An open toolboxBeing a web producer, I often run into situations where a client wants me to recommend a tool that they can use to edit their web site. If they are a Windows user, the most common software that they have on hand is Microsoft’s FrontPage, but I have to say that this is one of the worst HTML editors you can use. I do everything I can to try and talk the client out of using it and when I’m successful, then they ask me what I recommend instead. That’s a tough question to answer, but here’s a few recommendations you might find helpful.

What’s Wrong With FrontPage?
The reason web professionals loathe FrontPage is because the software sucks. There’s no easy way to say it – it just sucks. FrontPage is notorious for polluting your pages with extreme amounts of additional code. Code that isn’t needed nor functional. You pages may work in Internet Explorer, but more often than not, your pages wont look right, or even work in other browsers.

The biggest gripe though is that after a web professional has spent hours creating your site, FrontPage will redesign your pages/site completely un-doing all the work that’s been done. If you’ve hired someone to create a web site for you, the last thing you want to do is destroy all the work that you just paid for.

Option 1: Go Pro with Macromedia Dreamweaver
Dreamweaver is one of the most widely used web design tool on the market and has been for years. At $399 (as of this writing), it’s the most expensive, but it’s worth it. Chances are, if you’ve hired a web designer, it’s what they’re using, so if you want to work along side them, Dreamweaver is a perfect fit.

What I like best about Dreamweaver is that is the one of the best tools out there for pre-produced code. If I design a site and then hand it over to the client and they use Dreamweaver, I don’t have to worry that they’ll break the site.

Option 2: Go Pro-Consumer with TopStyle
TopStyle was created by Nick Bradbury, who also created the now infamous HomeSite HTML editor. HomeSite development has been dormant for sometime, since it’s also owned by Macromedia, so Nick create a new tool for everyone to use in TopStyle.

For the average person who doesn’t know HTML, TopStyle can be a bit scary, but once you learn the interface, you’ll be surprised at how powerful the program is. The program was developed from the ground up for supporting CSS, which is what most modern web sites are built with. A little geeky, but a great tool. You can download a demo before purchasing it to see if TopStyle is right for you. The cost is $79.95.

Option 3: Go Consumer with Coffee Cup HTML Editor
If you’re looking for something a little bit easier to get into, then Coffee Cup’s HTML Editor should be right up your alley. Coffee Cup makes great software and their HTML Editor is no exception.

The focus on this software is making design easier, so they’ve included a ton of handy features into the program. You can see a full list of features at this link. From free templates and icons, to built-in FTP, this is the software that made Coffee Cup Software what they are today. It’s the cornerstone of their company. There’s a demo, so that you can try before you buy and the price can’t be beat at $49.

[ Get CoffeeCup – HTML Editor & Web Design Software ]

Option 4: Go Free with Nvu
Nvu is one of those programs that make you scratch your head wondering how they can offer the software for free. Although I prefer the other options already mentioned, Nvu is a great solution if you’re on a budget and need something for free.

Originally developed for Linux, Nvu is also available for Windows and other operating systems. There’s a ton of features built-in and Nvu can handle advances tasks, such as XML and CSS, so it’s definitely worth a spin.

So What Do I Use?
To be honest, I’ve never used the products I’ve just mentioned. I’ve heard great things about them and I may have played with them once or twice, but I just don’t like WYSIWYG editors. I learned HTML 3.2 using a text editor and that’s what I’m comfortable with. If I want to see what a page looks like, then I’ll open it in a browser, but when I’m working on a web page, I want to see the code.

My favorite tool of choice is Edit+ and I use it ALL the time. Whether I’m creating a web page, or drafting a weblog post, such as this one, I’m usually in Edit+. If you’re looking for a text editor, I don’t think you can find a better one for Windows.

Wrapping It Up
So if you’re looking to get into HTML and web design, or you just want to manage a web site you already have, one of these 4 options should fit the bill. Since most have a demo mode, I suggest you download them all and give them all a test drive. It’s only after you’ve had a chance to “kick the tires” that you really get an understanding if a tool is right for you.

If you decide that it’s all just too much work, my company would be happy to help. 🙂