If you want the minimum of fuss and the maximum quality — and who doesn’t — then you’re going to need some quality software to back up your own skill. Good software means easy to use, flexible, loads of useful features and if possible, freeness.
Here I’ve reviewed some of the programs that I both use and have used, and give you simple advice on which you should get and where to find them.
This page was last updated on 2012-08-21
When originally building the first versions of this website long ago in the year 2000, I used Notepad on a Windows PC for most of my coding. This was a great way to learn the code inside-out. Eventually I felt confident enough that I could move on to a more powerful HTML editor that performed some of the work for you, like automatically adding closing tags to elements you were typing.
Homesite is no longer available, having been swallowed up by Adobe when they bought Macromedia. Their flagship web design tool is now Dreamweaver, which is a “WYSIWYG” (pronounced wiziwig) editor. That stands for “what you see is what you get” — you design pages visually without writing the code itself, and do all the formatting to the text directly, similarly to how something like Microsoft Word works. In the early versions of Dreamweaver, you couldn’t always be totally sure that the page would look the same once it was opened in a user’s browser, but the modern versions have made great strides towards generating clean code.
It also has some excellent checking features, like a HTML validator, which looks for errors in your code, spellchecker, link checker and “code-sweeper”, which cleans up your code and makes it easier to read. It even has built-in FTP. There is also a great project maker, which allows you to group pages you’ve made into sites, and then edit links site-wide etc. This is very useful for keeping your files organised.
One of the best features only reveals itself after you have created a huge website — site-wide find & replace. This means that if you need to change or fix something on every page in your site, it’s a simple task. Joy.
I like to have full control over all my code, which is why I stick with text-editors. But those of you who prefer to let the software take care of the details while you work on the larger aspects of the design will certainly like it.
PaintShop Pro (Windows)
For creating your own images, and editing others, a web site designer is limited in choice. Do you get the incredibly powerful PhotoShop (with its incredibly high price tag), the optimisation-centered FireWorks, or do you just hope no one notices your site has no graphics?
You do none of these. PaintShop Pro is the best image editor out there, for the price, due to its powerful features and small price. That price is obviously a major draw to people who have just balked at the price of PhotoShop, but thankfully, you are not paying for a stripped-down product. PSP is as fully-featured as anything else, with all the drawing tools you could want, advanced masking and layering options, and a very helpful export utility, which makes cutting down filesizes for the web a breeze. It can save in a multitude of image formats, including all the major ones, and a few you have no doubt never heard of before.
The Gimp (All platforms)
The unfortunately-named Gimp is an image editor built to provide a free alternative to image editing behemoths like Photoshop. Though you can’t argue with the price, the user experience of working with this program is pretty miserable. The menus are difficult to navigate and full of options you rarely want to see. It’s a handy program to have around when you have limited options, but you will be happier with a different editor.
site: » www.gimp.org
version reviewed: 2.4
If you want to get your site up onto the net, a decent FTP client will save you loads of time. Almost all FTP programs work the same way: you have your local files on the left of the screen, your remote files on the right, and you just bring them across, one at a time or the whole load at once. You have full renaming and editing control over remote files. You can save many different sites into a “site manager”, and it will save your passwords and configurations for you.
As these programs are so similar (and are all good quality), I will provide download links and limited commentary.
FileZilla (All platforms)
FileZilla is the FTP program I’ve used most in my life. It’s free, very stable and has served me well for many years.
site: » filezilla-project.org
version reviewed: 3.04
Transmit is one of the most well-known third party applications available for OS X. Though it’s a paid application, for many the better integration with the rest of OS X is worth the price of admission. For something as mundane as an FTP program, Transmit is a joy to use.
Shareware means that you can use the product for a set number of days, a set number of times, or that you can use the product with some of its features disabled. After this period, you send some money to the authors of the program, and it becomes “unlocked”.