WYSIWYG HTML Editors: Nice, Clean Web Documents?

Does anyone know if they exist?

Please add a comment if I'm wrong, but I can't find any that is simple to use and creates clean HTML.

This is an update of my previous article about Mozilla Composer. I have since decided that Mozilla Composer is more trouble than it is worth in its current state and went looking for alternatives.

Here are some of the programs I tried:

Amaya

Okay, so it may look like it was written by a bunch of high school students... and appear to try and flaunt GUI standards wherever it can. Kind of strange when you consider this is meant to be a visual program and is created by W3C. It's main saving grace is that it seems to actually created decent HTML underneath the covers. Until, I find something else. I guess I'm going to have to live with, Amaya, or maybe go back to HTML-Kit and/or Vim.

Things I find annoying in Amaya (Note: I've not extensively researched solutions for these, but if solutions are there, they haven't jumped out and grabbed me yet)

  • I cringe every time I see the hideous toolbar icons.
  • The text starts off looking quite small on my screen. You can zoom, but I haven't found out how to start zoomed in (Alt = is the hotkey).
  • The menus, dialogs and the whole GUI experience is just plain strange.
  • You have to hit enter twice to get a bullet to appear in one of these lists.
  • View source highlights the line numbers when you make a multi-line selection and it appears as if it is going to include the line numbers when you paste the selection. Luckily this is not the case.

Javascript and Active X based HTML Editors

I may come back to these, especially for online use. I didn't find any of these that had a nice page setup for easy offline use. You also miss out on features such as auto-saving, etc that a real application can provide.

Open Office

Back in 1999? I downloaded the first release of Star Office, which is/was based on this open source project. I (and a lot of other people from what I can tell) were totally turned off by Star Office's attempts to recreate the Windows desktop within itself. It had a "Start" button rip off and everything.

2004 and I feel brave enough to try again. At least it now looks vaugely normal. It actually looks quite bare. I only really used the equivalent of Microsoft Word.

I didn't mind it at first, but it wasn't long before I gave up on this. HTML editing support is pretty poor in the GUI and the generated HTML codes are not complete, eg creates list tags with no closing tag. Trying to get list tags to do what I wanted was a nightmare and ended up with me having to clean it up manually. Overall, it didn't seem a very well polished product, maybe I'll come back in another four years ;)

Nvu (Mozilla Composer's Phoenix)

The people at Lindows have taken Mozilla Composer and are trying to build a competitor to Dreamweaver and Frontpage by splitting out Mozilla Composer from the main Mozilla package and turning it into a stand-alone application.

Good luck to them I say, but when I last used this product it was still pretty close to being just Mozilla Composer. It should be one to keep an eye on though. Let's hope it can generate the excitement that Firefox seems to get.

Mozilla Composer

Mozilla Composer... I'm using it right now as I type this. Mozilla version 1.7.

Now let's compare. Just taking that first sentence and pasting it into Microsoft Word and viewing it as HTML starts adding font sizes to the document source. Not so in Mozilla Composer... This is great if you are a developer and want a WYSIWYG editor without the associated pain of wading through countless special, needless and unwanted tags.

So how does Mozilla Composer stack up?

At first view it is pleasing to the eye and looks like a really easy tool to pick up and start being productive. Have a glance at the available toolbar helper buttons and just start typing away using them toolbar buttons as you see fit. Easy!

One nifty feature I noticed is that you can publish the page to an address when you have finished.

There is also a spell checker for those who are challenged in this area... and for those who aren't, it's pretty easy for something to escape your attention. It even allows you to add all those technical words that don't seem to have made it into the English language yet.

Whilst you are checking things, there is also a button that links to an online HTML validator. You still haven to browse to add the file you are editing, so this requires an Internet connection and further clicking... not quite as seamless as one might wish for.

One strange thing I noted was that you start in "Body Text" mode. This means all you end up with line breaks instead of paragraphs. If you want paragraphs though, just select it in the drop down.

I haven't tried a Netscape based composer since Netscape Communicator Gold. I still recall my shock and horror as it took my carefully formatted university project that I had painstakingly crafted in Vim. I soon got over that though and came to enjoy the time saved by not having to open and close all those tags.

I have used Macromedia Dreamweaver before and it seems really nice from my limited playtime, but I don't really need all those features for my current usage... and I don't really want to pay that much for it either.

I've also previously used Chami's HTMLKit product before, and while it is nice enough, I'm not aware of it providing a WYSIWYG feature.

I also toyed with the idea of using the cute looking HTMLArea script and making a local HTML page for my simple editing purposes.

I also downloaded a whole pile of other editors, but haven't got around to playing with those in depth. Maybe later, we'll see how Mozilla Composer goes first.

So Mozilla Composer meets my simply needs for being able to quickly type up HTML documents locally for later transition to a CMS system. Next time I want to write something like a JSP, I will probably give it a whirl too.

And my final word of advice, you can never hit Ctrl + S too many times.

Add some comments if you found some other good sources of clean HTML generation.