, Etc.
3290 Shelley Street, Victoria, BC, V8P 4A5
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