Free HTML editor offers alternative to FrontPage

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Free substitutes for many common Microsoft products are becoming more and more prevalent. For Word and Excel, there's OpenOffice.org; Internet Explorer and Outlook have Firefox and Thunderbird. But for a long time there has been no equivalent replacement for FrontPage, Microsoft's Web site authoring application.

Linspire Inc., creators of a highly user- friendly Linux distribution, and engineers from the Mozilla development team pooled their resources to close that gap. The result is Nvu, a free and open-source WYSIWYG HTML editing tool that includes strong site- and content-management tools as well. It doesn't yet have the full breadth of features of the aforementioned commercial applications, but for those who can't afford them (and don't need a full range of features), Nvu is worth looking into as a substitute.

Unlike FrontPage, the target site does not need to have anything special installed in it (as with FrontPage Extensions) to be managed through Nvu. All you need is FTP access. Nvu can be configured to produce code according to HTML 4.0 (relaxed) or XHTML 1.0 (strict) standards, depending on your needs. Pages can be edited in simple WYSIWYG mode, with tags displayed explicitly, in raw source code mode, or in a preview using the Gecko/Mozilla rendering engine. Nvu also has a JavaScript console, built-in tools to validate page code against World Wide Web Consortium's Web-based Markup Validation Service and tools to strip unneeded tags from code.

There are a few issues with the 1.0 release. For one, it seems to have a problem with FTP servers that refuse to accept more than one or two simultaneous connections per host. If you attempt to edit some pages on such a host, the program repeatedly pops up an error dialog. This is a known bug, and a patch does exist for it. Future revisions of Nvu should not be susceptible to this.


Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

This was first published in August 2005

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