What software to use

  1. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

  2. Recommendations. There are many different programs available for producing web pages. These are simply the ones I use or that are readily available on campus.
    1. Netscape - 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, just like a word processor. When you are ready, the click of a button loads everything onto the web server. This provides a nice balance between ease of use and flexibility. Netscape Gold and Netscape Communicator both include WYSIWYG HTML editors.
    2. WebEdit - This is a full featured HTML editor. 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 this option 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.
    3. Office97 - The most recent version of Word (and Powerpoint) can export a document or presentation to create HTML documents. 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. Office97 works well for simple documents, but complex formatting (indents, margins, tables, outlines, etc.) can cause problems.
    4. Additional - Other software that is used on campus includes HotDog, Adobe Pagemill and Microsoft Frontpage. There are many others available, each with strengths and weaknesses. In general, people really like whichever one they are using. HTML Writer is a nice shareware package if you don't want to spend any money. Yahoo has a good listing of HTML Converters and HTML Editors. And Mac's Big List of HTML Editors is quite extensive. The Tucows web site has lots of freeware and shareware HTML applications. Excellent reviews are available from PC Magazine. University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology has a very nice Presentation Toolkit that includes information about Web based presentations.

  3. 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 Pro. This is from Tetranet Software. A Freeware version of the program, called Linkbot Express, is available. I highly recommend using this.

This page is maintained by
Scott Van Bramer
Department of Chemistry
Widener University
Chester, PA 19013

Please send any comments, corrections, or suggestions to svanbram@science.widener.edu.

This page has been accessed 4015 times since 5/30/97.
Last Updated 5/18/98