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How Do I Choose the Best Open Source HTML Editor?

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  • Written By: Jerry Morrison
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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Choosing the best open source editor for the hypertext markup language (HTML) is a matter of matching the experience of the user, the nature of the project, and the features available in the software. Beginners will likely consider a 'What you see is what you get' (WYSIWYG) editor a good option. An editor of this type allows the user to design a web document by arranging its elements visually, while the editor itself produces the underlying HTML code. Users of all levels of experience would likely benefit from an editor with features such as the ability edit multiple pages simultaneously, search for and replace items within files, and update a website directly from the editor. Since HTML is the predominant standardized language for creating web pages, the inclusion of an HTML validator should be considered an essential feature.

An advanced designer can produce sophisticated web pages with HTML using a simple text editor. Even HTML coding experts do not always need or desire such a hands-on approach. An open source HTML editor should offer features that are a shortcut for the experienced and a necessity for the novice. The editor might also include capabilities that extend beyond the efficient creation of HTML. Features that simplify the maintenance of a website and enable collaboration are also important considerations when choosing an open source HTML editor.

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WYSIWYG editors enable users with little or no knowledge of HTML to design a web page. A design that looks good in the editor does not always present an attractive display when viewed by different web browsers, however. Novices might be better served by an open source HTML editor with a large selection of templates from which to choose. The ability to create and store templates can be beneficial to a more advanced user. WYSIWYG editors are sometimes used by experienced designers, however, to quickly create structures such as complex tables.

The functionality of an open source HTML editor is enhanced by the ability to open and edit multiple files simultaneously. A search and replace function that works over all open pages is highly recommended. Ideally, this function would work across the entire directory structure of a site. HTML tag completion can be a time-saver, especially when it can be adapted to personal coding preferences. The more obvious features such as spelling and grammar checking should not be forgotten.

A built-in file transfer protocol (FTP) capability allows for updating a site directly from the editor. This feature could effectively be incorporated into a version control system that allows for local and hosted copies of a website to remain in sync. Such a system would enhance collaboration by designers and authors separated by workplace or schedule. The inclusion of an HTML validator in the editor is even more of a necessity when a web project is a collaborative effort.

Some features that are not necessities but are nice to have in an open source HTML editor might include a built-in image editing capability. This would eliminate the need to acquire a dedicated image editor and save time switching between programs. A link checker to verify and update links helps to keep a site current. An advanced user might like to see some capability included for JavaScript, extensible markup language (XML) or database connectivity. The same can be said of a cascading style sheet (CSS) validator.

The more popular open source HTML editors are available for most operating systems. A number of software review websites have detailed descriptions of open source software as well as instructions for ordering or downloading. Once the user's requirements are identified, it is a straightforward matter to compare the software features that best satisfy those needs. Open source software programs have widely varying technical support capabilities, however. If this is a concern, then support options should play a more important role in choosing the editor.

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