Open source WYSIWYG editor

Here’s an interesting open source tool: Nvu – The Complete Web Authoring System for Linux, Macintosh and Windows Nvu allows page editing using tools based on the Mozilla composer and FTP. It claims to work on any platform and looks promising, although I have not downloaded and tried it myself.

While we’re talking open source, let me not forget Plone, which is an open source content management system with plenty of support and help. Plone works on any platform and is based on Zope, but you don’t have to know Zope to use it.

ADDENDUM May 12, 2011: The developers of Nvu have released a new open source WYSIWYG editor called BlueGriffon that you should look at if you’re looking for free software for web design.

Back up or save your Macromedia settings

Here’s a utility program called MM-Exporter that does, “Backup utility to save and restore all important settings and data from Macromedia® Dreamweaver®, Contribute® Fireworks® and Flash®” If you need to reinstall and import your settings, this is supposed to make it easy. It is only for Windows. I’ve imported Dreamweaver site definitions using Macromedia’s tedious site-by-site importing process and figure anything that would make it faster is worth a look.

Tip: Getting Text Edit to write plain text

I have complained in this forum previously that the loss of Simple Text in Mac OS X was deeply felt. I thought this was the case because I couldn’t find a way to make Text Edit write anything but rich text. I was trying to this using the “Save as” options, in the erroneous belief that I should see an option to save as text only.

Well, Text Edit will sure enough write plain text, but the way to make that happen is in the Preferences! So simple. (Like many things, it is only simple if you know how!)

Mac OS X wish list

While I’m in the mood to create wish lists, here’s what I want from Mac OS X. Give us a built in text editor that will write plain text. The Text Edit software that comes with OS X is very good, but it only writes rich text files, not plain text. Simple Text has disappeared. This means that there is no way to open a file such as a CSS file or an HTML file in any application provided with OS X. Sheesh! I never thought I’d be longing for Notepad, but here I am longing for Notepad. It is an irritation to be forced to scour the download sites for a Mac OS X compatible plain text editor when something like that should be built in.

Product Review: Macromedia Contribute

Thanks to Sylvia Stoddart for this review. Stoddart is a web designer and web project manager. She is the owner of Leafstar Design.

I was helping a friend at her design firm when the call came in: “I’ve destroyed my website. All of the text is funny and the images are gone. What is wrong?” A few questions turned up her sad story: She is an assistant at a local hospital. The site had been designed last year. Instead of paying for updates, the hospital had decided that the assistant would make the updates. They bought her a copy of Dreamweaver MX and turned her loose. She updated her site without defining the site in Dreamweaver, and all of the links pointed to her hard drive. Once the changes were uploaded to the server, the problem was quite visible.

This person is a perfect candidate for Macromedia’s Contribute. She doesn’t know HTML. She does need to change copy on her home page, and maybe add a few pages. Her new pages need to look just like her old pages. Her text formatting has to be carried out. She needs to add a photo sometimes. She also has to be saved from herself. Don’t make that photo too big. Don’t redesign the site. Don’t break anything. If she does break something she needs to roll back to the previous version of her site.

For my web design practice, I like to create sites. Making text edits is not what I like to do. I have trained a few clients to use HTML, fooled around with weblogs, and considered content management packages. None of these options have had the ease of use or price point that I want. When Contribute was announced at $99 I took a look.

My first thought when I looked at the interface was how intuitive it is. For a site updater, everything is right there when I open Contribute, with lots of visible help files. Let’s face it – this product is designed for people who have a sometime or part time web responsibility. Contribute users can:

  • Navigate easily to the page they want to edit. There is no scary file directory to navigate. They can even navigate via site links.
  • Edit copy. They can drop in word copy or type directly.
  • Add images.
  • Add new pages. Or not. The site administrator determines if pages must be added according to a template, or if they can be added at all.
  • Contribute tracks if changes to pages have been uploaded or not.

For administrators, Contribute can get your client making those pesky web edits safely. The software allows administrators to give site updaters the freedom they need, while protecting them from themselves. Features include:

  • There is a handy file size limiter that can prevent images that are too large.
  • Access to folders
  • Access to scripts and forms
  • Create new pages, blank or only by copying pages already on the site.
  • Contribute will keep backup copies of the site. The administrator determines how many copies are kept in the archive.

For text formatting, Contribute is CSS friendly. Users can be prevented from formatting using FONT tags, and if a style sheet is used the classes appear in the text formatting drop-down. Also, the real power of this product comes forward when a site is designed using Dreamweaver templates. When a region is not editable in the template, Contribute will not allow the user to touch it.

I’m having a hard time figuring out how an untrained person can mess up with this product. It works for small businesses and larger organizations. I have several clients who are interested, and I’m planning to contact that hospital soon to propose Contribute.