Monday, October 03, 2005

Nvu - Free Cross-Platform HTML Web Authoring System

Would you like to have your own website but you don't know a stylesheet from a hole in the ground? Do you want to build a home for yourself on the net, but you can't even spell HTML? Are you a power-programmer but you get sick of typing a ton of code every time you start a paragraph, and then closing them all again at the end? Do you want a simple way to build a professional polished looking website, without having to learn a computer language? If so, have I got the free product for you!

It's Nvu, the free, open source, complete, and powerful Web Authoring System, to the rescue!

Nvu, (pronounced "In-View"), makes managing a website a snap. Now anyone can create high-quality web pages and manage an active website with no technical expertise or knowledge of HTML, or a high-priced commercial WYSIWYG editor like Dreamweaver or FrontPage.

WYSIWYG, by the way, stands for What You See Is What You Get - meaning what is shown on the screen during the editing process is what will be seen when the page is put on the web - the user doesn't even have to see the HTML code, much less understand or write it. Nvu makes creating a web page as easy as writing something in a word processor.

Of course, if the user needs to see/edit the HTML, it's as simple as clicking a tab to switch to the code-view. In fact, multiple pages can be opened in the same window using the tabbed interface, similar to tabbed browsing on Opera, Netscape, Mozilla, and Firefox. The similarity is no coincidence. Nvu is based on the Composer element included in the popular Mozilla open-source web suite. This common ancestry makes Nvu the perfect compliment to Firefox and Thunderbird. Unlike FF and TB, Nvu is not maintained by the same group as Mozilla, but just like FF and TB, Nvu has a lot to offer that the Mozilla Suite component does not. Things like integrated website management, better form and table support, better browser compatibility, and more.

The integrated website management is done through built-in FTP. This means once a user is done editing a page, he simply clicks a button, logs in to his web server , and posts the page. It is instantly put up in its new edited form. The FTP client is not limited to mere posting of pages, all the sites listed in the Publishing Settings can be browsed in a sidebar. The user can add as many sites as they wish. The sites can be viewed in a tree format, or in a one-directory-at-a-time view. Nvu contains tools to get rid of most of those annoying that some WYSIWYG editors fill the page with. Combined with the ability to call W3C's HTML validator from within Nvu users make valid, reliable HTML coded web pages that will work with all of today's most popular browsers.

Nvu includes full-featured support for forms, tables, and templates, as well as the indispensable Cascading Stylesheets. CaScadeS, the well-known CSS editor add-on to Mozilla Composer, is integrated into Nvu. Create stylesheets easily and manage the styles attached to your documents. Full-powered by Gecko, the engine that powers Mozilla, Netscape, and all the Mozilla derivatives, a user can see the style settings applied '"live" to the document he's editing.

One of the areas the Nvu has made some great improvements over Mozilla Composer is the selection of colors. Composer offered only a very basic color picker. Nvu has a new extended color picker, more conformant to what power users are used to. Users can set a color from its red blue and green components, or its hue saturation and brightness, or just point and click to pick the color off of the color-wheel.

In trying to maintain its word-processor-like form and function, Nvu allows users to customize the toolbars. Users can add, remove, and move buttons, and even add and remove complete toolbars. Nvu also includes an automated spellchecker that underlines all the words it doesn't recognize as they are being typed in to ensure correct spelling throughout the page. Images and tables can be dragged and resized just as easily using Nvu as they would be in a desktop publishing program.

Nvu is available at It's the best free WSYIWYG HTML editor I've found - and I've been looking. My whole job revolves around the Net: making and maintaining web pages, and Nvu is the best tool out there. I highly recommend it to anyone, novice or pro, who wants to get great looking pages up on the net without a lot of work.

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