Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Software Soapbox - Part II - Web Page Development

Part II of my Open Source vs. Shrinkwrapped Boxes review focuses on web page development software. For the same price as Micro$oft Office, web developers can purchase high-end graphical user interface web content development software (roughly $400), in the form of Dreamweaver. For about $100, they can purchase a textually-based content developer - not just a tag insertor, but a whole-site developer that tracks stylesheets, images, links, etc. Is it worth it? First, let's look at websites on the cheap, or text-based editors.

There are two freeware programs that I've used on my Mac to develop HTML and XHTML websites, both of which have great strengths. SEEdit and Taco HTML Editor are freeware (although SEEdit offers a $40 tech-supported edition with a vast number of very nice templates) programs that check your code against W3C standards. Of the two, I prefer SEEdit for large projects, because it keeps track of your entire site - even provides basic CSS templates that you may edit to customize your output. It automatically develops your site to XHTML 1.0 transitional standards (the new industry standard); although it allows you to develop HTML 4.01 as well.

SEEdit tracks your stylesheet tags, so if you create subclasses, say "p.nav," for a navigation area, it will include your subclasses within its toolbars, which are very extensive. It reads your images, and also allows you to preview pages within several different browsers, all of which you can select yourself. To take a look at SEEdit software and downloads, click here to go to the developer's website. He has screenshots and links to the downloads of both paid and freeware versions.

Taco HTML Edit is more useful for on-the-fly editing, for a simple reason: SEEdit will not open non-SEEdit pages, unless you go through a very tedious process. Taco will open any page, of any code type, and allow you to edit the specifications to update quickly, say, if you forget a form field, or make a simple textual booboo: it uses very little memory and has a wide range of tag selection. It also has a color wheel to allow you to be exact when choosing colors to include on your site. To visit and download the Taco program, click here for the developer site. You can see screenshots and more to help make your decision, although with the program weighing in at 3 MB or so, what do you have to lose?

To help you learn to write your own code, check out Sunrise Browser, the Developer's web browser. This one's lightweight (684kB), and FAST! It allows you to view the source and perform sample edits in a transparent screen, and displays the changes you make in the browser window: it won't change the real code, but it will allow you to experiment and see your own changes as you type. This is a really nifty piece of software, and considering the price (free) and size (less than 1MB), it's truly worth a look.

On the GUI side, there have been few offerings in the open source world until now, with the advent of N|vu (New View), a GUI web developer similar in interface to Dreamweaver and Front Page. As the developer states, "it's not the same as Front Page or Dreamweaver, but if you're familiar with these programs, N|vu will pose few problems." It is an extremely powerful program, but, since it's fairly new, I would save my work FREQUENTLY, because newer open source programs have the tendency to crash occasionally. To take a look at the developer website, where you can download Mac OS X native, Windows native, and Linux package versions, as well as look at screenshots, click here. This is a pretty exciting development - nobody has had time to develop such a program until now - and it may well improve web standards.
currently on miPod - "It'll Never be the Same," Gene Krupa


Anonymous said...

SEEdit will not open non-SEEdit pages, unless you go through a very tedious process. This is not correct, SEEdit could open any html/xhtml, txt, xml and lot of others, just use the Open menu

C.Berg said...

The version I was reviewing was 1.0.0 beta. This version would not open non SEEdit pages or documents. The new version will do so. My apologies.