Recommend us some (cheap, er, inexpensive) web design software

My teenage daughter just completed a week-long “summer camp” in web design at our local community college, and would like to get some web design software that she can use at home to tweak her own home page.

The software that the course used was Microsoft’s Home Page–apparently it’s the Official Web Design Software of the college.

So, I throw it open to the Teeming Millions–recommendations, preferences, vendors-to-avoid-like-the-plague? Price range, we’re talking “under $100” definitely, and “under $50” would be preferable. Of course, “$10 jewel case at the K-Mart checkout counter would be ideal”, but not if it totally sucks. Life is too short when you’re almost-15 and anxious to figure out how to cram more Dollz on your web page to be screwing around with sucky web design software.

A book on HTML and Notepad. If you really want to learn how to create webpages, you really need to learn how to code HTML. It just makes for better pages, in the long run. There are lots of good books for under $30 at any decent book store.

Coffee Cup is good, and you can download a fully-functional free 30-day trial. My computers & writing course professor had us use that in class, and I really enjoyed.

I am a rookie like yourself. I started with FrontPage, but was told that Dreamweaver is better (not too hard to learn the basics, but more functionality for later on when you want to go there). So, now I use Dreamweaver. It’s pretty good, but I’m sure there are even better options that I’m not aware of.

I learned HTML for grad school and right now I’m starting to work with CSS.

When working on web pages at work or home, I use First Page. It’s free, allows you to preview the page and is fairly self explanatory.

Macromedia’s Dreamweaver would be great – if she can get her hands on an academic version at the community college (or via her regular school). You can download a free trial version at to see if she likes it.

If it’s nothing more than HTML…nothing is cheaper than free hand.

I started old-school, with Notepad and a book on HTML. :slight_smile:

I then graduated to Netscape Composer, then to Dreamweaver, which I actually bought and paid for myself.

I had read a review of Dreamweaver and of Front Page, and it said that their capabilities were comparable. Perhaps they were, but…

Around the same time, I had to use Front Page at work. I found Front Page to be unnecessarily user-obsequious at a superficial level, yet easily-capable of obscuring important details. For exaple… [ul][li]It would not let you simply open a set of interlinked pages; you had to “Open A Front Page Web”. []When you made a page, it put in all kinds of Microsoft-specific code without telling you, unles you turned off a highly non-obvious option.[]It was good at taking Word documents and creating HTML pages that looked exactly like them in Internet Explorer, but the minute you went to another browser, the pages so created often wouldn’t display properly, and they were chock full of automatically-generated and -numbered inline images and styles that were virtually impossible to edit in another application. Even when using Front Page itself to edit the pages, it was often easier to re-edit the pages in Word and re-import them rather than try to update them in Front Page.[*]When creating pages, it did not clearly label where it was putting files and images, or how it was naming them. This is simply unforgiveable in a site-management program, where link destinations should be as clear as possible.[/ul]This was my experience with Front Page a couple of years ago; perhaps it’s improved. [/li]
As for a freeware site editing system, check out NVU:

What option?! I hate the way it puts all sorts of crap in there - FWIW, the pages I’ve turned out so far seem fine on everything from Firefox to Lynx, but I’m constantly expecting a cock-up.

Yeah, it’s still bad about this. Very bad.

(All this is basically in reference to this thread of mine)

Netscape 7.0 (free! try it now) has a WYSIWYG composer that is pretty decent. I use homesite for text editing, but homesite and dreamweaver I think are more for when she really wants to get into it.

FrontPage, when I used it 6 years ago, was evil and made terrible spaghetti code.

My vote’s for Homesite. Not sure what it costs - I use the version I got from school before it became “Macromedia Homesite.”

For years before that I just used notepad. To me, Homesite is HTML nirvana.

Now I have my own business where my primary function is to make Web sites. Unfortunately since we have a team of folks working on the sites I need the handy-ness of Visual Source Safe so I use Visual Studio and Visual which are so much more bloaty and cumbersome than HomeSite. I use it like Notepad (no “Design View” usage. It likes to change code).

I’ve had to work with sites that were originally in FP and DW. The FP sites I just scrapped and redid. DW is ok but it likes to put big font tags around EVERYTHING…images, tables, blank space, etc. Yech.

Homesite, or notepad. She should learn to compose pages by just writing the HTML. It’s also the cheapest option.

Homesite is nice because of its tools for validating the code on the page, the inline help for reminding you which properties are available for each element, and for its fast page preview, which allows you to rapidly experiment (although you can do much the same thing by keeping an instance of IE open with that page loaded and just hitting refresh after you make and save changes in notepad.

I don’t recommend any of the fancy editors for raw beginners.

I vote for the book and freehand option too, but I’d add that using an actual text editor that does syntax highlighting and such can make writing freehand html more pleasant. It’s been a while since I played with such stuff, but I seem to recall using jEdit, which is a free open source editor available at A trip to Tucows should reveal any number of other free text editors as well.

Another vote for “the text editor of your choice” The one time I was able to trade my web-design skills for money, I used FrontPage for about a week until I was comfortable writing tables freehand. Then I moved to emacs and never went back. That was just because I’m used to emacs, though; Notepad would have served as well.

Wow, thanks for the input, people. I know absolutely nothing about it, so am interested to see “HTML and Notepad” recommended. You’re not like those writers who say huffily, “Word processor? Bah! Dickens didn’t need no stinkin’ word processor!” and wave their No.2 pencils and yellow legal pads in your face?