- Choices. The first thing to do is decide how you want to create the web pages. There are a large number of programs available to help with this. They each have advantages and disadvantages. Selecting the right one depends upon what you want to do and how you like to work.
- HTML Editors. These are the most basic programs. They allow you to see the HTML (HyperText Markup Language) code and edit it directly. This approach provides the most control and flexibility, but is also more difficult to learn. Most of these programs include many HTML features and easy to use toolbars.
- WYSIWYG Editors. WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors display the web page as it will appear in a web browser. The author does not see the HTML code, just the final results. Using this is very similar to using a windows word processor. All the HTML code is created in the background. These are easier to use than HTML editors, but allow less control. They generally produce good HTML, but it may include extra codes that cause problems for some viewers.
- HTML Converters. Converters allow you to write the document in one format (i.e. Word) and then convert the file into a web page. This is the easiest route if you already have written something on the computer or if you are not interested in learning to use another software package. The converters do not, however, always produce the results you want. They work well for simple documents, but they do not handle complex formatting very well. If you have simple text, this is a great option. Before committing to using one of these programs check to see if it handles the formatting you typically use. Check for bold; italic; special characters like &, ®, à, and ã; subscript and superscript. Many converters also have difficulty with outlines, tables, and mathematical equations. This is the easiest to use choice, but it can also cause the most problems in trying to get web pages to look the way you want.
- Recommendations. There are many different programs available for producing web pages. The programs listed here are simply the ones I use. It is worthwhile to find one that you like.
- Netscape Composer - Since this WYSIWYG HTML editor is free and well integrated into the Netscape browser, I consider it to be the obvious choice for beginners. This is probably the most transparent way to create web pages. You are presented with a WYSIWYG front end where you create the web pages. You do not see the underlying code, but view the document as it would appear in the browser. Editing is done by selecting text and clicking on buttons. It is just like using a word processor. When you are ready, the click of a button loads everything onto the web server. The program provides a nice balance between ease of use and flexibility. This editor is part of the Netscape program. I recommend using Netscape Communicator 4.79. Latter versions cause stability problems on many computers. If you have an old computer version 3.04 is the oldest version available with the editor.
- WebEdit - This is a full featured HTML editor and it is the program that I have used for years. In this type of program you can see the HTML code. The program provides buttons and menu bars to apply the HTML tags to your basic content. This is comparable to working with a "pre-WYSIWYG" word processor. The learning curve is a steeper, but it provides more flexibility and control in the design of web pages. It shows very clearly "how" the web page works and allows the use of more advanced features.
- Microsoft Office - The most recent versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint can create HTML documents from your spreadsheets, documents and presentations. This is certainly the easiest way to create web pages. Because you are converting a document into HTML there can be problems with the translation. Office works well for simple documents, but complex formatting indents, margins, tables, outlines, etc.) can cause problems.
- Additional - Other software I am aware of includes:
- HTML Writer - This is a very basic HTML editor. But it works and it is free.
- Microsoft Frontpage. This is Microsoft's web authoring program. It is full of features, which like most Microsoft products people either love or don't.
- Macromedia Dreamweaver. This is Macromedia's big web authoring program. It is used by many professionals, but is not easy to learn. See Brian Pankuch's article Dreamweaver and Fireworks 4 in the spring 2001 Newsletter.
- Macromedia Homesite. This is an HTML editor from Macromedia.
- There are many others, but they change so quickly that your best bet is to search the web.
- Link Checking. I use a program to check that all the links in my website are functioning. This helps to simplify the task of keeping all the links up to date. The program I use is called Linkbot from Watchfire. This product has been replaced with Web QA.
This page is maintained by
Scott Van Bramer
Department of Chemistry
Chester, PA 19013
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Last Updated Friday, March 22, 2002 10:12:09 AM