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Comments on HTML editors

Instructions for Editors

Last modified: 2017-11-13 by rob raeside
Keywords: editors | fotw |
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In response to an inquiry about recommendations for editing programs, here are some comments from editors. Editing programs are broadly divided into "blackbox" programs (typically WYSIWYG programs where you cannot actually see the html tags) and "full view" programs where you edit the html tags yourself. Please note FOTW does not endorse any of the programs listed below. We recommend you choose what suits you best.

From Ivan Sache:

I did my first steps in editing (I remember having started with Armenia, am.html) with the standard text editor for Macintosh (Simple Text), which is a very good way to learn the basics of HTML (which is mainly text editing) and understand the structure of a Web page.

In a second step, I got bored with all these text lines and discovered Netscape Composer. Using that sh.t, I made a terrible mess of Maldivian pages, and Rob was kind enough to recompose them properly. The Composer does a lot of things out of the user's control, especially in image linking (or may'be I have not been careful enough).

Now I am reigning over a vast editing empire inhabited by very turbulent peoples like Frenchies, and I use Claris HomePage. CHP has three different modes:

- a "black box" mode, in which you edit by drag-and-drops and clicks. This is particularly useful to avoid typos in URLs and image locations (you can select them in a specific window), and friendly because you see immediately the result.

- a full HTML mode, similar to a text editor, very useful to check for unnecessary tags and when a "manual" change has to be made (e.g. when a contributor's name needs a non-standard character, you see who I mean :-)

- a "pseudo-Web" mode, in which the page looks like a Web page and allows you to check the links without opening a browser.

Finally, I check the pages (or I should check them) with BigBrother for broken internal links.

From Phil Nelson:

I've used a variety of editors, but right now I am using RCEdit more than any other. It is similar to HomeSite which some of us use, except:

- HomeSite allows for global replacements between pages. Therefore, HomeSite does still have a place in my repertoire.

- RCEdit allows multiple pages to be open simultaneously, I haven't encountered the limit yet having only had about only 32 pages open at once.

- Both HomeSite and RCEdit allow for HTML skeletons to be stored and used. RCEdit, however, allows one to set up a default to be used when creating a new document. HomeSite appears to be limited as to the number of "user strings" it allows, but RCEdit appears to have unlimited "user string" potential, where I can store skeletons for specific items that I might insert in mid-page without cut and paste or retyping the tags (such as images).

- RCEdit also has a better special character interface when one forgets one forgets how to use ø or other of the characters available.

- Although some versions of HomeSite reportedly allow in-line viewing with the browser, I haven't figured that out yet, but RCEdit allows this quickly.

- HomeSite does allow for color encoding of the commands, allowing one to assure that one has typed something in correctly, or that tags that require terminating tags are present, in some instances.

- On those instances when I have to put up a table (rare), both are a definite advantage over the black box software.

- RCEdit has a nifty option that I haven't used yet. If one sets the default to use relative file names in the paths, then saves the document, an image can be inserted with both the height and width defaulting to the image height and width, allows one to fill in the name of the alternative text, allows previewing of the image in-line prior to insertion. The HomeSite version I have doesn't allow the in-line preview.

From Dov Gutterman:

Well, I am a "black box" editor with MS Frontpage Express. Well, not totally "black box" since it also has a "full view" mode which I use to check what have I done and to correct any mistakes. I can't see anything wrong in using "black box" once you have developed a working routine that limits mistakes to a minimum and if you check your work using the "full view" mode. I can say that it is a matter of experience. As a beginner I had quite a lot of mistakes and it took me ages to edit a page, and nowadays it is very rare to find one and to edit a page it is usually (at least on the easy ones) a matter of minutes.

From António Martins

I have been using HomeSite, in various versions (currently 2.5), in the last couple of years. Not bad at all and I grew accustomed to it. In the beginning I tried HotDog and HotMetal also but somehow I prefered HomeSite.

Recently I tried for some days another one, recommended by Phil, and I was quite impressed -- but it was too slow in my machine and I went back to basics.

I also do some stuff directly in text editors, if I'm in a hurry, and also some of my SHP, BIB and GEO pages are created by copy&paste from Excel sheets with dynamic HTML tags (reflecting the current status of a given database) created by me.

From Željko Heimer:

Regarding the editing job, I believe that Notepad, or programs similar to it with some additional features are the right tool for our task here. However, I know that the more sophisticated software of the "blackbox" type is now developed enough that an experienced editor (both with experience in the software, and in the FOTW html routines) can do a good job, as Dov proves it.

However, the FOTW editor's job consist mostly of cutting and pasting and some little editing, and once you are comfortable with the raw html view of an FOTW page, I believe that a Notepad is just enough (and appropriate). If I am not much mistaken, many of you, my fellow editors, practise the same "line of thought", and use Notepad, or some other "improved" version of such editor. You already mentioned several "flavors" of those, so let me add "my poison" - the Textpad.

It is a strong "programmers notepad", with all the usual gadgets one might need - the global search and replace, basic macros, various selection modes, so called "block highlight", and other usual stuff. Also, it is very configurable to suit one's needs. And, of course, no fancy "click and don't think" coloured buttons. It is not a html-specific editor, so there is no verification and html help and things like that, but for our needs that is not so important, I believe.

I have tried some of the other programs already mentioned, and many of them are very good, indeed. The HomeSite is also among my favorites, though I do not use it very much for the "regular" FOTW editing (nor for my FAME pages). I use it from time to time for some "experiments" where I need some greater support of the html specific tools.

There are yet other tools that are useful for including Java, JavaScript, CSS's and other modern gadgets into pages, some extremely useful, but IMHO - one does not use a sledge hammer to crack a walnut, right?

Anyway, my suggestion to any FOTW editor in training - go around the Net, find some simple (text) editor. They are not difficult to locate and usually they are quite small to download. Try several of them, and find the one that you feel most comfortable with right now. And, remember, you can always change your mind later - when you find out that the one you choose does not have all the functions you would like it to have. Also - I believe a good step in reaching towards being good html editor - try to "see" what the page you look at in the "notepad" would look in a browser. Then check your visualization with the browser. Once you reach a certain level of compatibility of the browser in your brain with the commercial products, you shall know what you are doing anytime.

From Ivan Sarajcic

I use Front Page 2000, and then check the file as txt. I am now examining DreamWeaver, and I shall use it, if it proves that it's easier to manipulate.
Editors instructions