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A HTML Editor Review: Dreamweaver 8 or FrontPage?

The debate between Dreamweaver 8 and FrontPage is not that of two HTML editors, but that of two different philosophies behind website development. Both approaches are essentially right, and eventually the choice of HTML editor depends on the end objective you have for your website. In this article we're going to review both HTML editors and discuss how to choose one of them. But before we start, a little bit of background.

What are HTML editors?

In their simplest definition, HTML editors are software that let you build web pages. While traditionally HTML editors only allowed you to code in HTML, modern editors like Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 and Microsoft FrontPage allow you WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) capabilities visual design tools in which you can literally 'build' your pages and watch them come to life on your screen. HTML editors often come with free templates or themes that can be used to create websites very quickly without doing much of the design work, allowing you to concentrate on the content.

Macromedia Dreamweaver 8

Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 is the industry standard HTML editor for serious web development. Due to this reputation, many newcomers to web development tend to eschew Dreamweaver because they have this impression that Dreamweaver 8 is hard to learn. On the contrary, Dreamweaver 8 is one of the most intuitive and easiest programs to understand and operate.

You can buy and download immediately from the Adobe website. Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 boasts an impressive array of tools and features that can help anyone develop a complex website with business-oriented features. Additionally, Dreamweaver 8 has a highly useful element called Extensions developers create Extensions as modules to be attached to your website for functions such as credit card processing, forum management, etc. You can create your own Extensions or download them from the Macromedia website.

Free Macromedia Dreamweaver templates

There are many free Dreamweaver templates available on the Internet, most of them free and very well designed. The key idea here is to minimize your development cycle; you launch a template in Macromedia Dreamweaver, enter your content, customize the colors, and add your own images and your website can be ready in less than a day.

Using Macromedia Dreamweaver 8

Using Dreamweaver 8 is quite easy, but the point remains that this is a serious tool made for serious developers. If you don't intend to work on the high end of web development, and are only looking for an HTML editor for basic website design, then spending money on such a high-class tool might be a waste. You would be better off trying another, less powerful and hence cheaper, HTML editor.

Microsoft FrontPage Editor

Microsoft FrontPage Editor is a useful HTML editor that is meant for fast website design. It does not ask much of you in terms of skills, and all you need to do is to know what you want your web page to look like. Adding website elements is quite easy and extensive tutorials (although not in the same class as Macromedia Dreamweaver 8) are readily available in case you have a problem.

Whereas Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 takes sometime in getting used to, particularly the interface and the myriad of options, FrontPage is designed with the novice web designer in mind and thus its approach to designing web pages is different from the start. You are automatically exposed to step-by-step methods of creating pages, and in a lot of cases you don't even need to know HTML!

Using Microsoft FrontPage

FrontPage is a different breed of HTML editor; it's targeted towards users who want to get their website up and running fast, and users who are not interested in too many extensive features. Of course, like any self-respecting HTML editor FrontPage supports the latest technology and modules but its main purpose is ease of use and simple development. In this role FrontPage is ideally suited for web designers who are looking for simple websites without many bells and whistles.

Free FrontPage themes

The Microsoft FrontPage Editor comes with a stunning collection of templates and themes for use on your websites. Even so, after a while, especially after you develop two or three websites, the built-in themes start to look boring. At this point, don't despair and think that you'll have to start designing themes yourself. While creating a whole website from scratch (including defining the theme) is a rewarding experience, it can take time. The easier thing to do is to download some excellent free FrontPage themes. These can be plugged in instantly into FrontPage and work like the built-in themes in FrontPage.

The Verdict

Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 and Microsoft FrontPage seem to be overlapping. However, with their distinctly different approaches to web design and usability, and highly differentiated target audiences, your choice of these two is based more on your requirements than your preferences.

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