Though you can make a strong argument for hand coding your web site the appeal of a What You See Is What You Get approach is undeniable. This week we take a look at the five most popular tools for WYSIWYG HTML editing.
Photo by ilco.
Note: If a specific feature or file-type support is critical to your selection choice, you may want to check out the detailed charts at Wikipedia outlining features of various HTML editors and then double check it against the editor's web site and documentation
Kompozer (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
Kompozer has a lot going for it, foremost of which is the free-as-in-beer price tag. Kompozer sports tabbed editing — WYSIWYG in one tab, raw HTML in the other — on-the-fly editing via the built-in FTP site manager, and a highly customisable interface with easily modified toolbars. Kompozer has a markup cleaner and a W3C call function to validate your HTML against current standards. It's free, available on Windows, Mac and Linux machines, and it has a strong focus on standards compliance and clean code.
iWeb (Mac, $US99 for iLife bundle)
The "It just works!" design philosophy that permeates Apple offerings is strong with iWeb — the WYSIWYG HTML editor bundled with iLife — and interacting with it is so drag-and-drop and user-friendly that even your friends least likely to ever learn a scrap of HTML code could whip together a functioning web site. Apple provides a number of polished templates and dozens of web site widgets that are all a mouse click away. iWeb's built-in site manager makes it easy to publish to multiple sites or just keep a close eye on your ever-expanding digital manifesto.
Adobe Dreamweaver (Windows/Mac, $US300)
Dreamweaver is a titan in the WYSIWYG world. Now part of the Adobe portfolio but originally launched by Macromedia, Dreamweaver has offered WYSIWYG editing since 1997 when the web was a maze of tiled backgrounds, electric blue links and blinking GIFs. Dreamweaver offers hybrid editing, you can work completely in WYSIWYG mode without ever seeing a bit of code, you can work directly in the code only switching over to preview your work, or you can work in a dual-pane environment to take advantage of WYSIWYG and hand-coding simultaneously. Dreamweaver is extensible with dozens of free and commercial plugs-ins available for everything from web effects and widgets to shopping carts and image galleries.
Microsoft Expression Web (Windows, $US125)
Expression Web is Microsoft's current offering in the WYSIWYG arena — the popular but much maligned FrontPage was retired in 2003. For those of you who associate Microsoft with poor web standards compliance take comfort knowing that Expression Web has a totally separate engine from Internet Explorer and is compliant with a wide range of current web standards. Among features it shares with other WYSIWYG editors like highlighting code errors and non-compliant code and a built-in CSS editor, it also stands out for features like Search Engine Optimisation — offering you tips and ideas to optimise your sites for better crawling and search engine ranking.
Flux (Mac, $US75)
Flux is a Mac-based WYSIWYG editor that has received high praise for being a powerful editor with a reasonable price tag. Flux's interface offers a fine degree of control over editing everything from the margins and padding to overall size of your elements, including altering CSS code with simple mouse movements. Flux offers dual-pane editing so you can switch between hand-editing and drag-and-drop editing instantly or just watch the HTML code unfold as you WYSIWYG edit to study what's going on under the hood. Like Dreamweaver, Flux supports third-party plugins which are available for download through the Flux application.
Have a favourite WYSIWYG editor that didn't get a nod here but you think should have? Want to highlight your favourite feature of an editor that did get a nod? Let's hear about it in the comments.