Authoring Tools

Publishing is one of the biggest challenges on the Web today. We expect tools to become available to ease this, including tools geared for large sites (thousands of documents).

There are many ways you can create web content - by using an editor that generates HTML, by converting text from a text editor to HTML, or by creating the HTML yourself using your favorite text editor -- or by providing the content in its' native format.

There are different schools of thought on which is the best approach. My thinking that an editor is a good choice if you have little interest in Web technologies, or you are starting from scratch, and/or you have a new site. HTML is not hard to learn, but if you simply want to put out a few pages and move on, get yourself a web editor.

If you already have a site it might be harder to start using a new tool, especially if you want to continue using a specific style. A style might include certain page colors, headers, navigation bars, and page formats. While you might be able to do some or all of these in an editor, it might prove easier to create a page template that you can start from for any new page, and doing the new pieces "by hand".

My informal survey of people doing web work indicates that the longer a person has been doing web work the higher the probability they'll be using a text editor. That doesn't make them any smarter, perhaps it just means that some of us are happy sticking with what works. We are also finding that more internal sites are simply leaving the business documents in their initial format (e.g. Word), which is the format their end users are most familiar with.

The best editors we've heard about, or seen, are:

  • BBedit

    BBedit is one of the most popular editors for Mac users. It is highly customizable, and provides built in helpers to handle most of the basic HTML tags, and lets you see how page will look in different Web browsers. Bare Bones is now shipping Version 4 of BBedit - we don't have that yet, but we hear great things about it.

    HotDog Professional

    HotDog Pro is considered by some to be the best HTML editor on the market. HotDog Pro supports every HTML command available, including Netscape extensions. The interface is quite intuitive and easy to use. The Professional version has some features that the standard version lacks, including a spell checker, customizable tags, shortcut keys, colored tags, syntax checker and customizable templates. Future releases reportedly will include Java and a VRML editor. This version is available for Windows.

    HTML Assistant Pro

    HTML Assistant Pro is a point and click HTML editor for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. HTML Assistant Pro supports HTML 2.0 and 3.0. To create a page, you can simply use the "push button" tools. It also supports tables and backgrounds and can track your links. You can create files of any size, as well as spell check your files. HTML Assistant Pro sells for $99.95.


    HTMLpad is an HTML editor for Windows 95 thatıs designed for people who are already familiar with HTML. Essentially, HTMLpad is an HTML writing environment that is set up for you to use. It will quickly format text with the most common HTML tags and customize color templates. HTMLpad can search text easily and allows for unlimited file size. The editor is available to download.

    Visual Web

    Visual Web is an elaborate editor for Windows 95 and Windows NT. By guiding you through the Web development process with wizards, Visual Web makes Web authoring easy. There is an on-screen preview feature and pre-formatted templates. Visual Web is a 32-bit application that supports Java and comes with an FTP client to make moving your Web files to your server simple. Visual Web is available for $79 and can be downloaded for a free 30-day trial.

    HTML Grinder

    HTML Grinder is a drag-and-drop HTML editor for the Macintosh. It is an advanced piece of software that can be used for simple HTML pages. But HTML Grinder can be used more effectively as an application to maintain an entire Web site; it can make changes to many pages at once, link pages automatically, check for broken or out of date links and flag incorrect syntax. This software is designed for the experienced webmaster who needs to update a site on a frequent basis.


    PageSpinner is available for the Mac. It is an HTML editor which supports HTML 2.0 and some of HTML 3.0. PageSpinner also supports some Netscape extensions. As a drag-and-drop application, PageSpinner can be used to easily create tables. Templates of Web pages are included to get you started. Although PageSpinner is a shareware program, there is a registration fee of $25.00.

    PageMill from Adobe

    A Mac-based editor, works on HTML and graphic content. WYSIWYG, but doesn't do tables. Both FrontPage and PageMill (see below) support editing of Web pages on the actual page itself as oppposed to by using HTML. The user can 'drag and drop' gif files, resize text, add special functions, without needing to see any HTML. Both of these tools also provide help in managing the structure of the Web site - an area that needed to be addressed.

    PageMill does have some limitations. It doesn't support tables, as well as some Netscapeisms like align="left" or "right", or differing font sizes. You will probably still need a text editor to clean up more "complex" HTML.

    FrontPage from Microsoft

    FrontPage includes a WYSIWYG HTML editor, web site management tools, a free Personal Web Server, and it allows local or remote authoring and supports geographically dispersed multi-user development teams. In addition to HTML conversion it features include hyperlink browsing, visual application development, interactive forms, graphics generation and full-text indexing, search and retrieval.

    FrontPage has many of the same functions as PageMill, but adds wizards (templates for creating Web pages) and bots (tools to do more complex Web work, such as add-on searching, conferencing or forms creation). Very impressive stuff.

    Some of FrontPage's features:

    • Formats pages just like a standard word processor
    • Contains built-in spell checker
    • Automatically converts RTF and ASCII documents to HTML and a wide range of graphics to GIF and JPEG
    • Converts images to clickable imagemaps instantly with the hot-spot editing functions
    • Can add interactive functionality instantly with WebBots(tm)
    • 20 templates to get started

    To use it you'll need to install their extensions on your server.

    HoTMetaL from SoftQuad

    This was one of the first HTML editors, and it may be falling behind the new entries from Adobe and Microsoft. There is no preview mode, which makes it akward to use, but it provide good assistance to web page developers.

    InContext Spider

    InContext Spider also allows the user to create Web pages that follow HTML's rules using an easy-to-use, interactive interface. The company calls this the first product to integrate editing and browsing into a single process, essentially allowing users to take advantage of the information that resides on the Web while designing their pages. HTML smarts are optional: users employ simple one-step commands to do everything from text editing to creating interactive documents.

    InContext Spider speaks directly to the browser so that you can cruise the Web, find the sites you like, and then insert links to them in your Web page by selecting a simple, one-step command or clicking on the button bar. You can even download a Web page right into InContext Spider, add your own text and graphics, and use it as the foundation for your own page. Other features include:

    • easy-to-use Web Manager to insert and manipulate hypertext links
    • "live" links that let you go to or browse links from within InContext Spider
    • built-in Spider Mosaic browser

    Spider runs on any Windows-based platform.

    Wollongong's Emissary

    Emissary is a group of software applications designed to help users browse, access and organize Web-based data whether it resides externally on the Internet or on internal corporate sites.

    The $149 Emissary Desktop Edition comes with a built-in HTML editor and drag-and-drop interface that allows users to edit HTML documents and quickly manage files and folders. In addition, the version lets users view text, graphics and file attachments in a single window and build links to favorite Web sites. The Emissary Office Edition sells for $399 and includes the same features as the Desktop version. Additional features include advanced terminal emulation and the ability to publish directly to the network with a personal FTP server. Electronic delivery and support for both versions will be available.


    Quarterdeck Office Systems Inc. designed WebAuthor to operate as a companion to Word for Windows 6.0. Users can add graphics, forms and hypertext links by selecting objects from already familiar toolbars, menus and dialogue boxes. They can also use standard word-processor functions such as import filters and spell- and grammar-checking, a real plus considering all the illiterate home pages out there. Documents can be created and saved in Word during editing, and then in HTML when it's time for Web posting.

    A complete list of editors can be found at Yahoo's Index of HTML editors and Mag's Big List of HTML Editors


    If you're using MS Word Internet Assistant provides an easy way to create web pages, as does WebAuthor from Quarterdeck.

    Internet Assistant for Word for Windows is an add-on product that makes it easy to create and edit documents for the Internet and internal corporate Web sites right from within English, French, German, and Italian language versions of Microsoft Word for Windows 95 and Microsoft Word 6.0 for Windows NT. It provides an easy-to-use interface for inserting Hyperlinks, Internet forms, and all of the formatting that people use most.

    INSO Corporation offers several tools to help deal with Word documents. Quick View Plus ($59) operates as a Plug-in for Netscape Navigator 2.0, enabling users to view, copy, and print virtually any document or file--no matter what its source or format--directly from within Navigator. Their Word Viewer Plug-in from Quick View Plus lets you view any Microsoft Word 6.0 or Word 7.0 document from within Netscape Navigator 2.0.

    HTML Transit from InfoAccess converts Word documents into HTML, complete with table of contents. It allows you to set up templates to map Word styles to HTML functions.

    There are many diffent converters around to go from various formats to HTML. Check out Yahoo's list of HTML Converters for the details.

    HTML Tools

    If you are going to be creating HTML "by hand" here are some good references:

    Trouble Shooting

    If you have difficulty figuring out problems you have with your HTML, run it through one of the online tools that will check your syntax, which will often help.

    Dr. HTML
    This is an HTML examination tool which performs spelling checks, image analysis, hyperlink verification and syntax tests.

    Checks syntax - can be very picky, but very useful


Email:  Revised: May 1, 2000

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