JOHN DAIGLE
Front Page
Allaire's HomeSite and Microsoft's FrontPage 98 make a great dynamic duo for a perfect HTML editing suite. Whoops, wait a minute. Maybe that should be HotDog Pro in combo with FrontPage. On the other hand, I sure like that new Coffee Cup editor from those sharp folks down in Corpus Christi. The one with all those pre-built JavaScript tricks for non-programmers like me. On the other hand, have you seen Macromedia's Dreamweaver! 

Arrrrgh! I'm drowning in a pool of HTML tools. The trouble is that I'm very fickle. My loyalty to software is only as solid as the next "demo" download. Trial software is so seductive that it's hard to know when to stop and learn one or two tools really well. So, here's what I've done. I've chosen FrontPage 98 as my main workhorse but keep a copy of HomeSite nearby when I want to fiddle with the code. I'm a writer, not a macho coder. FrontPage's WYSIWYG way of letting me see the graphics and text lets me build pages quickly. More importantly, it builds entire sites quickly and manages them as the pages start growing like Topsy. Every time I change the name of a URL link or graphic, it corrects any reference to those items throughout the Website in seconds. Dirty work like forms and frames are a piece of cake. FrontPage also excels at table building. You simply "draw" the tables. With the mouse pointer pull the borders right, left, up down. It's all done graphically without looking at one ugly tag. 

However, even though FrontPage 98 has a much improved HTML text editor, it hits the wall on major code changes. For example, if I want to change a font tag from "-1" to a size "+2" and do it globally throughout the entire site, I'm out of luck with FrontPage's built-in editor. That's where my HomeSite comes in handy. HomeSite is a text-based code editor. Sort of Notepad on steroids. With it, I can do an industrial strength "find and replace" in seconds flat. The great thing about it is that it will look across directories and even network drives. This can come in handy if you're working within an authoring workgroup on a LAN. 

Another reason I use FrontPage is that I don't just build pages and sites for myself. I make them for clients who want to make modifications when I'm not around. So, after handing over the keys to a brand new Website to the client, we also teach them FrontPage. It's easy to learn because it works very much like a word processing program.

 As for the others, Coffee Cup is definitely a "comer" text-based editor and I'm expecting them to really make an impact in another version or two. Another robust program I'm going to learn more about is Macromedia's Dreamweaver. The learning curve is a little steep, but I can see a nice payoff, especially since it's integrated with Flash 2 and a jazzy new graphics program, Fireworks. Those are my tools...today. But, wait. Do I smell a fresh demo download over at Tucows.com? 

John S. Daigle is a member of the Society for Technical Communication and a corporate World Wide Web consultant. A frequent presenter at many industry conferences and workshops, John also provides professional consultation to a variety of clients ranging from state government agencies to the nation's largest technology companies. He is a regular columnist for Connected Magazine and was a contributor to the book Building Windows 95 Help. He is also the creator and host of the website HyperTexas (www.hypertexas.com), an online watering hole for hypertext and multimedia authors and developers.