A basic kit of software for building Web pages can be downloaded from the Internet -- some for free, some as inexpensive shareware.
overview ~ download ~ editors ~ browsers ~ graphics ~ ftp
Basics ~ Connections ~ Webware ~ Training
WEBSHOP HOME SYSTEMS WEBLISHING WEBPAD SITE KEEPING
A basic toolkit for Web work has several kinds of programs. First, a Web browser is needed for downloading software from the Internet; and some programs still require special software to unpack them once they're downloaded. Next, building Web pages requires a few more programs -- a Web page editor to create the pages, browsers to view the results, and maybe a graphics program or two. Finally, another type of program puts the pages up on the World Wide Web.
(With a Web-page editor and a browser installed on your system, you can develop Web pages without actually being connected to the Internet. You can write, test, and modify your pages before making them public on the World Wide Web. When your pages exist only on your local disk; you can browse them, but no one else can.)
Here we've picked out a few good, inexpensive programs. We won't claim that these are the best programs around, or even the most cost effective. Literally hundreds are now available, and we don't even try to keep up with the reviews, unless we are trying to find a tool for a particular purpose.
When it comes to basic software for Web work, we make an exception to our general policy that system upgrades should be delayed untill the new gizmos become common. New versions of a software product generally are improved in many ways; and since the upgrades are free, or nearly so (shareware authors usually offer free downloads of upgrades to registered users), there's little to be gained by waiting.
We do try to remember, though, that changing to a different program (rather than just upgrading one we're already using) will require time for retraining -- so even if a competing program is free, switching to it will have real costs. A program has to be quite a bit better than what we are already using to warrant that expense.
We're going to assume that you have a Web browser that you can use to find and download software, since nearly any type of connection to the Internet will include one. The next step is to decide which program you want to download. This page suggests some programs of several types that are useful for working on the Web -- Web-page editors, browsers, graphics software, and ftp programs.
First, though, we will list a few good sources of software reviews. Our suggestions are strongly biased toward the Windows 95 systems that we use -- these reviews cover other systems, as well. The reviews also cover programs that are more expensive than the ones we use and recommend. The reviews may also be more up-to-date than our suggestions.
There are many other sources than the few we're listing: Yahoo! Software Reviews and Yahoo! Software Buyer's Guides list a lot of them. Yahoo! Internet Software Buyer's Guides lists comparisons of software specifically for the Internet.
ZDNet Reviews cover software in all categories for Windows, Mac, and OS/2 systems.
The sites listed below under Sources of Software also provide reviews of the programs they offer for downloading.
SOURCES OF SOFTWARE
We're going to assume that you have a Web browser that you can use to find and download software, since nearly any type of connection to the Internet will include one. The next step is to find the program you want to download. The following are good sources of programs that can be downloaded from the Internet. There are many others -- Yahoo! Software lists a lot of them.
File Mine (Windows, Mac,
Before beginning to download programs, think about where you're going to put them. Where did MY Files Go? is a clear introduction to basic hard-disk mamagement. "When you press 'Save,' where is the file being saved? You should know -- you should make a conscious decision to place files of a particular kind in a particular place." For software, we use the main (directory) folder "Program Files," with a subfolder for the particular type of program, like "Internet" or "Graphics," and a sub-subfolder just for that particular program. Each program should have its own folder.
You've found your program, you've decided where to put it -- now download it!
First you order the download, by clicking on the appropriate link or button. Then your computer may ask what you want to do with this strange apparition -- tell your machine to save the file. You'll be asked where to put it-- and offered an opportunity to change the filename. Go ahead and create whatever folder or folders you need, and open them, but leave the filename alone. Save the file.
For more detailed instructions, if you are using Netscape Navigator on a Mac or Windows 95 system, or using Internet Explorer on a Windows 95 system, see the step by step download instructions from Jumbo.
The programs you download from the Internet are delivered in a compressed form that downloads faster -- they have to be decompressed and installed before you can use them.
These days most programs decompress and install themselves -- it's no longer true that next to your favorite web browser, a decompression utility is the single most important Internet application, (as Stroud's Review of WinZip claims). You won't need a separate utility for unpacking and setting up most programs -- AOLpress, Netscape Communicator, or Microsoft Internet Explorer, for example, and the compression utilities themselves.
If you decide to use a program that comes as a ".zip" file, though, you'll need WinZip or another decompression utility to unzip it.
For Windows systems, WinZip makes it just about as easy as possible to decompress and install programs that don't decompress and install themselves.
As for UNIX, well ... we try to steer clear of recommending software for UNIX users, assuming that they know a lot more about it than we do.
Once you download your decompression program, open the folder you saved it in -- then click on it, and it will install itself.
Once the decompression program has been installed, there are several ways to use it to unzip programs. Clicking on the .zip file you want to open is one of them -- check the instructions for your particular program for details.
What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) EDITORS: These programs work like word processors, and can be used without knowing anything about HTML. The ones we use have ore or less successfully integrated a browser with the editor. Browse to a Web page on the Internet and edit a copy on your own machine: Keep the format, and use your own text, images, and links -- or start from scratch.
AOL Press: Browse pages and edit them in the same window! Links can be followed as soon as they are entered. Easily view and work with HTML directly at any point. (Windows; Macintosh; Unix [beta].)
This is now the Web editor that we use for most of our work. Some of the reasons are given in the Tools section of our Webpad Basics page, and the Advantages of AOLpress section of our Making Pages page.
Since the online users guide for AOLpress resides at their Web site, you might also want to Download the User's Guide in Adobe Acrobat format so you can refer to it when you aren't connected to the Internet (it's a large file, but only have to download it once). To read it you'll need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader (free), if you don't already have it on your computer.
Netscape Composer is the Web editor from Netscape's Communicator suite (replaces Netscape Navigator Gold.) Browse pages in Navigator and edit them in Composer. Lets you work with HTML directly using the text editor of your choice. (Windows; Macintosh; Unix; free to educational and non-profit users.)
Windows 98: According to legend, the long-awated upgrade to Windows 95 will include the basic Web-page editing functions from Front Page, Microsoft's Web authoring and management tool.
CODE-VIEW (HTML) EDITORS: Hypertext Markup Language is the language used for writing Web pages. HTML editors let you work with the HTML code directly, but provide easy ways to insert the necessary formatting tags.
Arachnophilia lets you work on any of seven kinds of Web-related projects: HTML, RTF, Text, CGI script, Perl Script, C++ Source, and Java Source files. If you already have preformatted text, tables, files, or outlines from a Windows 95-compliant application, the program will automatically convert them to HTML.
If you are publishing your pages, the program will automatically upload them to the Web, sending only those you have changed. The global search-and-replace option operates across all open pages, as many as you care to open.
Different Web browsers display the same pages differently, so you have to look at your pages using all of the common browsers if you want to understand what various visitors are seeing. That's easier now, because there are only two browsers in common use. Recent statistics suggest that over 97% of Web viewing is done with either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer, with navigator used by about 60% of Web surfers.
Unfortunately, though, there are several different versions of these browsers, and different versions of the 'same' browser give different results displaying some Web pages.
As of March, 1998, half of the Netscape Users were using Version 3, while 43% were using Version 4 and 6% were still using Version 2. Among the MSIE users, 55% were using Version 3, and 43% were using Version 4; only 2% were still using Version 2. To update these figures, check the statistics for the latest month.
Since most of the people using Version 2 of either browser will be moving along to Version 3 or 4, it may not be necessary to include the older versions. One should have Versions 3 and 4 of Netscape, and Version 3 of Explorer, at least, and MSIE Version 4 if possible. (Many "power users" refuse to have MSIE 4 on their systems because of the way it modifies the operating system.)
Netscape has set things up so that you can have both Navigator Versions 3 and 4 installed at the same time, using the same bookmarks and so on.
Netscape Communicator and / or Navigator : Browse pages in Navigator and edit them in Composer. Windows; Macintosh; Unix; free to educational and non-profit users.
Microsoft Internet Explorer: Windows; Macintosh; free.
We don't know of a good, inexpensive image editing program for the Mac, and we expect that most Mac users already have software for creating and editing images. What they may not have, though, is software for converting those images into the JPEG and GIF formats used on the Web.
GIFConverter graphics format converter: Shareware. "Reads and writes the following graphics file formats: GIF, MacPaint, PICT. RIFF, RLE, Thunderscan, Startup Screen, TIFF and JPEG (With or Without QuickTime). " [Tucows]
Snapz Pro screen-capture utility: "Snapz Pro allows you to quickly and easily capture any portion of your screen to disk as an editable image file. A single keystroke brings up the Snapz Pro palette, which allows you to capture, trim, crop, scale, and dither any portion of your screen." Shareware.
Image editors let you change all sorts of basic aspects of your existing images, or create them from scratch. Change backgrounds and image sizes, crop images, remove unwanted elements, touch up color and so on.
LView Pro: (Windows) Stroud's review calls this "one of the most intuitive and easy to use image viewers/editors available." The program includes painting and drawing tools, a screen capture facility, support for transparent backgrounds and interlaced images in GIF images, animated GIF creation, image filtering, a toolbox full of image enhancment and manipulation functions, and support for a variety of image file types including all those commonly used on the Web. The program will not run after the trial period; the registration fee is $40.
Adobe PhotoDelux: For a few dollars more, though ($47, list), one can purchase the easy-to-use-but-still-quite-powerful baby brother of Adobe Photoshop (the image editor used by most professionals). It won't create animated GIFs without some help from another program, but what it will do is astounding. For example, Smart Red-Eye Removal gets the red out in one step. Simply select the red-eye area, click, and eyes return to their natural color.
PlanetView 4.0: (Win 95/NT; freeware) Iimage viewer and manager. Now supports TWAIN image sources (scanners, digital cameras), format conversion, and file compression. Delete, rename and move images. Supports animated GIF and many other graphics formats, and can export in GIF, JPG and BMP.
Capture: (Win 95) Capture parts of the screen and save them as Window's BMP files. You can capture the whole screen or any window, or capture any part of the screen by drawing a rectangle. It also contains a time delay feature so that popup menus may be captured. (To use the images on the Web, you'll need a program to convert them from .bmp format to JPEG or GIF format -- see above.)
Many Web-page editing programs include a way to upload your pages to the Web (which means to copy them from a computer that was used to create them to a computer that is connected to the Internet as a Web server). All of the Web editors mentioned here can do that -- AOLpress, Arachnophillia and Netscape all have ways of loading your pages onto a Web server, and Windows 98 should also.
The other option, the one we've chosen, is to use a separate FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program to post your pages on the Web.
WS_FTP Limited Edition: free to all educational users as well as non-profit and non-commercial end-users. It lets you work with two directory windows, one for your local system and one for the server for your Web site, and move files between the two. You can create or remove directories, and rename files on either system. Copy one file or any number of files in one operation.
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Revised on March 18, 1998
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