know any good web authoring tools?

I keep trying to convince myself I’m really not into designing websites. I like to tinker a bit but mostly I just want to throw up the pages and get on to more meaningful things. But then I realize that I want to do it a little better than the default approach. And if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it right.

The correct approach to authoring pages nowadays seems to be via XHTML and CSS. Conceptually this is the right move. I’m a software guy. It’s separation of concerns. Got it. The problem I am having is that the tools I am aware of still do not support this style of development well. Putting together a clean and accurate CSS seems to be more black magic than science. The point is is that as software engineering has evolved to embrace the separation, the tools available to software engineers have evolved to support it. I’m sure this is the case with web authoring tools as well. But I have no idea what they are.

I currently use FrontPage but purely as an HTML editor. I like the ability to work in either the design or code view – and the preview tab is handy. I usually leave the CSS in a text editor since it means I can view both the HTML (rendered or in code) and the CSS at the same time.

I’ve also used Adobe/Macromedia DreamWeaver. While I appreciate the quick reference guides available and the straight-up HTML editing (FrontPage likes to think it’s being helpful a little too often), the design view leaves something to be desired.
Any suggestions?


  1. Well, I prefer to do things by hand. These days, I end up having to correct the effects of WYSIWYG editors, so I don’t like them much. But it sounds to me like maybe you should check out the latest version of Adobe GoLive. It’s very standards-oriented.

    It might just be that you need a better text editor. I use the venerable TextPad on Windows and TextMate on Macs, and both are capable of sending whatever script you’re working on to the appropriate browser. I prefer viewing my documents in a ‘real’ browser versus the design view of an editor, because I know there can be discrepancies. Scroodat!

  2. I mostly use the WYSIWYG editors in code-mode and switch the design mode for a sanity check. It’s nice with more involved pages since you can highlight in one view and you will see it in the other. Saves bouncing around.

    The problem with the editors I’ve been using is that they are pretty much useless for style sheets. First, adjustments made in the design view are captured in style attributes of the appropriate element rather than in the style sheet. I see why this would be the case: the assumption probably is that you are overriding the style sheet. But there are times when what you really want is a change to the CSS. Second, the changes are explicit and rigid: heights and widths are explicitly captured and in pixels rather than percentages. They need to be more flexible.

    I’ll have to look into GoLive. I’m wondering if there isn’t something little more simple. Perhaps there is an eclipse plug-in. That would be nice – esp. if a few plug-ins glued together to support AJAX.

  3. Another program that looks promising, but I haven’t tried, is TopStyle. I was looking for something that would help detect orphaned styles. I’m not sure if it’ll do what I wanted, but it looked like a pretty cool program nonetheless. If the browser bug screens work as advertised, it would be worth it just for that.