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HTML editors

Web Design & Development Guide

HTML editors

List of HTML editors
Adobe Dreamweaver
Microsoft FrontPage

An HTML editor is a software application for creating web pages. Although the HTML markup of a web page can be written with any text editor, specialized HTML editors can offer convenience and added functionality. For example, many HTML editors work not only with HTML, but also with related technologies such as CSS, XML and JavaScript or ECMAScript. In some cases they also manage communication with remote web servers via FTP and WebDAV, and version management systems such as CVS or Subversion. The first full featured text HTML editor available for download on the Internet was the CoffeeCup HTML Editor begun in 1994 by Nicholas Longo and Kevin Jurica of CoffeeCup Software.


There are various forms of HTML editors: text, object and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors.

Text editors

Macromedia HomeSite HTML editor
Macromedia HomeSite HTML editor

Text (source) editors intended for use with HTML usually provide syntax highlighting. Templates, toolbars and keyboard shortcuts may quickly insert common HTML elements and structures. Wizards, tooltip prompts and auto-completion may help with common tasks.

Text HTML editors commonly include either built-in functions or integration with external tools for such tasks as source and version control, link-checking, code checking and validation, code cleanup and formatting, spell-checking, uploading by FTP or WebDAV, and structuring as a project.

Text editors require user understanding of HTML and any other web technologies the designer wishes to use like CSS, JavaScript and server-side scripting languages.

Object editors

Some editors allow alternate editing of the source text of objects in more visually organized modes than simple color highlighting, but in modes not considered WYSIWYG. Some WYSIWYG editors include the option of using palette windows that enable editing the text-based parameters of selected objects. These palettes allow either editing parameters in fields for each individual parameter, or text windows to edit the full group of source text for the selected object. They may include widgets to present and select options when editing parameters. Adobe GoLive provides an outline editor to expand and collapse HTML objects and properties, edit parameters, and view graphics attached to the expanded objects.


Amaya HTML editor
Amaya HTML editor

WYSIWYG HTML editors provide an editing interface which resembles how the page will be displayed in a web browser. Some editors, such as ones in the form of browser extensions allow editing within a web browser. Because using a WYSIWYG editor does not require any HTML knowledge, they are easier for an average computer user to get started with.

The WYSIWYG view is achieved by embedding a layout engine based upon that used in a web browser. The layout engine will have been considerably enhanced by the editor's developers to allow for typing, pasting, deleting and moving the content. The goal is that, at all times during editing, the rendered result should represent what will be seen later in a typical web browser.

While WYSIWYG editors make web design faster and easier; many professionals still use text editors, despite the fact that most WYSIWYG editors have a mode to edit HTML code by hand. The web was not originally designed to be a visual medium, and attempts to give authors more layout control, such as css, have been poorly supported by major web browsers. Because of this, code automatically generated by WYSIWYG editors frequently sacrifice file size and compatibility with fringe browsers, to create a design that looks the same for widely used desktop web browsers. This automatically generated code may be edited and corrected by hand. For more on subject, see Difficulties in achieving WYSIWYG below.[1][2][3]

WYSIWYM editors

What You See Is What You Mean (WYSIWYM) is an alternative paradigm to the WYSIWYG editors above. Instead of focusing on the format or presentation of the document, it preserves the intended meaning of each element. For example, page headers, sections, paragraphs, etc. are labeled as such in the editing program, and displayed appropriately in the browser.

Valid HTML code

HTML is a structured markup language. There are certain rules on how HTML must be written if it is to conform to W3C standards for the World Wide Web. Following these rules means that web sites are accessible on all types and makes of computer, to able-bodied and people with disabilities, and also on wireless devices like mobile phones and PDAs, with their limited bandwidths and screen sizes.

Unfortunately most HTML documents on the web are not valid according to W3C standards. According to one study only about 1 out of 141 is valid. Even those syntactically correct documents may be inefficient due to an unnecessary use of repetition, or based upon rules that have been deprecated for some years. Current W3C recommendations on the use of CSS with HTML were first formalised by W3C in 1996[4] and have been revised and refined since then. See CSS, XHTML, W3C's current CSS recommendation and W3C's current HTML recommendation.

These guidelines emphasise the separation of content (HTML or XHTML) from style (CSS). This has the benefit of delivering the style information once for a whole site, not repeated in each page, let alone in each HTML element. WYSIWYG editor designers have been struggling ever since with how best to present these concepts to their users without confusing them by exposing the underlying reality. Modern WYSIWYG editors all succeed in this to some extent, but none of them has succeeded entirely.

People who use text editors can generally fix such problems immediately, once they become aware of them. People find it frustrating when such errors come from WYSIWYG editors.

However a web page was created or edited, WYSIWYG or by hand, in order to be successful among the greatest possible number of readers and viewers, as well as to maintain the 'worldwide' value of the Web itself it can be argued that, first and foremost, it should consist of valid markup and code. Some would argue that it should not be delivered by a designer to his or her customer, and not be considered ready for the World Wide Web, until its HTML and CSS syntax has been successfully validated using either the free W3C validator services (W3C HTML Validator and W3C CSS Validator) or some other trustworthy alternatives.

Others would argue[5] that publishing useful information, as soon as possible, should be first and foremost.

Whatever software tools are used to design, create and maintain web pages, there is little doubt that the quality of the underlying HTML is dependent on the skill of the person who works on the page. Some knowledge of HTML, CSS and other scripting languages as well as a familiarity with the current W3C recommendations in these areas will help any designer produce better web pages, with a WYSIWYG HTML editor and without[6].

Difficulties in achieving WYSIWYG

A given HTML document will have an inconsistent appearance on various platforms and computers for several reasons:

Different browsers and applications will render the same markup differently.
The same page may display slightly differently in Internet Explorer and Firefox on a high-resolution screen, but it will look very different in the perfectly valid text-only Lynx browser. It needs to be rendered differently again on a PDA, an internet-enabled television and on a mobile phone. Usability in a speech or braille browser, or via a screen-reader working with a conventional browser, will place demands on entirely different aspects of the underlying HTML. Printing the page, via different browsers and different printers onto various paper sizes, around the world, places other demands. With the correct use of modern HTML and CSS there is no longer any need to provide 'Printable page' links and then have to maintain two versions of the whole site. Nor is there any excuse for pages not fitting the user's preferred paper size and orientation, or wasting ink printing solid background colours unnecessarily, or wasting paper reproducing navigation panels that will be entirely useless once printed out[7].
Browsers and computer graphics systems have a range of user settings.
Resolution, font size, colour, contrast etc can all be adjusted at the user's discretion, and many modern browsers allow even more user control over page appearance[8]. All an author can do is suggest an appearance.
Web browsers, like all computer software, have bugs
They may not conform to current standards. It is hopeless to try to design Web pages around all of the common browsers current bugs: each time a new version of each browser comes out, a significant proportion of the World Wide Web would need re-coding to suit the new bugs and the new fixes. It is generally considered much wiser to design to standards, staying away from 'bleeding edge' features until they settle down, and then wait for the browser developers to catch up to your pages, rather than the other way round[9]. In this regard, no one can argue that CSS/XHTML is still 'cutting edge' as there is now widespread support available in common browsers for all the major features[10], even if many WYSIWYG and other editors have not yet entirely caught up[11].

What you see may be what most visitors get, but it is not guaranteed to be what everyone gets.

Comparison of HTML editors

The following tables compare general and technical information for a number of (purportedly) WYSIWYG HTML editors. Please see the individual products' articles for further information, and Comparison of text editors for information on text editors, many of which have features to assist with writing HTML. This article is not all-inclusive or necessarily up-to-date.

General information

Basic general information about the software: creator/company, license/price etc.

Editor   Version   Creator   Cost (USD)   Software license   Website  
Amaya 9.54 W3C, INRIA Free W3C [12]
Aptana Milestone 8 Aptana Free EPL [13]
Blaze Composer 3.0 Nikhil Baliga Free Closed source [14]
CoffeeCup HTML Editor 2007 CoffeeCup Software US $49 Closed source [15]
Contribute 4 Adobe Systems (formerly Macromedia) US $149 Closed source [16]
Dreamweaver CS3 (9.0) Adobe Systems (formerly Macromedia) US $399 Closed source [17]
Evrsoft First Page 2006 Evrsoft US $59.95 Closed source [18]
FrontPage (Discontinued) 2003 Microsoft US $199 Closed source [19]
GoLive 9.0 Adobe Systems (formerly GoLive Systems) US $399 Closed source [20]
HomeSite 5.5 Adobe Systems (formerly Macromedia) USD $99 EUR 123 Adobe Acrobat License [21]
HTML-Kit 292 Chami.com Free to use, optional Registration: US $79 Closed source [22]
Microsoft Expression Web Designer 2006 Microsoft US $299 Closed source [23]
Mozilla Composer 1.7.13 Mozilla Foundation Free MPL/GPL/LGPL [24]
Nvu 1.0 Daniel Glazman Free MPL/GPL/LGPL [25]
OPEN BEXI HTML BUILDER 1.6 arcazj Free GPL [26]
RapidWeaver 3.5.1 Realmac Software $39.95 Closed source [27]
SeaMonkey Composer 1.1.1 SeaMonkey Council Free MPL/GPL/LGPL [28]
Serif WebPlus 10 Serif US $79.99 Closed source [29]
SiteSpinner 2.7 Virtual Mechanics US $49.00 Closed source [30]

Operating system support

Editor   Windows   Mac OS X   Mac OS 9   Linux   BSD   Unix  
Amaya Yes Yes No Yes source only source only
Aptana Yes Yes No Yes No No
Blaze Composer Yes No No No No No
CoffeeCup HTML Editor Yes No No No No No
Contribute Yes Yes No No No No
Dreamweaver Yes Yes Dropped No No No
Evrsoft First Page Yes No No No No No
GoLive Yes Yes No No No No
HTML-Kit Yes No No No No No
Mozilla Composer Terminated (1.7.13) Terminated (1.7.13) Dropped (1.2.1) Terminated (1.7.13) Terminated (1.7.13) Terminated (1.7.13)
Microsoft FrontPage Terminated (2003) No No[1] No No No
Nvu [2] Yes Yes No? Yes Yes No
SeaMonkey Composer Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
SiteSpinner Yes No No No No No

Editor features

Editor   FTP Upload   Server-side scripting   Shared editing   Spell checking   Templates  
Amaya No No No Yes No
Aptana Yes No Yes No Some (i.e. Snippets)
CoffeeCup HTML Editor Yes No No Yes Yes
Dreamweaver Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Evrsoft First Page Yes Yes No Yes Yes
GoLive Yes Yes No Yes Yes
HTML-Kit Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Microsoft FrontPage Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nvu Yes No No Yes Yes
SeaMonkey Composer Yes? No No Yes No
SiteSpinner Yes No No Yes Yes

Web technology support

Editor   CSS2   Frames   Java   JavaScript   XSLT   XHTML    MathML   XForms   RSS   Atom   XPath  
Amaya Partial No No No No Yes Yes No No No ?
Aptana Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No No No
Blaze Composer Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
CoffeeCup HTML Editor Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes No
Dreamweaver Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Partial ? Yes ? Yes
Evrsoft First Page Yes Yes Partial Yes Yes Yes No No No No No
FrontPage Partial Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
GoLive Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No No No
Nvu Yes No No Yes No Yes No No No No No
SeaMonkey Composer No Yes No Yes No No No No No No ?
SiteSpinner Yes Yes No Yes No No No No No No No

Image format support

Editor   JPEG   GIF   PNG   MNG   TIFF   SVG   PDF  
Amaya Yes Yes Yes ? Yes Yes No
Aptana Yes Yes Yes No (coming soon) Yes Depends Depends
CoffeeCup HTML Editor Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No
Dreamweaver Yes Yes Yes No No No ?
Evrsoft First Page Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No
FrontPage[3] Yes Yes Yes Depends Yes? Depends Depends
GoLive Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No
Nvu Yes Yes Yes No No No No
SeaMonkey Composer Yes Yes Yes No No No No
SiteSpinner Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No

See also


  1. ^ A version for Mac OS was released around 1998, but has since been discontinued.
  2. ^ Nvu can be built successfully on any platform with the Netscape Portable Runtime.
  3. ^ Actual amount of supported formats depend on installed converter. FrontPage uses Microsoft Office converters.

External links

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