When it comes to coding editors, it’s damn hard to a get a clear overview of all the benefits and functionalities different editors have to offer. However, in the end everybody needs one, so it’s important to know which editor is best tailored to your personal needs.
WYSIWYG-editors are often criticized by real coding ninjas for bloated, dirty and not standards-complaint source code they’ve been producing over the last years. However, WYSIWYG-editors have become much better recently. Some of them even produce valid and elegant code.
Sometimes you need to provide your clients with some simple tools to edit or update their web-sites. And this is where the utility of WYSIWYG-editors comes in. As a web-professional you need to provide your clients with some sophisticated advice and offer a simple yet effective tool — e.g. a WYSIWYG-editor.
We believe that it would be wrong to recommend you some “best” editors, because the choice always depends on your requirements, primary goals, skills and experience. Therefore in this article we’ve tried to give you an overview of both useful and deprecated WYSIWYG-editors.
Hopefully, you’ll find some editors you’ve never heard about before. Or maybe you’ll find some features you miss in your current editor and risk to experiment with some promising alternatives to improve your workflow. Besides, you can learn what editors you could use and what tools you shouldn’t use.
What does WYSIWYG mean?
The somehow cryptic abbreviation WYSIWYG stands for “What You See Is What You Get”. In such editors you edit not directly the source code of your documents, but its presentation as it (hopefully) will appear in the final document. So instead of writing blocks of code manually (as you e.g. would do it in Word or Latex), you manipulate with design components using an editor window. This means that you view something very similar to the end result while the document or image is being created.
Dreamweaver (Win / Mac)
Previously Macromedia Dreamweaver, this tool is one of the commonly used editors which can support developers, improve the workflow and save you a lot of time during coding. While previous versions of Dreamweaver sometimes produced rather quirky source code, the last version is able to generate (mostly) quite clean markup.
Dreamweaver also offers numerous helpful tools such as the library of code snippets, ftp management, server debug and an integrated coding development. E.g. you can view CSS information in a single, unified CSS panel that makes it easy to see the styles applied to a specific element, identify where attributes are defined, and edit existing styles without entering Code view. See also our List of Dreamweaver Tutorials. Price: $400 (version CS3).
Some of Dreamweaver’s endless features:
- Advanced CSS Editing
- Integrated coding environment
- Spry framework for Ajax
- Browser Compatibility Check
- Integration with Photoshop CS3 and Fireworks
- Code snippets (e.g. CSS Layouts)
- FTP management
- XML support
- FLV support
- Learning resources (e.g. Adobe CSS Advisor)
- Numerous Dreamweaver add-ons, e.g. SVN for Dreamweaver ($59).
Amaya (Win / Mac / Linux)
What really makes Amaya different is the fact that it is a hybrid of a web browser and a web-page editing application — thus you can browse in the Web and edit your pages in the same application. Created by the WWW-concorcium, this allround-tool allows you to manipulate web-sites, change or update their content, insert new images or links. Of course, if Amaya can display these pages.
The last version of the editor, Amaya 10, was released in February 2008. It is able to work on several documents at a time (several (X)HTML, native MathML (.mml) and SVG (.svg) documents can be displayed and edited at a time). E.g. you can insert mathematical formulas using a pop-up: Amaya converts them via Math-ML on the fly.
Amaya also includes a collaborative annotation application (annotations are external comments, notes, remarks that can be attached to any Web document or a selected part of the document) and it has support for SVG, RDF and XPointer. Open-source.
RapidWeaver is a powerful template-based website creation tool which can generate pages of different kinds, such as styled text, weblog, contact forms, image galleries, Flash slideshows, and podcasts; it also has a built-in FTP uploader, and integration with iPhoto and .Mac.
The editor includes podcasting, inline comments, RSS feeds, custom permalink and tag support. RapidWeaver has also been finely tuned to be SEO friendly. It also has many powerful features such as modifiable themes, live php rendering, mix and match WYSIWYG and HTML, smart publishing, XHTML and CSS based site output, viewable source code, built-in error checking. All templates are XHTML and CSS based. What is remarkable is that all the code RapidWeaver generates is valid. Price: $49.
The main purpose of Adobe Contribute is to allow editing web-sites and blogs for users without any technical expertise. Contribute CS3 enables content authors to update existing websites and blogs while maintaining site integrity. Contribute offers a Dreamweaver integration, enables posting from Microsoft Office and editing from IE 7 and Firefox.
With a WYSIWYG authoring environment, content authors and contributors can edit or update any website or blog without having to learn HTML. Price: $169 (version CS3).
Adobe Golive (Win / Mac)
Once Adobe’s flagship, now GoLive is an editor which even Adobe isn’t really happy with. In April Adobe has stopped development and sales of GoLive 9, which makes GoLive a legacy web authoring application. Adobe recommends its GoLive users to switch to Dreamweaver which is why you probably shouldn’t recommend GoLive (actually a remarkably powerful editing tool, see features below) to your clients.
Some of Adobe GoLive 9 features
- Designer styles
- Visual CSS layout
- Place command
- Adobe InDesign® integration
- Color management
- Platform support
- Site management tools
- Publish Server
- Smart Objects
Microsoft Expression Web
Microsoft Expression (Win)
Once being severely criticized for its really bad web-editors (Frontpage), Microsoft’s recent editor, Expression, seems to have learnt a lot from its predecessors. Expression attempts to comfort web-users with features which are remarkably similar to Adobe Dreamweaver. However, in a direct comparison Dreamweaver offers more and produces a cleaner code. Nevertheless, Expression does produce decent standards-compliant code and knows how to deal with CSS and CSS-layouts.
The Studio edition with further software applications (graphic design tool, video encoding tool etc.) costs ca. $500. Single Expression package costs $350. You can get Expression by updating Frontpage and thus save some money. A 60 days trial version can be downloaded for free, however a registration is required.
Please notice: Expression isn’t a successor of Frontpage, rather a different development tool. Microsoft Expression, which bears striking similarity to Microsoft SharePoint Designer, is rather designer-oriented, aimed at general web development. Microsoft SharePoint Designer which reflects the emphasis on designing and customizing SharePoint-based sites, can be considered as Frontpage’s big brother.
Some of Microsoft Expression features:
- ASP.NET 2.0 Integration
- Advanced CSS rendering
- XPath Expression Builder
- Build and format views of industry-standard XML data
- Tag Property Grid
- Accessibility Checking
- Real-time Standards Validation
- Full Schema Support
NVU (Win / Mac / Linux)
This editor should once become a real alternative to dominating products: an ultimate WYSYWIG-editor for Linux, Microsoft Windows and Mac which could rival FrontPage and Dreamweaver. And in some aspects Nvu indeed offers more features than one would expect from a completely free software.
Nvu (pronounced as N-view, for a "new view") offers integrated file management via FTP, powerful support for forms, tables and templates and it is indeed very easy to use. CaScadeS, the well-known CSS editor add-on, is integrated into Nvu and enables you to create and manage stylesheets easily and see your style settings applied ‘”live” to the document you’re editing.
Nvu is open source and released under the Mozilla Public License (MPL). Unfortunately, the development of NVU hasn’t been continued over the last years. An advanced, improved version of NVU is KompoZer.
Some of NVU’s features:
- Site manager allows you to review the sites that you’re building
- XML support
- Built-in validator
KompoZer (Win / Mac / Linux)
This tool is a branch of NVU which has been developed further after the development of NVU has slowed down. KompoZer is a complete web authoring system that combines web file management and WYSIWYG-editing.
KompoZer is designed to be extremely easy to use, making it a feasible solution for users who want to create sites without obtaining technical knowledge. Compared to NVU, Kompozer produces a cleaner markup and has visible marks — visible carriage returns and block borders.
The last version was released in August 2008. Kompozer can be considered as a sound alternative for small projects and for users without technical knowledge. But it’s definitely too weak for professional web-development.
Namo WebEditor 2006
Namo WebEditor 2006 (Win)
Namo WebEditor combines almost all tools which are necessary for creating web-sites in a simple and user-friendly interface. The interface elements are remarkably intuitive, simple and easy-to-use. You can switch between a design-editor, HTML and browser-preview. You can also use a number of wizards to automate your workflow. Namo is powerful, however its WYSIWYG-features are limited. The editor wasn’t updated since 2006 which is why the producing source code is sometimes extremely quirky. Namo Web Editor Pro comes with a Flash editing program as well as a graphics program. A test-version is available. Price: $99.95.
Some of Namo Webeditor features:
- Code Helpers for speedy auto tag completion
- Quick Tag Editor
- Tag Selector
- HTML/CSS Reference
Evrsoft First Page 2006
Evrsoft First Page 2006 (Win)
Actually, this editor is highly underrated. It’s not that popular and it hasn’t been updated since 2006, but it has some quite useful features one wouldn’t find in advanced WYSIWYG-editors. E.g. Auto History feature remembers all the attributes and values commonly used and suggests the “right” value automatically.
Dual Preview Engine enables you to preview your web documents in multiple browsers within First Page 2006. You can preview your work in Internet Explorer, Mozilla or view your page in both browsers side-by-side (horizontal/vertical pane swap). And a real-time visual source rendering engine offers document editing and previewing without the typical code tampering usually seen in WYSIWYG editors.
A number of integrated tools produce decent standards-based code, quickly and easily. First Page is freeware. Similar freeware alternative (also not updated since 2005): Selida HTML Editor.
Some of First Page’s features:
- CSS Class Support & Auto Detection
- Syntax Highlighting
- Tag Document Selection Tool
- Tag Auto Completion
- Tidy HTML Power Tools
- Preview in IE as you type
- Image Mapper
- CSS Style Sheet Designer
- Server Side Includes Support
- Highly customizable Toolbars and Interface
- FTP client
- Advanced Find & Replace In Files
Microsoft SharePoint Designer
Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2007 (Win)
Microsofts Frontpage successor. SharePoint Designer is a standard WYSIWYG-editor. Apart from support for interactive ASP.NET pages it doesn’t offer something revolutionary. Free trial is available. There is an online-version which requires Internet Explorer and a large potion of patience.
Some of Sharepoint’s features:
- support for interactive ASP.NET pages
- create Data Views from RSS, XMl, Office XML
- collaborate with the built-in Workflow Designer
- CSS tools
- track customized pages
- spelling checker
- SharePoint Server 2007 integration
This editor was once probably the worst yet extremely popular WYSIWYG-editor. It produced horrible source code (only MS Word produced worse source code), but was often given away by web-hosting companies and ISPs. NetObjects Fusion allows you to create web-sites without any technical knowledge. Particulalry if you’d like to create a business card, you may get it done in minutes. But if you want to create professional web-sites, NetObjects isn’t an option worth considering.
Currently NetObjects Fusion is available in its 10th version. The quality of the produced source code might have changed, but it doesn’t really matter. There is a trial-version which requires you to register in a shop. Which is why we have no screenshot for the product. Price: €100.
Quanta Plus (Linux)
Quanta Plus is a stable, very comfortable and feature rich web development environment. Quanta has created an editor designed for efficient and natural use and with maximal user extensibility.
The editor is capable of both WYSIWYG and handcoding interface. It features tag completion as you type and tag editing through a dialog interface, script language variable auto-completion, project management, live preview and a PHP debugger. It also has a visual CSS editor, autocompletion for CSS, offers high extensibility and integrated preview.
The editor has also nice features for project management, including support for local and remote (through the network) projects. Project files can be uploaded to many servers using various protocols. CVS support is integrated, Subversion support is possible through external plugins. Quanta is based on KDE. Released under GPL.
Freeway (originally Uniqorn) comes in two flavours, Freeway Pro and Freeway Express. Freeway 5 Pro can be used to create CSS page layouts using absolute positioning. Advanced procedures (like connecting to a MySQL database using a scripting language like PHP) are done through plug-ins called “Actions”. Several Actions can be downloaded for free on several websites, but there are also commercial 3rd Party Actions.
There is a trial-version which requires you to fill in a quite long web form. Freeway has been nominated for the Macworld 2008 Awards in the Creative Web Product of the year section. If you use Mac, FreeWay is together with RapidWeaver probably first option worth considering.
Some of Freeway’s features:
- Multiple Master Pages
- Layout Tools
- Link Map
- Link Styles
- Integrated .Mac upload
- Internet Explorer Compatibility
- Support for Sliced Background Images
- Built-in preview within Freeway (Safari/Webkit)
- Full EPS (Panther & later), Illustrator, Photoshop layered file import
- Freeway Shop
- Work with Blogger Templates
SeaMonkey Composer (Win / Mac / Linux)
This editor is a simple yet powerful alternative for large commercial applications. Being a successor of Netscape Composer, SeaMonkey Composer doesn’t really have anything common with it.
The editor is powerful yet simple and offers dynamic image and table resizing, quick insert and delete of table cells, improved CSS support, and support for positioned layers. The WYSIWYG-editor is built into SeaMonkey, an all-in-one web application suite.
Create combines the major features of applications like Illustrator, InDesign, Pages, GoLive, Canvas, DreamWeaver, QuarkExpress, Streamline in one easy-to-use, low-cost, OS X native application. Among other things you can add links to text and graphics with drag-n-drop, the tool automatically creates navigation bars and index and you can produce PDF and web-sites from one document.
WYSIWYG Web Builder
WYSIWYG Web Builder
Web Builder is a highly customizable and extensible application with numerous features, scripts and templates. New design elements are added via drag’n'drop, many scripts. Image editing is available within the software.
The PayPal eCommerce Tools are integrated; RSS Feed object with podcast option, blog with built-in RSS feed option and Google compatible sitemap generator are available. The editor also has numerous extensions such as password protection, RSS feed, RSS parser, photo album and lightboxes.
Editors for non-professionals, newbies and small companies
iWeb is small, compact and simple. You can switch the theme of any page with the click of your mouse. Mix themes in a site if you wish. You can place Google Maps and Google AdSense ads on your web pages and simplify navigation by dragging your photo albums to a sleek, animated index page. Web widgets, live content from other sites, like video, stock tickers, and headline news can also be added with few clicks. Price: $7. No trial-version is available.
Sandvox features drag-and-drop website assembly, live editing without a preview mode, over 40 designs, and 17 different pagelets. It’s an easy and elegant website creation tool for people who don’t want to spend too much time developing their websites.
Drag and drop content, watch your site take shape as you create it, and make it available to others with Sandvox’s publishing assistant. Pricing starts at 49,- USD.
Sitegrinder (Win / Mac)
SiteGrinder is a Photoshop Plug-in that converts Photoshop designs to web sites. It is smart. It has many many features. It is easy to use. Trial-version is available. Pricing starts at $129.
Studioline Web3 (Win)
BlueVoda is offered as a free download but requires a VodaHost account to publish the website to. BlueVoda looks very similar to Microsoft Office’s interface, like most WYSIWYG editors HTML code is hidden allowing the user to create websites without knowing code and having components such as tables, text formatting and the rest.
Website X5 (Win)
WebSite X5 is a completely visual software: web-sites aren’t coded but “clicked” together. Remarkable: the results are standards-conform. Price: $60+.
<oXygen/> (Win / Linux / Mac)
Actually, <oXygen/> is an advanced XML editor, but it also offers a number of useful tools for both newbies and professional web-developers. In fact, you can exploit the tool for editing (X)HTML-web-documents. E.g. it makes easier the document sharing between content authors by including a Subversion (SVN) client. The SVN client allows you to browse repositories, check for changes, commit changes, update your working copy and examine the revision history. The editor is available as standalone desktop or Java Web Start application, or as an Eclipse plugin. Price: $59.
No code and text-editors? Wait, there will be more. Tomorrow.