There's no getting around it - the most visible part of the internet is the World Wide Web. And the vast majority of the web consists of personal homepages - pages put up some of the 100 million people on the net - people like you and I. And what do they use to do this ? Typically, a graphics program of some kind, and a HTML editor. Today, we'll take a look at freeware HTML editors.
HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the lingua franca of the web. It is what gives your browser the necessary instructions to display the page on your PC. Thus, it is a formatting language, and not a programming language. Curious readers can check out an excellent introductory guide to HTML here.
HTML editors are programs that automate, to a great extent, the process of generating web pages. They are of two main types: code-based, and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) The latter attempt to shield the user from all the actual HTML tags, by techniques such as drag and drop editing, "wizards", and the like. Code-based editors are designed for people who have a certain level of familiarity with HTML and do not mind playing with the code itself.
For this piece, I wanted to write about freeware HTML editors. That is, the software is free for the download, and you do not have to pay for it, nor does it time out in a specified period or be crippled in some way.
The most easily available WYSIWYG editor is the one available along with Netscape 4.x as part of the Communicator suite -- or even with Netscape version 3.x, if you have the "gold" version. With Netscape 4.x, all you need to do to get started is to choose "New/Page from Wizard" from the menu. You can drag and drop elements from other web pages, links, picture etc., to create your own sites - all without knowing a word of HTML. This is a convenient solution for those who do not have either the time or the inclination to get their hands dirty with the actual HTML code.
When you need a little more control over the way your page looks, however, there is no go except to edit the actual HTML. This is where the code based editors come into their own. I use a very good freeware editor called HomeSite. Unfortunately, I have learnt that the product has been acquired by Allaire and that the freeware version no longer exists. I thus went on a hunt for good freeware code based editors. I tried a few editors, but easily the most outstanding of them all is a product called Arachnophilia.
This nifty little program allows you to do most of the tasks you would expect an HTML editing tool to let you do (including some which you would otherwise need expensive, bloated programs for) and also has some uniques features:
I found the program fast and easy to use. It had all the features most users will ever need, and has a fairly small memory footprint besides - which helps it load and execute fast too.
You can also peruse the frequently asked questions page (follow the links from here) to get a more detailed idea of the various facets of the product.