MINOS Web Guide - Page Editing Tools

For Creating and Editing Content

There are many tools for editing web pages, from very simple, and free, text editors to complex WYSIWYG programs (certainly not free). Some programs have versions which run on all platforms, some only work on Windows/Mac. As expected, the more you pay, the more features you get. While you don't have to use a WYSIWYG program that renders the page as you edit, it is true that such programs will find and flag coding errors for you - otherwise they would have problems rendering the page. A feature like that helps you catch most typos and missing tags before uploading back to the Server, and makes the editing process more efficient. But augumented text editors are also quite useful - ones which "know" HTML, and color-code tags, attributes, attribute values, and text content; these can also be of help in tracking down typos and missing tags. I do not recommend using bare-bones text editors for extensive editing - things like Notepad on Windows or vi on linux - they offer no assistance with code syntax, and you'll spend as much time fixing mistakes as typing the initial code.

I personally have not used most of the programs mentioned here. I web surf, and pick out a few things that I know some MINOS web editors already use, or which appear to get good reviews within the web editing community. There are MANY code editing products, but not all are Web Standards compliant - ie they won't flag bad XHTML because they don't distinguish between it and HTML; or, worse, they steer you into producing non-compliant code. I try to find products that will help you make good XHTML. If you find something useful not listed, send me the info.

Text Editors

A common text editor in Linux Land is the venerable GNU emacs. There are many plug-ins for emacs which set up different modes, listed on the Wiki site on the Hypermedia Page - HTML modes are available but the main one you probably should use is the NxhtmlMode one. The Emacs Wiki site also contains help for dealing with the most-commonly-encountered long-lines problem. When you open one of our web pages, like THIS one, you find that all the text within paragraph tags is a single long line with no carriage returns. Neither XHTML or Browsers care about carriage returns, whether present or absent. Text editors always insert a "hard" carriage return when you hit ENTER, but do not always do so when your typing reaches the end of a line in your editor's window. The text editor used by the author of this page performs automatic word-wrapping without inserting end-of-line characters. Emacs generally inserts a "soft" carriage return (end-of-line) when your typing reaches the window's edge - you cannot see it but it is there. Problems ensue when the same file gets edited in both systems: other editors see the end-of-line characters and terminate the line, but because of different settings for the displayed text and window sizes, those end-of-lines can appear in awkward places. Emacs can be told to perform the equivalent of word-wrapping with no end-of-line characters. See the information on the long-lines command - from the page linked above follow the Editing/Filling link and scroll down to LongLines.

Another common linux text editor which has a configuration for HTML is NEdit. Bluefish is an Open-Office linux-based text editor specifically for HTML, and has features to help keep you XHTML Web Standards compliant.

There are MANY text editors for PCs, and many of them are free. In spite of the saying "you get what you pay for", I've found that some of these free editors are quite good. Lately I've been using a text editor called Crimson - it has many color-coded syntax modes in addition to HTML (C++, Fortran, Java) and was basically free (shareware) and quite simple to install and use. I have also used WinEdt - this has a default LaTex setup, along with button commands to process LaTex files, but it has modes for other syntax types, like HTML. I have also tried EMEdit, it is very similar to Crimson. If you have time it is probably worth trolling through a few sites which collect links to various text editor programs, and just try a few of them yourself. Some useful sites are Free Text Editors and Free HTML Editors

Arachnophilia is a Java GUI based text editor, and as such is available on ALL platforms. You need to also get Java 2. If you downloaded Java to be able to view the Near Detector Hall NetCam, then you already have it.

One text editor you should NOT use is MS-WORD. It is more than just a simple text editor. Because it is opening an html file, when you save the file, WORD will by default go into "Save-as-Web-Page" mode. This mode will insert various style directives into the page, whether you think you are asking for them or not. The generated code, while valid HTML-4 syntax, is a shining example of bloated over-use of now outdated html coding methods. MS-WORD is smart, but not smart enough, in this case, to detect whether the html file already has style directives, like our own style sheet. It just globs on it's own style directives on top of whatever may already be present. The result can be quite a mish-mash. Look at this page as edited and saved using MS-WORD as an example for why you don't want to use it for our pages, and in general shouldn't use it at all.


What You See Is What You Get. These programs render the page as you edit it, so you see what it's going to look like before uploading to a Server - with caveats. The main caveat is that if you use Server Side Include directives in your page, like we do, then your editors must also be able to translate those to display what would be seen on the Server. Some do this better than others.

The main WYSIWYG editor is Dreamweaver. This used to be made by MacroMedia, but this company and it's products, Dreamweaver and Flash, were bought by Adobe a few years back. Dreamweaver has now replaced GoLive in Adobe's Creative Suite packages. This product will cost big bucks, but has a lot of very nice features. If you are going to do extensive web site management, page design and page editing, then this might be the right thing. But if you tend to edit simple pages on simple sites, then this product might be a bit of overkill. The Microsoft entry in this category was Front Page, which is being replaced by a new product called Microsoft Expression Web Professional, and I do not know anything about it. These programs are Site Managers in addition to page editors. For example, the programs index your entire web site and make a database of files and links - if you rename or move a page, all links are "fixed" for you, and you get a list of all updated pages so you know what to upload back to your Server. There are many other features beyond simple editing, which you can read about on their sites.

Dreamweaver understands the differences between HTML-4 and XHTML. If your page has a declared DOCTYPE, then the programs will insert code and perform error checking which is compliant with that DOCTYPE. Dreamweaver has been updated to produce Web Standards compliant code - as long as you tell it to do so.

Computing Division Recommends - - -

FNAL Computing Division supports a few web products for our use, and makes general recommendations. See their Web Services page.

For Checking and Validating, and Conversion of Existing Pages

If you use the MINOS XHTML templates to create a page, then the footer code snipet includes a link to the W3C XHTML code validator service. Upload your completed page to the server, bring it up in a browser, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click the validate link. Your page will be checked for XHTML errors.

Before you get to that point, you might want to check for gross errors locally - some of the editors listed above come with built-in syntax checkers. A spell-checker is also a good thing to use.

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