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Please recommend software program for creating/maintaining webpages
March 19, 2008 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend software program for creating/maintaining webpages

I would like to be able to create webpages, and also to be able to edit/maintain current webpages. I currently have others do this for me, but I'd prefer to learn to do this on my own, rather than find someone every time I need to update something minor to the webpage, or when I want to add a new link/page, etc. The webpage is currently maintained by using a combination of something called Filezilla to transfer the files, and Seamonkey to edit the files. As I said, this is currently done by various people I find to edit/maintain on an ad hoc basis.

So my question is:
1. My impression of the current method is that it is cumbersome and difficult, and I find the prospect of trying to figure out how to do this rather daunting. So, do the for-purchase programs for creating webpages make the job that much easier than the current free-wares that I'm using?

2. If so, what are the webpage creating/maintaining software out there that will be fairly simple to learn? The key here is ease of learning. I have a few hundred dollars I can spend on this, but not so much time learning how to use it.

3. If there is such a program, does it matter that the original webpage was created using a different software?

Thanks!
posted by jujube to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just my personal opinion, after switching to using a Mac a few months ago I am disappointed that I can't find a good not-too-terribly-expensive website editor as good as Frontpage, which is now just a Windows project. I've been fooling around with a bunch of different Mac applications (some of which I've spent real money on) but nothing I like as much as Frontpage.
posted by thomas144 at 8:54 AM on March 19, 2008


You probably want a CMS.

Two major ones are Drupal and Wordpress. Wordpress is easier for beginning users.
posted by unixrat at 9:03 AM on March 19, 2008


Dreamweaver CS2 or CS3 is what you want. Big bulky and expensive. But it's also dead simple to use. Just try to learn CSS and HTML basics along the way as Dreamweaver makes it almost too easy to make web pages just by dragging and dropping.

I'd also invest in Lynda.com's Dreamweaver tutorial DVD. The cost is moderate, but you'll be making web sites after a week of solid work with their web videos.

1) Depends on the website. Static websites (this is my business. this is the contact info. these are pictures. here's how to contact us) are easy to make and occasionally update. Dynamic web pages that use databases are much more difficult and beyond what a simple bit of software can do for you.

2) Again, Dreamweaver and Lynda.com will have you up and going within 3 weeks if you push yourself.

3) No, assuming that it's not too complex and you have server access and half-decent folks maintaining the site already.

Good luck!
posted by willie11 at 9:07 AM on March 19, 2008


thomas144...Many people like RapidWeaver.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:10 AM on March 19, 2008


Oh, if you want to update the site regularly and your needs are not all that much then you should consider Wordpress or some similar CMS as unixrat suggested.
posted by willie11 at 9:10 AM on March 19, 2008


thanks for the tip Thorzdad. I just checked and RapidWeaver is one of the aps I bought and gave up on! I am under the impression that Dreamweaver would be good (I used it some in 2001) but it's more than I'm willing to pay for just fooling around.
posted by thomas144 at 9:17 AM on March 19, 2008


Just to be clear, there are two broad categories being discussed here: local apps and server-side apps.

Dreamweaver is local: a program you run on your computer that uploads finished pages to the server. Programs like this typically give you more fine-grained control over the look of each page, but make it harder or impossible to do dynamic stuff.

Any CMS (drupal, wordpress, etc) is server-side: it's a program running on your web server. It keeps all the content in a database and (in most cases) builds it on the fly. You administer your site through your web browser. This means you can edit your site anywhere you've got a connection, and that dynamic stuff is (in theory, at least) easier. But it's typically harder to exert fine-grained control over the appearance of your site—most people go with pre-rolled "themes," and even if you make your own theme, it's more work to, say, have one page that uses a customized version of that theme.

I happen to think that CMSs are more useful.
posted by adamrice at 9:23 AM on March 19, 2008


Sounds like a job for Dreamweaver - good editor, can be set up to handle FTP and templating, makes a good low key alternative to a CMS.
posted by Artw at 9:34 AM on March 19, 2008


I've heard good things about NVU. I've never used it, but it could be worth a shot.
posted by Magnakai at 9:51 AM on March 19, 2008


If all you're doing is making simple text changes to existing web pages, you don't need any of this stuff.

Filezilla is a free FTP program. There are zillions of free FTP programs; their purpose is to move files from one machine to another (i.e. your computer to the server.) Have one of the people you currently work with sit down with you for ten minutes to show you how it works; it's not complicated.

I'm not too familiar with SeaMonkey, but it appears to be a simple html editor that's built into a web browser. It also appears to be free.

Web pages are just text files; you can see what they look like by hitting "view source" in your web browser. For simple edits, all you need to do is open that text file in seamonkey or notepad or the text editor of your choice (not MS Word), change the text, save it, and put it back on the server. You'll have to learn at least some simple HTML tags, but the basics are not complicated; you can likely learn most easily by modifying the pages you already have and seeing how they work. Again, one of your guys could walk you through the basics.

Creating new designs or substantially modifying layouts is complicated. Editing the text of an existing design is bone simple.

3. If there is such a program, does it matter that the original webpage was created using a different software?

Not at all. It would matter if you were using a serverside CMS currently -- in that case you wouldn't be creating html files directly, just feeding data into a system on the server which builds the html files for you: switching from one CMS to another can be tricky as every one has its own scheme for storing the data and managing how it's displayed.

But given the programs you named, you're not using a CMS; your guys are just building pages by hand and throwing them onto a server; that sort of thing you can edit with anything you want.
posted by ook at 9:55 AM on March 19, 2008


Here's some other popular Mac-based web-site makers to check out, all much cheaper than DW:

Freeway; has a very helpful forum, Pro and Lite versions.
Shutterbug; sleeper; supposedly simpler and more powerful than Rapidweaver.
SiteGrinder; cool if you have and know your way around Photoshop; PC, too.
Sandvox
Create

One of many comparison reviews...
posted by dpcoffin at 10:54 AM on March 19, 2008


Actually in my experience using various html editors (I think I have tried every single one I have seen mentioned in this thread) it's really hard to edit a page created with something like Frontpage with another gui HTML editor. Of course you can hack away in html with a simple editor like vi, but a lot of the magic stuff (like bookmarks and links) can be hard to maintain with a different program.

For my toy website at http://www.thomas144.com I am currently using iWeb (the thing that came with the macbook) to publish to my local drive, and then I ftp them to my server using Fugu. I also tried nVu, rapidweaver, seamonkey, and I forget what else. The thing I miss about Frontpage was the ability to rapidly switch between html view (raw editting), a GUI view of the page that could be editted, and a preview. I forget what I didn't like about the ones other than iWeb. With iWeb I still use vi to insert stuff like raw code like Google Analytics. I'm not really happy with iWeb.
posted by thomas144 at 10:56 AM on March 19, 2008


thanks for the links dpcoffin - there appear to be some I hadn't tried yet! :-)
posted by thomas144 at 10:57 AM on March 19, 2008


Coda from the fine folks at Panic, is also a popular HTML editor for the Mac.
posted by eafarris at 11:09 AM on March 19, 2008


Adding another recommendation for Dreamweaver, based on it's strong templating abilities. Basically, you create a template that contains the elements of your site that are repeated on every page (header, footer, navigation, etc.). You then apply this template to every page for your website and every new page you create, so you will mostly be dealing with just the text / photos on each individual page.

Also, the "Design view" editor makes things fairly simple for someone who does not know or care to know the code. Simple text changes would be a snap using the "design view", which basically looks and functions a lot like MS Word.

I do not recommend using Front Page. It is an outdated product. Microsoft has recently replaced it with Expression.
posted by geeky at 11:27 AM on March 19, 2008


geeky - whisper it, but Expression IS Frontpage. It's improved an awful lot though, particularly in the area of not fucking up existing code. I quite like it for it's search an replace, and as a robust HTML editor to replace my beloved Homesite.
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2008


Artw - I figured it was Front Page+. I haven't the "pleasure" of using it, myself ;)
posted by geeky at 11:41 AM on March 19, 2008


thomas144: Frontpage isn't even available on windows as it was discontinued in late 2006.

jujube: You didn't mention what OS you're using. But, my advice is to try out the tools that your previous web people were using and see how it goes. I doubt any of the tools listed here (Dreamweaver, etc.) are inherently better, so you might as well stick with what works.

If you find that you really need a particular feature (say, an integrated FTP client) then you are in a better position to evaluate other tools based on your actual needs.
posted by kamelhoecker at 11:42 AM on March 19, 2008


Thanks for the great recommendations/suggestions so far.

I forgot to say that I use a PC, if that makes a difference in the suggestions? I noticed that some of the suggestions explicitly say that you are using a Mac. Also, I'm using Windows XP Professional, if that also makes a difference.

Thanks again!
posted by jujube at 11:44 AM on March 19, 2008


geeky - You'd be suprised. I'd actually use it over DW, which is kind of bloated for my purposes.

DW is probably the better bet for the poster though, plus I'm kind of getting a mac-is-the-operating-system vibe (forgive me if I'm wrong).
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on March 19, 2008


(I am wrong)
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on March 19, 2008


You might consider using a service such as AtSpace, Ripway or FreeWebs. While someone else will still be making the site available, you will have the content management abilities you are looking for. If this idea is interesting but you want to consider more options, check out this review site.
posted by owhydididoit at 12:14 PM on March 19, 2008


nth-ing Dreamweaver for Windows. I've never liked using it on my Mac, it feels "wrong" - like it's just been ported directly from Windows. It is easy to use, powerful, and doesn't clutter up the HTML too bad (I'm looking at you, FrontPage!). It has an FTP client built-in.

I'm assuming, though, that your pages are static HTML. If they have any form of server-side scripting (ASP, ASP.NET, PHP, etc.), you'll need to either learn the required scripting languages or move your site to a CMS-type thing.
posted by wsp at 2:51 PM on March 19, 2008


One key feature of Dreamweaver that recommends it is the "Synchronise" feature.

It doesn't just do FTP, it maintains a mirror on the local drive of the website on the server and when you synchronise, it will
  • put new files local->remote
  • get new files remote->local
  • over-write modified files in both directions, and even
  • delete files from one location which have been deleted in the other
[Be very careful with that last option. We lost a week's work once. It's not the default.]

Basically it does something like rsync.

I don't know if any open-source or free apps do that but it's a really powerful, underused feature.

It can also reorganise links in your website so that, if you decide to move /about.html to /about/index.html or whatever, all links to it in all other pages will be updated.

I actually think more highly of its (smaller) site-management capabilities than I do of its HTML-editing.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:07 PM on March 19, 2008


Dreaaaamweaver.
...
sorry. No yeah, I've used Dreamweaver for a couple of years now and even though I do know how to code manually (and have been forced in the past to use Frontpage) it makes things so much easier.

I don't like the way it handles frames necessarily, but for other functions - stylesheets, image maps, tables, etc. it's really really useful and easy to use. Image Maps especially are amazing in dreamweaver.
posted by Phire at 7:51 AM on March 20, 2008


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