In Chapter 2, you built your first HTML page with nothing but a plain text editor and a lot of nerve . This is how all Web page gurus begin their careers. In order to really understand HTML (and establish your HTML street cred), you need to start from scratch.
However, very few Web authors stick with plain text editors or use them to create anything other than simple test pages. That's because the average HTML page is filled with tedious details. If you're forced to write every paragraph, line break, and formatting tag by hand, you'll probably make a mistake somewhere along the way. Even if you don't, it's hard to visualize what the end result will look like when you spend all day staring at angle brackets. This is especially true when you start to tackle more complex pages, such as those that introduce a slew of graphics or organize the layout of a page with tables.
There's a definite downside to outgrowing Notepad or TextEditnamely, it can get expensive. Professional Web design tools can cost hundreds of dollars. At one point, software companies planned to include basic Web editors in common operating systems like Windows and Mac OS. In fact, some older versions of Windows shipped with a scaled-down version of FrontPage called FrontPage Express. That's not the case today, so if you want an HTML editor, you'll have to find one on your own. Fortunately, there are free alternatives for even the most cash-strapped Web designer.
In this chapter, you'll learn how HTML editors work, and how to evaluate them to find the one that's right for you. You'll also tour some of the better free and shareware offerings that are currently out there. When it comes to the basics, most Web page editors are surprisingly similar. That means you'll learn how to get started with your tool of choice, whether it's FrontPage, Dreamweaver, or a nice piece of freeware called Nvu.