Which Web Page Editor is Right for Your Online Business?

By Greg Holden

It pays to spend time choosing a web page editor that has the right qualities for you and your online business. What qualities should you look for in a web page tool and how do you know which tool is right for you? Pick the type of program that best fits your technical skill.

For the novice: Use your existing programs

A growing number of word processing, graphics, and business programs are adding HTML to their list of capabilities. By using a program you’re already comfortable with, you can avoid having to install a web page editor.

  • Microsoft Word: The most recent versions of the venerable word processing standby work pretty much seamlessly with web page content. Although most professional web designers would say it generates messy code, it does get the job done for beginners.

  • Adobe PageMaker/Quark Xpress: The most recent versions of these two popular page layout programs let you save the contents of a document as HTML.

  • Microsoft Office: The most recent versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint give users the option of exporting content to web pages.

  • WordPerfect and Presentations: These two component programs within Corel’s suite of tools let you save files as an HTML page or a PDF file that you can present on the web.

Although these solutions are convenient, they probably won’t completely eliminate the need to use a web page editor. Odds are you’ll still need to make corrections and do special formatting after you convert your text to HTML.

For intermediate needs: User-friendly web editors

If you’re an experienced web surfer and eager to try a simple web editor, make it a program that lets you focus on your site’s HTML and textual content, provides you with plenty of functionality, and is still easy to use.

BBEdit

If you work on a Mac and you’re primarily concerned with textual content, BBEdit is one of the best choices you can make for a web page tool. It lives up to its motto: “It doesn’t suck.” BBEdit is tailored to use the Mac’s highly visual interface, and version 9.2 runs on the Mac OS 10.4 or later.

You can use drag-and-drop to add an image file to a web page in progress by dragging the image’s icon into the main BBEdit window, for example. Find out more about BBEdit at the Bare Bones Software, Inc., website.

Other good choices of web editors for the Mac are Taco HTML Edit by Taco Software and PageSpinner by Optima System.

Macromedia HomeSite

HomeSite was an affordable tool for website designers who feel at ease working with HTML code. However, HomeSite is no longer being released or supported by its owner, Adobe Systems. If you can find a copy, though, try it. HomeSite also provides you with step-by-step utilities — wizards — to quickly create pages, tables, frames, and JavaScript elements.

CoffeeCup HTML Editor

CoffeeCup HTML Editor, by CoffeeCup Software, is a popular Windows web page editor that contains a lot of features for a small price ($49). You can begin typing and formatting text by using the CoffeeCup HTML Editor menu options.

You can add an image by clicking the Insert Image toolbar button, or use the Forms toolbar to create the text boxes and radio buttons that make up an interactive web page form. You can even add JavaScript effects and choose from a selection of clip art images that come with the software.

CoffeeCup HTML Editor doesn’t let you explore database connectivity, add web components, or other bonuses that come with a program like Dreamweaver.

Nvu

Nvu is the successor to Mozilla Composer, a web page editing and authoring tool that came with the full version of the Mozilla browser suite. Although Mozilla no longer supports Composer, you can download Nvu for free. The software was developed by using Composer’s original source code.

With Nvu, you can create sophisticated layout elements, such as tables, with an easy-to-use graphical interface. After you edit a page, you can preview it in Firefox with the click of a button.

For advanced commerce sites: Programs that do it all

If you plan to do a great deal of business online or add the title of web designer to your list of talents, it makes sense to spend some money upfront and use a web page tool that can do everything you want.

The advanced programs listed here not only let you edit web pages but also help you add interactivity to your site, link dynamically updated databases to your site, and keep track of how your site is organized and updated. Some programs can even transfer your web documents to your web host with a single menu option.

Dreamweaver

What’s that, you say? You can never have enough bells and whistles? The cutting edge is where you love to walk? Then Dreamweaver, a web authoring tool by Adobe, is for you. Dreamweaver is a feature-rich, professional piece of software.

Dreamweaver excels in producing Dynamic HTML and HTML style sheets. Dreamweaver has ample FTP settings, and it gives you the option of seeing the HTML codes you’re working with in one window and the formatting of your web page in a second, WYSIWYG window.

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Dreamweaver lets you create Active Server pages and connect to the ColdFusion database, and it contains lots of templates and wizards. Dreamweaver is available for both Windows and Mac.

Microsoft Expression web

Expression web is a user-friendly yet powerful editor that has strong support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), a technology that allows you to format multiple web pages consistently by using standard commands that all web browsers can interpret. The program also lets you develop websites with ASP.NET and XML markup.

Expression web includes Dynamic web Templates — sets of web pages that have master areas that appear on each web page. If you make a change to the master area, the change is carried out through the whole site.