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Web Page Authoring Tools
Sometimes WYS isn't Quite WYG

If you're just getting started with web design, you really should check out our HTML page for some links and recommended reading. If you're anxious to get started, there are a few things you can do to begin learning. If you use a PC and have Internet Explorer installed, there's a fairly good chance you have "FrontPage Express" installed, and don't even realise it. Go to START> PROGRAMS> INTERNET EXPLORER> FRONTPAGE EXPRESS. Open the program and start messing around. It looks a lot like "Word". Go ahead and design a web page. Look at the source code. Have fun. We don't recommend you try to use it as a serious authoring tool though, as it writes some bad code, and re-writes code from pages designed in other programs. It's not a bad way to get a glimpse of what goes on in a web page, though.

Getting Serious/Text Editors

If you're ready to get serious, there are several basic approaches. For the purist, there is no option but hand-coding. This is an admirable approach, but it takes real study of HTML to hand-code web pages, especially if you have complicated design ideas. If you want to try the hard-core method, you can easily get started with another tool that's almost certainly on your PC. If you're not familiar with "Notepad", and if you're running Windows, go to START> PROGRAMS> ACCESSORIES> NOTEPAD. Open it up. It's a simple text editor. Write some HTML, and save the file by using save> save as> save as type> all documents. Make sure to end your file name with .htm or .html. This will save it as a web page rather than a .txt (plain text) file. If you get serious about hand coding, one popular commercial choice is HomeSite from Macromedia.

WYSIWIG

"What You See Is What You Get" tools run the gamut from evil and useless, to powerful and essential. Some programs that use WYSIWIG to design pages generate code that is very redundant (contributing to code bloat), or in some cases so proprietary as to not be recognized by browsers at all. However, the high-end software (like the three programs linked to here) allow you to use some of this drag-and-position designing if you like, while writing fairly clean code. With most of these tools, we'd still avoid designing completely with WYSIWIG features though, as a lot of tags like <layer> are still not broadly supported by browsers, and you can usually achieve the same results with more commonly supported tags. There's nothing more embarrasing as a novice designer than having a carefully designed page rendered with all your carefully-placed layers covering other items on the page.

In Summary,

The tools here are probably the best three choices for professional site design, for different reasons:

Dreamweaver has become something of an industry standard. It's powerful, flexible, writes solid code for you, has amazing search-and-replace features, built in FTP, site-management tools, plugs in well with multimedia content, Java, ASP, PHP, JavaScript or ColdFusion, and has a pretty intuitive interface.

FrontPage has many of the features mentioned above, and if you're working mainly with other Microsoft applications, especially in a corporate environment where the content is going to be served on Microsoft Servers, it's probably the way to go. The issues FrontPage had in early versions with proprietary code have been done away with for the most part. Small business owners who can't afford to hire a design company might find it useful as well, because of its wizards and templates.

GoLive is part of the Adobe product line, well known for providing high quality image-editing and publishing tools. The best reason to make this application your main design tool is its seamless interface with other Adobe tools.


Recommended Software:
The Industry Standard For Web Authoring:
Dreamweaver MX 2004
Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004

If you make extensive use of Adobe applications, GoLive has some interesting features like "Smart Objects" to help streamline your work flow:
Adfobe GoLive 6.0
Adobe GoLive 6.0

From Microsoft:
Microsoft FrontPage
Microsoft FrontPage 2003

For the purist and dedicated hand-coder:
HomeSite 5
HomeSite 5.0
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