HTML 4 For Dummies - Bonus Chapters

Making Coding Easier: HTML Editors


Stone-age HTML was created using only simple text editors, with each and every tag composed by hand. Today, a mere eight years later, hand-coding HTML is no longer the only way to do it, although some authors still prefer it. The latest generation of HTML editors declares that you can “build Web pages without knowing HTML.” Amazing . . . or maybe not.

HTML editors are intended to make Web page creation easier, but editors that claim to do “all the work for you” make us a little nervous. Imagine a word processor that claims to know English grammar and writes your documents for you. Newfangled HTML editors fall just short of a similar declaration, and that’s kind of scary. Before we go on to discuss such editors, we digress for a moment to make a case for why you should know HTML, whether or not your editor gets involved in the process of creation.

Why you should know HTML

There’s a boat-load of reasons why you should know HTML, despite what any HTML-editor marketing gadfly may tell you. We could write an entire book about this, but that’s not why we’re here. Here’s a brief point-by-point rundown of our arguments instead:

We know that you bought HTML 4 For Dummies because you are interested in learning HTML and therefore won’t fall prey to the attractive promises of the many editors out there and give up learning HTML because you don’t think you need to. Take it from us, you need to, even if the editor does 99 percent of the work.

Making an editor work for you

Despite our lecture on why you should know HTML, we don’t want you to think that editors are the spawn of the devil, to be avoided at all costs. Rather, we want you to understand that they are tools like any other tool you use in the development of HTML. Editors have a definite role in page creation. Most of them support drag-and-drop technologies, file linking, site mapping, and more. We use editors for preliminary design and prototyping. After all, it’s much easier to drag-and-drop an image than it is to manually alter the HTML and reload the page in a browser to see if right justified is better than centered. It’s also about a thousand times easier to sit back and have a drink while an editor creates a site outline than it is to code one by hand (we know this from firsthand experience).

Because HTML editors seem to have multiplied as quickly as rabbits, we’d like to give you a few tips on how to choose a good one. Keep in mind that shareware editors aren’t as multifunctional as those that cost real money. If you write a lot of HTML and manage a large site (or more than one site), you may find it better to invest in an editor that can handle many different tasks. At the very least, your editor should

Web Icon Most of the major software players, including companies like Adobe Systems, Symantec Corp., and Microsoft, have jumped into the HTML editor fray, making it difficult to choose an editor for your toolbox. Fortunately, maintains a terrific Web site that includes reviews of most of the major HTML editors available. This site is a great place to start evaluating an HTML editor for your own use. You can reach the site online at

During our last visit, he had reviews listed for 30 separate HTML editors, with an easy-to-follow rating scheme. Nine of the editors rated the highest five-star rating, and five of these also rated as Carl’s picks, including: Microsoft FrontPage 98, Allaire HomeSite v2.5, SoftQuad HoTMetaL Pro, and Luckman WebEdit. Please check Carl’s site for changes and further details.

After you select an HTML editor, you may find that it performs many of the other functions we discuss here. If so, good for you (although maybe not for your wallet). But if not, don’t worry; you don’t need a fancy-schmanzy editor to manage your site. A lot of other tools are available to help you out.

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