A few years ago, website developers would have gone straight to Frontpage when looking for a HTML editor, however since then the market has evolved and Frontpage has been subsequently discontinued (with the latest version being Frontpage 2003 which was released 10 years ago). but what alternatives are available on the market? This article will be discussing the other HTML/CSS editors out there and if they’re any good. All of the editors here are WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), which means that they are user friendly to people who may not be comfortable editing raw HTML code. WYSIWYG editors allow the user to preview the code in real-time as it would be displayed on a webpage, without having to save it and upload to the World Wide Web. This is a fairly long article, so to make it more manageable, I’ll be splitting it up into two sections; Web Page Design tools, and code editors (HTML/CSS).
Web Page Design tools
Supported OS: Windows
The ‘original’ HTML editor, probably one of the first commercial editors, came with the Microsoft Office package up until 2003 when it was discontinued.
- Relatively easy to use
- No knowledge of HTML needed
- You can create databases (Access, SQL etc.) through the program
Cons: Unfortunately, being a Microsoft product, Windows is the only supported platform, so this may be a problem if you or your organisation only uses Mac or Linux
Overall: The major problem with Frontpage is that it has been discontinued. For a start, it is no longer sold through the official Microsoft website. Technical support also ended in January 2011, so if you have any problems you would need to use online message boards and forums. However, if you really need a copy of Frontpage for some reason, eBay would probably be your best bet.
Microsoft Expression Web
Supported OS: Windows
Pricing: Originally available to buy, Microsoft announced at the start of 2013 that it would be discontinued and made available online as a free download.
This could be thought of essentially as Frontpage v2 as it was released shortly after Microsoft discontinued Frontpage. The user interface is completely different to Frontpage and there are a few added features.
However this software was also discontinued in December 2012, but Microsoft Expression Web 4 can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft website here – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36179
- Free to download
- Support for Silverlight
- Less features and templates than Dreamweaver for example
- ‘Superpreview’ mode which allowed developers to check the website code for browser compatibility no longer works
- Compatibility issues with Frontpage file/server extensions
- No support for Mac or Linux systems
Now that this product has now been discontinued, it’s probably not advisable to work on any major website projects on it as if you encounter any issues, Microsoft may not be able to help and you may have problems transferring your project files/templates to another editor. Also, do be aware that it may not be possible to directly transfer your Frontpage files to Expression Web due to a change in the file extension. More information on Frontpage/Expression Web compatibility can be found on the Microsoft website.
Adobe Dreamweaver CS6
Supported OS: Windows, Mac
Pricing: It is available for a one-time fee of $399 from Amazon.com, or alternatively you can subscribe to the Creative Cloud version which varies in price depending on your circumstances (pricing can be found here – http://www.adobe.com/products/dreamweaver/buying-guide.html). This is likely a piece of software which you will recognise the name of, as Dreamweaver is well-known in the web design industry and is now becoming the general preferred editor for developers/designers.
Whilst Dreamweaver was initially made available through a physical purchase, a CC (Creative Cloud) version has recently been released which offers increased functionality and the option to synchronise to your cloud account. This means you can log in to your account from a computer anywhere in the world and have access to your files.
- Packed with features and functions
- Easy to alternate between code and design view
- HTML 5 / CSS 3 support
- Advanced FTP support
- jQuery mobile support
- ‘Live View’, which allows developers to test cross-browser compatibility and to ensure design consistency across different browsers
- Interface is customisable to suit your needs
- Properties bar
- Highlighting of code
- Code suggestions/auto-complete
- PhoneGap support meaning you can convert the HTML code into an Android/iOS/BlackBerry app
- Relatively expensive
- ‘Busy’ user interface may confuse beginners
- Whilst the WYSIWYG view is usually accurate, it’s usually advisable to check it in your actual web browser too
- You may find that you’re only actually using a very small number of the features that come with the software
Overall: Out of all of the editors, this is the most feature-packed editor for the intermediate to advanced user. For what you get, Dreamweaver is a good value product for use in a professional environment. By investing in this, you’ll have access to advanced features and be able to design websites that might be too complicated to work on in other editors.
However, if you’re only looking to build a simple website or are just starting out in the field, you might want to try one of the free browsers listed below before making the investment. Or you could subscribe to a month of the Dreamweaver CC version to see what you think before buying the software or committing to a long-term subscription.
So overall, if you’re a professional developer/designer and need a reliable HTML editor packed with features and functions, Adobe Dreamweaver would be your best option. If you run a WordPress blog or other CMS, Aloha Editor would be a good fit. Otherwise, you could experiment with any of the free editors to see which one is right for you.