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What’s the Best, Easy Web Design Tool?
By Lincoln Spector, PCWorld
Christopherm needs to maintain a web site. He asked the Answer Line Forum for easy-to-use software recommendations.
I have to admit that I use Microsoft’s long-demised FrontPage 2003 on thelinkinspector.com, one of my two web sites. It’s easy, I know it, and it fills that site’s simple needs. And you can’t get it, anymore.
My other site, bayflicks.net, is a blog, and thus well outside the capabilities of a static HTML editor like FrontPage. To understand why, consider the page you’re reading right now. Although it entered your computer as an HTML file, no such file exists on the PC World server. When you clicked a link to load this page, a program on that server, written in a much more complex language than HTML (and I don’t know which one), combined my text with a template that defines everything else about the page–from the font these words are displayed in to the advertising that puts my kids through college–and sent the result as an HTML page to your computer.
Unlike PC World, I can’t afford to hire programmers, so for my Bayflicks blog, I use a free blogging tool called WordPress. With a few minutes time and no money, you can set up and customize WordPress, and have your blog up and running. The pickier you are about updating, of course, the longer it takes. And if you’re really picky, you may have to learn to program in php–the language WordPress is written in.
WordPress comes in two forms. The easiest way to get going is on WordPress’s own blogging site, wordpress.com. It’s also the cheapest, since it gives you free hosting in addition to free software. The downside: There’s less freedom to do as you please–for instance, you can’t modify the php code or run advertising–and you don’t get an independent domain name.
For those options, go to wordpress.org and download the WordPress package (basically a collection of php files), then upload them to your host’s server and run the setup program. Of course, you’ll have to have a host first, and one that supports WordPress (most do, but you should ask).
Other forum regulars had their own suggestions. I briefly checked out these ones for you:
Snorg uses Mozilla, which as a development tool has pretty much been replaced by SeaMonkey. This free, open-source web browser comes with a very nice, WYSIWYG, HTML web-page editor. Like FrontPage, it’s a quick and simple way to create and modify web pages, and while it’s not necessary to know HTML, it helps.
Extradesk and Adama both recommended Serif’s WebPlus, which is available in free, $20, and $80 versions. I tried the free and expensive ones. These programs strongly lean towards graphic design, and feel like desktop publishers (in addition to program and resource CDs, the $80 WebPlus X2 comes with two separate template CDs). They also work as closed environments; you create and edit your site in a proprietary file format which you eventually export as HTML. The $80 version comes with a 314-page manual. Expect a learning curve.