Sunday, May 27, 2012

Web Editors

I've been designing and producing Web pages since 1994, when the USGS developed their first Web presence for real-time water resources data, namely the satellite data from streamflow and lake gaging stations around the US. I was in charge of overseeing the Web data and pages for Washington, working in conjunction wiht the national folks in charge of the software package.

I learned to code Web pages with html 1.0, a text editor (vi on Unix systems) and Mosaic browser (if you're old enough to remember this one). I also learned Web designed from a former journalist turned press/public relations specialist for the office. After that it was learn by doing as there were few guides or references.

The journalist taught me the general ideas about Web design using the fundamental principles for standard newspapers and magazines, namely reading the basic 8 1/2 x 11 inch page or 600 x 800 (pixel) Web page, which I've expanded to 900 x 1024 (pixel) page size with a 600 (pixel) wide content. In short what the eye reads with little or no left-to-right movement.

I've stuck with this approach ever since. It's easy to work with for design, the old-fashioned keep-it-simple- stupid idea, and it's why all my Web pages look similar, and yes antiquated, and print without any adjustments to the printer settings. In fact it's how I edit, on paper, and then translate the edits to the computer file.

I've also kept with the coding approach than the approach most of the Web design software package use, the what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) where you move boxes around and write in the boxes or use the graphic user interface (GUI) to enter information about code, tags, etc. For years with the USGS, the standard Unix text editor (vi) was the tool I used, and had to learn html code.

When I retired to work on my own Website I decided to upgrade to a better text editor than vi or its variations. I got Adobe Creative Suite 2 GoLive and after some tinkering I liked it, and still use as my one of my two primary editor. It's dated, from 2008, and has only been OS-X compatible due to Adobe good application design for Mac's and OS-X.

I don't expect it to last many more years as OS-X evolves, but it's a workhorse for easy code writing. Since then I've played with an array of other Web editors on the market to find an equal or better code writing one which has some more and newer tools for checking html and css validity. To date I have seven editors.

Yeah, it's overkill to try a bunch but it's handy when I learn them and can use each one on different sets of Web pages - all my Web pages are independent pages you can access directly or throuth the universal navigation throughout the pages and also, as mentioned, print them as you see them.

But for most work I use two for the majority of my work with another two for other work where I can open sets of Web pages to always be available to update and upload. To that end, here's a basic review of them, remembering I'm focusing on code writing and not wysiwyg design.

First, as noted, is Adobe GoLive, and it's, and noted, dated and my workhorse editor, prefect for just writing code in an easy to read and write format. And it remembers the windows along with the size and position of each one when you open, partly from OS-X 10.7 (Lion) for which windows (pages) and itself (size and position.

Second is Adobe Dreamweaver, which I started with Creative Suite 4. This editor took a long time to learn as it's also a Website management application along with many features and tools for any workstyle from code writing to pure wysiwyg production. The latest iteration, CS6, is ok, so far.

They changed some things I don't like, namely it only works in full screen mode and on a 27" monitor it's overkill, and I'm always readjusting the size and position to similar to CS5 which remember smaller window sizes and position control. I don't know if I'm missing something in the user setting (common) but if not, it's irritating and something to fix.

Third is BBEdit, which I have to say if you just want a great code writer/editor, this is the one to have. It's easy to use with a straight-forward design. The only thing about verison 10 I don't like over version 9.6 is the list of Web pages is on the left and not the right, but that's personal preference.

The fourth is Coda which I recently acquired and after some setup is quite good for code writing. It also has an easy straight-forward design, different than BBEdit but very good for itself, and is easy to use.

That said about these, I would easily recommend that each is worth their price, even if Dreamweaver isn't cheap. It's a package often used by experienced, commercial Web designers. BBEdit and Coda are fair priced and worth it. Now to the rest of the lot.

The fifth is Espresso which I added recently and while it's good, it has this really weird color scheme for the code without any choices except create your own. Not smart since the color scheme is hard to adjust to reading the code and tags, but it has a work design similar to Coda.

The sixth is SEEdit and seventh is RapidWeaver which are ok but have major flaws I don't like. Both of them work from the project workspace and require you to import your entire Website into the project folder for the package.

To explain things, I keep all the files for the Website in the original project and folder setup originally by GoLive and only want any Web editor to read and write those files without having to setup copies or new projects. Simply open, work and save, and as plain text where any editor can read and use the files.

That said, some of the other editors setup project folders, but only for keeping the history of files you work with in the editor, simply file management for the application but not the Website. Dreamweaver, BBEdit and Coda don't setup project files or folders unless you want to link and publish them to your Website. Espresso does have a project file, but once done, it's the same as the others.

The reason is that I manually control what is uploaded through Fetch (FTP) which my Website host requires to interface with their servers. Rage Sitemap Automator also works with the Website host through settings,. I just don't want the editors doing this and I want to either turn this feature off or not use it.

This is where RapidWeaver doesn't work. First, it's for creating Web pages for a new Website than working with an existing one. It doesn't recognize the files I have unless I import the files into the project and system. It's more for the wysiwyg Web designer, and as such I haven't updated it to the latest version, nor plan to do so.

The other one, SEEdit is similar to RapidWeaver but will work with existing files in the same folder. The user interface to me has some quirks I can't get around because there's no user preference or setting for it. Yeah, small stuff, but when you're writing code the small things interrupt your workflow.

Like? Well you can't turn off line wrap. I like to see all the lineup vertically and scroll right for longer lines. The others do this but not this one. For another there's no line numbers down along the left side, only on the botom showing what line you're at. I like number on the left to track where I'm at in the file.

Otherwise, it's ok and maybe worth the $9 they're selling the upgrade, but debateable to me if I'll keep and use it to think about an upgrade in the future. There are better ones doing similar things without less fuss and better interface.

That said, I have to add an eighth application but it's not a Web editor but a text editor. I use GoLive for editing the one CSS file with the Web page (simplicity, remember) and I use TextWrangler for editing the XML files with the Google maps. This replaced Mac's text (OS-X) editor.

Anyway, that's a quick appraisal of the Web editor I use. If I had to recommend any, I'd recommend Dreamweaver if you want to manage your Website and more, including templates, wysiwyg design tools, etc. It's not easy to learn but the best and most powerful of the lot.

For just text editors, BBEdit or Coda are the best. They also have more tools and features to manage Web pages to the Website if you want those along with other tools and features, but to me, they're just great code editors.

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