Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3.2 in 14 Days
HTML Assistants: Editors and Converters
- Do You Need an Editor?
- Tag Editors
- WYSIWYG and Near-WYSIWYG Editors
- Working Directly in HTML versus Using a Converter
After the bushel of tags and HTML information I've thrown at you
over the last couple of chapters, you're probably just the smallest
bit overwhelmed. You may be wondering how on earth you're supposed
to remember all these tags and all their various attributes, remember
which tag goes where and which ones have opening and closing tags,
and a host of other details.
After you've written a couple thousand HTML pages, remembering everything isn't all that difficult. But until you do have that many pages under your belt, sometimes it can be rough, particularly if you're writing all your HTML files in a plain text editor.
This is where HTML editors and converters come in. Both HTML editors and converters make writing HTML files easier-or at least they help you get started and often take away a lot of the drudgery in composing HTML. In this chapter, I'll survey some of the more common editors and converters available that claim to make writing HTML easier. These tools fall into the following categories:
- Tag editors-text editors that help you create HTML files by inserting tags or managing links
- WYSIWYG and near-WYSIWYG editors
- Converters-programs that let you convert files created by popular word processing programs or other formats to HTML
This chapter is by no means a complete catalog of the available
tools for HTML, only a sample of some of the more popular tools
for various platforms. HTML tools sprout like weeds, and by the
time you read this, it's likely that there will be newer, better,
and more powerful tools for HTML development. For this reason,
Appendix A, "Sources for Further Information," provides
some pointers to lists of editors and filters. These lists are
being constantly updated and are the best source for finding tools
that may not be described in this chapter.
Many of the editors described in this section are also contained on the CD-ROM that comes with this book.
As I mentioned early on in this book, you don't technically need a special HTML editor in order to do pages for the Web. In fact, it could be argued that one of the reasons the Web became so popular so quickly was that you didn't need any special equipment to publish on the Web. You didn't have to buy a lot of software or upgrade your computer system. Creating pages for publishing on the Web was, and still is, free.
But the Web has changed a lot. HTML itself has grown a great deal since those days, not only in the number of available tags, but also in complexity. If you're like me and you've been following it while it's been changing, it hasn't been that bad. But if you're just starting out now, you've got a lot of catching up to do.
Editors can help you get over the initial hurdles. They can help you keep track of the tags and create basic pages. If you're interested in learning HTML in depth, they can help teach you good HTML coding style and structure so that when you move on to more advanced forms of HTML, you have that baseline to build on. For this reason, you may find that investing a little cash in an editor may pay off in the long run.
Later on, once you've done a lot of pages and you understand how HTML works, you may find that the editor you're working in isn't quite as useful as it was when you were starting out. You may find it fine for simple pages or for the first initial pass of a page, but not quite as good for adding advanced stuff. At that time, you may end up working in a plain text editor after all.
Try out a couple of the editors in this chapter; all are available in trial versions for down-loading, so there's no cost or risk.
Tag editor is a term I use to describe a simple stand-alone text editor or an extension to another editor. Tag editors help you write HTML documents by inserting the tags for you. They make no claim to being WYSIWYG-all they do is save you some typing, and they help you remember which tags are which. Instead of trying to remember whether which tag is which, or having to type both the opening and closing parts of a long tag by hand, tag editors usually provide windows or buttons with meaningful names that insert the tag into the text for you at the appropriate spot. You're still working with text, and you're still working directly in HTML, but tag editors take away a lot of the drudgery involved in creating HTML documents.
Most tag editors work best if you already have a document prepared in regular text with none of the tags. Using tag editors as you type a document is slightly more difficult; it's best to type the text and then apply the style after you're done.
HTML Assistant Pro (shown in Figure 6.1) by Harold Harawitz and distributed by Brooklyn North Software Works was one of the first HTML editors, and it continues to be one of the best and most popular. Using buttons from a tool bar and various menu commends, HTML Assistant allows you to insert HTML tags as you type and to preview the result with your favorite browser. The interface is simple and intuitive, with all the important tags available on a toolbar.
To get the most use out of HTML Assistant, you'll need to know at least the basics of HTML, and to preferably have a good idea of which tags go where and what they are used for. HTML Assistant supports all of HTML 2.0, including forms and many of the HTML extensions. If there is a tag HTML Assistant doesn't currently support, you can add it to a User Tools menu and then insert that tag with the click of a mouse button.
One of its best features is the capability to collect URLs from hotlists or bookmark files generated by Mosaic and Cello so you can create links to those URLs without having to retype them. I also like the table and forms assistants, although I found their interface less intuitive than the rest of the program. Once I figured it out, however, inserting sophisticated tables and forms became easy.
HTML Assistant comes in two versions: a freeware version with enough basic features for many HTML files, and a commercial version (HTML Assistant Pro 2, available for $99.95) that includes many more features (more HTML tags, a nice spell checker, a tool for automatic page creation, and other options), support, and a manual.
Visit the home page for HTML Assistant Pro at http://fox.nstn.ca/~harawitz/index.html.
HotDog, from Sausage Software, is a full-featured HTML tag editor with support for just about every HTML feature, either existing or proposed, including HTML 2.0, tables, forms, all the Netscape extensions, and even the proposed HTML 3.0. Like HTML Assistant, HotDog has two versions: a shareware standard version ($29.99), which should be fine for most people doing basic HTML work, and a professional version, HotDog Pro ($99.95) with more features (unlimited file sizes, more customization options, and a spell checker). Figure 6.2 shows the HotDog main window.
Using HotDog is quite intuitive, allowing you to insert most of the common tags through well-labeled buttons on a toolbar. Unlike HTML Assistant, one very nice feature is that when you start a new document, all the HTML structuring tags are inserted for you: <HTML>, <HEAD>, and <BODY>. Since I include these tags in all my HTML files, having them included by default saves some time over inserting them by hand. HotDog's linking feature is also quite nice, allowing you to build a URL from parts and showing you the result as you build it.
Also very nice is the tables editor, which builds the table using spreadsheet-like cells (you haven't learned about tables in HTML yet; you'll learn about them in Chapter 13, "Tables"). You enter your table data and headings into the table cells in the editor, and when you're done, HotDog inserts all the right HTML tags for the table.
HotDog's biggest drawback is the fact that it tries to support everything nearly equally, from the basic HTML 2.0 tags to the advanced Netscape and Internet Explorer extensions to even the proposed HTML 3.0 features that have not yet been implemented in any browsers (not even Netscape). Unless you know exactly what you're doing and which tags you should be using, it's easy to become confused about what you can use and the results you expect to see in your favorite browser. Plus, there's that many more tags to search through for the one you really want even if you do know exactly which tags are supported where. The inclusion of all these extra tags may make HotDog very complete, but it complicates the use of an otherwise terrific editor.
You can get more information about both versions from Sausage Software's Web site at http://www.sausage.com/.
Like HotDog, the shareware Ken Nesbitt's WebEdit (see Figure 6.3) purports to support the full suite of HTML 2.0, 3.0, and Netscape tags. Also like HotDog, this means dozens of tags and options and alternatives to choose from without any distinction of which tags are actually useful for real-life Web presentations, which needlessly complicates the use of the editor for creating simple pages.
If you know which tags to ignore, however, WebEdit becomes a very nice editor to work in. The toolbar provides immediate access to each element, although I had some initial trouble figuring out which icon went with what set of tags. The template page is particularly nice, putting in not only the basic structuring tags but also the date and time and some initial text so you have something to start with.
WebEdit allows you to preview your work either in the browser of your choice or in a built-in previewer. The previewer is particularly interesting, as it allows you to edit the page on one side of the screen and view the immediate result on the other side. The previewer supports a subset of the tags available in the editor itself: all of HTML 2.0, and selected extensions.
WebEdit is available as a downloadable 30-day trial version, after which time you must pay for it. The cost is $39.99 for educational, non-profit, or home users, and $79.99 for commercial users, making it one of the more reasonable tag editors. Find out more about WebEdit from http://www.nesbitt.com/.
HTML.edit is a HyperCard-based HTML tag editor, but it does not require HyperCard to run. It provides menus and buttons for inserting HTML tags into text files, as well as features for automatic indexing (for creating those hyperlinked table-of-contents lists) and automatic conversion of text files to HTML. Figure 6.4 shows HTML.edit's editing page.
Its most interesting feature, however, is its Index page, which collects and organizes a set of related HTML documents, sort of like a project in THINK C or a book file in FrameMaker. Once a file is listed on the Index page, that file appears in a list of files that you can link between, and so you can create navigation links between related files quickly and easily. The Index page allows you to keep track of your entire presentation and the pages inside it.
I found the interface to HTML.edit somewhat confusing to figure out, but a quick read through the online help answered most of my questions. HTML.edit supports all of HTML 2.0, including forms and tables. Extensions are included as part of a custom tags menu which can be customized to include any new extensions.
HTML.edit runs on both 68K and Powerpc Macintoshes, and is freeware. Visit http://ogopogo.nttc.edu/tools/HTMLedit/HTMLedit.html for information about HTML.edit.
HTML Web Weaver and World Wide Web Weaver (Macintosh)
HTML Web Weaver and World Wide Web Weaver are similar programs with similar interfaces and philosophies. Both written by Robert C. Best, HTML Web Weaver is shareware ($25, with a 30-day evaluation period) and has fewer features than the commercial World Wide Web Weaver ($50 basic price, cheaper for education, free upgrades to newer versions). Figure 6.5 shows World Wide Web Weaver.
Both Web Weaver programs are basically tag editors with some WYSIWYG capabilities. Unlike other tag editors, in which all the text and tags are in the same font and size, the Web Weaver programs format the tags in a different color from the rest of the text, and format the text itself as well (for example, when you apply a heading to a line of text, the Web Weaver programs increase the font size of the heading). Both allow you to preview the result in your favorite browser.
Both Web Weaver Programs work best when you have a base of text to start with and you apply tags to various portions of the text. I found it difficult to apply tags as I was typing (and you don't get the formatting as easily that way, either).
HTML Web Weaver provides basic capabilities for standard HTML 2.0, including forms and images. World Wide Web Weaver has extensive other features including tables and even Netscape 2.0's frames capabilities as well as search and replace. The home page for both programs notes that few new features will be added to HTML Web Weaver, making World Wide Web Weaver most likely the better choice of the two. Get more information and download copies of each from http://www.northnet.org/best/.
Alpha and BBedit are two of the more popular shareware text editors available for the Macintosh. Both provide mechanisms to add extensions for working in particular languages and writing text that conforms to a particular style. Extensions exist for both Alpha and BBedit to help with writing HTML pages.
There are significant advantages to using a standard text editor with extensions as opposed to using a dedicated HTML tag editor. For one thing, general text editors tend to provide more features for writing than a simple HTML text editor, including search and replace and spell-checking. Also, if you're used to working in one of these editors, being able to continue to use it for your HTML development means that you don't have to take the time to learn a new program to do your work.
If you use the Alpha editor, versions after 5.92b include the HTML extensions in the main distribution. You can get Alpha and its HTML extensions from http://www.cs.umd.edu/~keleher/alpha.html.
For BBedit, the BBedit HTML Extensions are available from most Mac shareware archives, or from http://www.uji.es/bbedit-html-extensions.html.
tkHTML, by Liem Bahneman, is a simple freeware graphical HTML tag editor for the X11 Window System that uses the TCL language and the tk toolkit (you don't need to have either installed). Menu items allow you to insert tags into your text, either by inserting the tag and then typing, or by selecting text and choosing the tag that text should have. tkEdit easily allows you to convert existing text to HTML, and a Preview button automatically previews your HTML files using Netscape, Mosaic, or Lynx (Netscape is the default). Figure 6.6 shows tkHTML.
tkHTML supports all of HTML 2.0 and many extensions, including those for tables. Visit http://www.ssc.com/~roland/tkHTML/tkHTML.html for more information about tkHTML.
AsWedit (short for AdvaSoft's Web Editor, presumably, and shown in Figure 6.7), also for the X Window System running Motif and available for many different UNIX flavors, is a context-sensitive HTML editor. Context sensitive means that different tags and options are available depending on where you've put the cursor in the HTML code. So if the cursor is inside a list, the only choice you have is to include a list item, for example.
Context sensitivity makes editing using AsWedit interesting, as it forces you to use correct HTML style at all times. But it was confusing for me to figure out what was going on when I first tried using it, and if you don't already have a basic idea of what HTML can do and what tags are available in what context, it can be confusing to use.
AsWedit supports all of HTML 2.0, all of the HTML 3.0 proposal, as well as most HTML extensions. It also provides an option to disable HTML 3.0 so that the only available tags are from the standard HTML 2.0 set.
There are two versions of AsWedit: a basic version, free for educational
users and for evaluation by others, and a $149 commercial version
with more features, support, and a manual. You can get information
about both versions from AdvaSoft's home page at
If you prefer to work in Emacs, the popular text editor-slash-kitchen sink, you have several Emacs packages (modes) to choose from, including:
- html-mode, the original mode for writing HTML, available at ftp://archive.cis.ohio-state.edu/pub/gnu/emacs/elisp-archive/modes/html-mode.el.Z.
- html-helper-mode, an enhanced version of the above. You can get information about it at http://www.santafe.edu/~nelson/tools/.
If you use Emacs extensively, you might also want to look at William Perry's Emacs w3-mode, which turns Emacs into a fully featured Web browser with support for most advanced features of HTML. It includes support for quite a bit of HTML 3.0, many of the Netscape extensions, and just about anything else you can imagine. Get more information about w3-mode from http://www.cs.indiana.edu/elisp/w3/docs.html.
The concept of a true WYSIWYG (what you see it what you get) editor for HTML files is a bit of a fallacy, since (as I've harped on earlier) each browser formats HTML documents in different ways, for different size screens. However, for simple documents, with an understanding of what HTML can and cannot do, the editors described in this section can be just fine for creating simple pages and presentations.
I've made the distinction in this section between WYSIWYG and "near-WYSIWYG" editors. The former are editors that claim to allow you to write HTML files without ever seeing a single tag; everything you need to create an HTML page is available directly in the program.
"Near-WYSIWYG" editors provide a WYSIWYG environment without trying overly hard to hide the tags. They may allow you to toggle between a tag view and a WYSIWYG view, or you may be able to view the tags using a menu item.
Netscape Navigator Gold is an enhanced version of the Netscape Navigator 2.0 browser which included integrated WYSIWYG HTML editing capabilities.
If you're used to using Netscape as your browser (as most of you probably are), Navigator Gold will look quite familiar. In fact, except for the addition of an Edit button on the toolbar, it looks and behaves identically to the regular Netscape Navigator. When you choose Edit, the HTML editor window appears (as shown in Figure 6.8). In the edit windows, you can change the text, add new HTML elements, rearrange formatting, and change colors.
The Netscape HTML editor is very nicely done, with HTML elements all available through toolbar items with well-designed icons and an intuitive layout. The integration with the browser, including Netscape 2.0's file-upload features, means that in many cases you can view your pages on a server, make changes to them using the editor, and then upload them back to the server in a few easy steps.
Netscape Gold supports many common HTML tags, including, of course, the Netscape HTML extensions. New or unsupported tags can be entered by hand. Two obvious omissions from Gold's feature set, however, are forms and tables, and, even worse, if you edit an existing page with tables in it, Netscape Gold removes the table formatting entirely (forms are retained using the extra tag features). But for most basic uses of HTML, Netscape Gold is great for editing pages and creating new ones.
The final version of Netscape Navigator Gold is available for Windows 95 and Windows NT, with the Macintosh version still only in Alpha. You can download it from Netscape site at http://home.netscape.com/. Gold has the same license agreement as Navigator does-it's free for educational and non-profit use, with an evaluation period for everyone else. Netscape Gold costs $79. If you own a license for Netscape Navigator, the upgrade to Netscape Gold is only $29.
Microsoft Internet Assistant (Windows)
Internet Assistant is a plug-in for Word for Windows 6.0 that allows you to create your HTML files directly in Word and then save them as HTML (see Figure 6.9). If you stick to the style sheet included with Internet Assistant and you understand HTML's limitations, this can make creating HTML documents almost easy.
Internet Assistant also doubles as a Web browser, allowing you to visit sites on the Web from within Word. The browser support is quite slow in comparison to dedicated browsers such as Netscape or Mosaic, however.
You can get Internet Assistant from Microsoft's Web site, http://www.microsoft.com/msword/Internet/IA/default.htm,
or by calling their support lines.
Microsoft has demonstrated a version of Internet Assistant for the Macintosh and promises a released version soon. At this time it has not yet been released, but may be available by the time you read this.
WordPerfect Internet Publisher (Windows)
Similar to Microsoft's Word plug-in is WordPerfect's Internet Publisher for WordPerfect for Windows 6.1. Internet Publisher includes a template for editing files for the Web, and a converter program that allows you to add links and convert the document to HTML.
You can get more information about WordPerfect Internet Publisher from the WordPerfect (Novell) Web site at http://wp.novell.com/elecpub/intpub.htm. You can also download it from that page or by calling the WordPerfect support lines.
SoftQuad HoTMetaL Pro 2.0 (Windows, Macintosh, UNIX)
SoftQuad HoTMetaL Pro (see Figure 6.10) is a unique editor that allows very near-WYSIWYG capabilities without trying to hide the fact that you're still working very much in HTML. In HoTMetaL, the tags are represented by flag-type objects that can be inserted only in legal places on the page. So, for example, you can't put regular paragraphs into a <HEAD> section. This is a good thing; it means that if you use HoTMetaL, you cannot write an HTML document that does not conform to correct HTML style.
The text you type in between the HTML tag objects appears in a font roughly equivalent to what might appear on your screen in a graphical browser. You can also choose to hide the tags so that you can get a better idea of what it'll look like when you're done.
HoTMetaL comes in two versions, a freeware version and a "professional" commercial version. The freeware version (called, appropriately, HoTMetaL Free) has all the basic capabilities and support for HTML 2.0, HTML 3.0, and all the Netscape extensions. The commercial version, HoTMetaL Pro 2.0, for $195, has additional features for importing and converting files from word processors, a spell checker, free updates when new tags appear, a thesaurus, keyboard macros, and full support.
Information about HoTMetaL and SoftQuad's other SGML-based tools is available at http://www.sq.com/.
Adobe's PageMill, a commercial HTML editor costing $149, bills itself as "The easiest way to create pages for the World Wide Web." And, using PageMill is very easy indeed. The main window (shown in Figure 6.11) has a simple tool bar, with most of the main HTML styles (headings, paragraphs, addresses, plus character styles) available as menu items. You can enter text and apply styles to that text, or you can choose a style first, and then type in that style. For most simple HTML elements, PageMill is indeed WYSIWYG and very easy to use.
PageMill's handling of images and links is particularly nice, allowing you to drag and drop images into a page, and drag and drop between open pages to link between them. Double-clicking images brings up an image window with features for applying special image tricks such as transparency and interlacing (which you'll learn about in Chapter 8, "Creating Images for the Web").
PageMill supports much of HTML 2.0, plus several of the more common HTML extensions (centering, page backgrounds, and so on). It does not support tables or any of the newer Netscape 2.0 or Internet Explorer extensions, but you can enter any raw HTML tags onto the page in the appropriate places for those new features (which sort of defeats the purpose of being WYSIWYG, but at least you're not tied only to what Page Mill supports).
One strange oddity with PageMill is the HTML it generates after you're done creating your pages. Remember the <P> tag, for paragraphs? PageMill doesn't use paragraph tags; it inserts two line breaks (<BR><BR>) where the paragraph break should occur. This is not only incorrect HTML, but it prevents you from using paragraph alignments (<P ALIGN=CENTER>) without fixing all of your HTML in program other than PageMill.
Overall, PageMill is a great program for simple HTML pages, or for putting together a simple program quickly and easily.
Microsoft's Front Page, formerly by a company called Vermeer, is an integrated Web site construction and maintenance kit that includes a Web site administration tool, a Web server, and various other tools for administering the entire package. The Web page editor itself (Front Page Editor, as shown in Figure 6.12) is only a small part of the overall package.
The editor itself is easy to work with, although there are a few peculiarities. Although most of the editors let you either select an element and then type, or type first and then change the style, the Front Page editor separates these two functions. This means you can either insert an element from a menu item and then type in it, or you can select text and change the style using a pull-down on the tool bar.
Besides that, inserting and adding elements is straightforward. Because the editor is tied closely to a browser and a server, linking between pages and loading files and images from the Web is fast and easy.
Part of the Front Page package is an enormous set of templates and wizards for creating different kinds of Web pages, and so starting and building a Web page or entire presentation is fast and easy. Since I'm more used to working from scratch, sometimes the many different options were confusing to me, but for beginners, starting from templates might be easier than starting from a blank page.
The complete Front Page package is available for Windows NT and Windows 95. Information about Front Page, as well as a downloadable 30-day trial version, is available at http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage.
GNNpress, formerly NaviPress, is an integrated browser and HTML editor much in the same vein as Netscape Gold. Using GNNpress (shown in Figure 6.13), you can browse to pages that interest you, edit them in the same window, and then, if you own those pages, save them back to the server where they came from.
GNNpress is right up there with Netscape Gold in terms of ease of use, although the main HTML elements and features are all in menu items as opposed to on the tool bar (the tool bar itself had overly small and difficult-to-understand icons).
One interesting feature of GNNpress is the ability to create miniwebs, which are collections of related pages (what I've been calling Web presentations). When you create a miniweb, you can add pages and link between them fairly easily. A Miniweb window also lets you see a graphical representation of your collection of pages.
GNNpress supports HTML 2.0, many HTML extensions, and forms and tables. The forms editor is particularly nice, allowing you to insert form elements very quickly, and using a dotted line on the page to indicate the current form (very useful for pages with multiple forms).
GNNpress is the client half of an HTML publishing system, the other half being GNNserver. The combination of the two allows you to edit HTML pages anywhere on the Web and then save them back to the server (assuming you have the right access permissions, of course).
GNNpress is available for Windows, Macintosh, and many flavors of UNIX, and is free. Get more information about GNNpress and GNNserver, and GNN's Web site hosting services, at http://www.tools.gnn.com/.
HTML Editor is a freeware editor (see Figure 6.14) that lets you insert tags into your file and see the result in a WYSIWYG fashion-at the same time. The tags are shown in a lighter color than the surrounding text, and the text looks like it would look in Netscape or Mosaic, although you can change the appearance of any style and apply it throughout the document. There are options to hide the tags in your document to get the full effect, and you can also preview the document using your favorite browser.
HTML Editor's current version is 1.0. It supports only the basic HTML 2.0 tags, not including forms. It does not include any of the Netscape extensions or HTML 3.0 tags. It has a feature for including custom tags, however, so you can customize the application to include these new tags.
The documentation for HTML Editor is available at http://dragon.acadiau.ca/~giles/HTML_Editor/Documentation.html. You can get the actual package from ftp://cs.dal.ca/giles/HTML_Editor_1.1.4.sit.hqx.
What if you'd prefer not to work in HTML at all-you have your own tool or language that you're familiar with, and you'd prefer to work in that? Many programs exist that will convert different formats into HTML. This section describes some of those converters.
If you use a commercial word processor, and you don't see a converter listed here or among the lists of converters in Appendix A, try calling the vendor of that word processor. Conversion to HTML has been a hot topic for most word processing and desktop publishing companies, and that company may have a converter available.
Lists of converters from many formats to HTML are also maintained at Yahoo at http://www.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/World_Wide_Web/HTML_Converters/ and at ncSA at http://union.ncsa.uiuc.edu/HyperNews/get/www/html/converters.html.
In many cases, simple HTML editors can add HTML tags quickly to text files, or simply adding <PRE> tags to the beginning and end of a text file is a quick-and-dirty solution. Actual converter programs do, however, exist. For UNIX, two programs, both called text2html, will do the job. See either http://www.seas.upenn.edu/~mengwong/txt2html.html or http://www.cs.wustl.edu/~seth/txt2html/ for more information.
For the Macintosh, two programs called HTML Markup and text2html will create HTML files by dragging and dropping a text file onto its icon. You can get either of these programs from various Mac shareware archives (try http://www.shareware.com/).
Microsoft's Internet Assistant, mentioned earlier in this chapter, can be used to easily convert Word documents to HTML. You can also use QuarterDeck's WebAuthor 2.0 as a conversion tool for Word for Windows files. Find out more information about WebAuthor from http://arachnid.qdeck.com/qdeck/products/WebAuthr/.
Microsoft Word can also export files in RTF (Rich Text Format), which can then be converted to HTML using various RTF converters (see the section on RTF later in this chapter).
In addition to the Internet Publisher program I mentioned earlier in this chapter, other converters exist. WP2X ("Word Perfect to Anything") can convert WordPerfect 5.1 files to HTML. It runs under UNIX. Get information about it at http://www.milkyway.com/People/Michael_Richardson/wp2x.html.
RTF format is output by many popular word processing and page layout programs, and in many cases it can be the easiest route from many programs to HTML. To convert RTF to HTML on Mac and UNIX, the terrific rtftohtml program is the most comprehensive tool to get. Find out more about it at http://www.sunpack.com/RTF/rtftohtml_overview.html. For Windows, a version of rtftohtml is promised but is not yet available at the time I write this. However, a package called Tag Perfect, available at most Windows shareware servers (try http://www.shareware.com/), also converts RTF to HTML.
If you use Quark XPress, you can either use the RTF converter mentioned above, or export your Quark Files to tagged text and then use the Macintosh or UNIX filter described at http://the-tech.mit.edu/~jeremy/qt2www.html.
PageMaker 6.0 itself allows you to create HTML files using its HTML plug-in. If you're using PageMaker, this may be the quickest way to convert your files to HTML.
There is also Mitch Cohen's PageMaker Websucker, which is a HyperCard stack that extracts the text from PageMaker files and turns it into HTML. Check out http://www.msystems.com/mcohen/websucker.html for more information.
FrameMaker 5.0, on Macintosh, UNIX, and Windows, includes support for creating and exporting HTML files through the Quadralay WebWorks HTML filter. The version shipped with FrameMaker is a "lite" version; the complete package is available from Qualdralay and is described at http://www.quadralay.com/Products/WWPub/wwpub.html.
In addition, Harlequin's WebMaker, also available on Windows, Macintosh, and UNIX, provides sophisticated HTML conversion for FrameMaker files. See http://www.harlequinn.com/webmaker/2.0/.
With all these converters from word processors to HTML, you can often do most of your HTML development in those programs and deal with converting the files to HTML at the last minute. For many projects, this may be the way to go.
Consider the advantages of using a converter:
- Authors do not have to keep track of tags. Having to memorize and know the rules of how tags work is a major issue if all one wants to do is write.
- Fewer errors end up in HTML documents (misspellings, missing close tags, overlapping tags). Because the HTML is automatically generated, there's less chance of "operator error" in the final output.
- Authors can use a tool they're familiar with. If they know MS Word and live and die by MS Word, they can work in MS Word.
On the other hand, working in a converter is not a panacea. There are pitfalls, which include the following:
- No tools can provide all the features of HTML, particularly with links to external documents. Some handworking of the final HTML files will generally be required after you convert.
- The split-source issue. Once you convert your files from their original form to HTML, you have two sources you are going to have to monitor. To make changes after you do the conversion, you will either have to change the original and regenerate the HTML (wiping out any hand-massaging you did to those files), or you'll have to make sure you make the change to both the original source and the HTML documents. For large projects, splitting the source at any time except the very last minute can create enormous headaches for everyone involved.
Working directly in HTML, for all its hideous text-only markup what-you-see-is-nothing-like-what-you-get glory, does have advantages, including these:
- All your work is done in one file; no extra step is required to generate the final version.
- HTML files are text only, making it possible for them to be filtered through programs that can easily do automatic tasks such as generating tables of contents of major headings (and hyperlinking them back to those headings), or testing for the validity of the links in those files. The files can also easily be put under source code control.
- You have the full flexibility of the HTML language, including the ability to code new features as they appear, rather than having to wait for the next revision of the converter.
To wind down, I've provided some simple lists of HTML editors and converters to help you in your HTML development. After everything you've learned so far, the prospect of tools to help you must come as a welcome relief. Consider using one or more of the tools mentioned in this chapter; they may be able to help you in producing HTML documents.
You know which HTML tag creates a level-three heading. I hope that somewhere along the line so far, you've picked up some ideas for designing and structuring your documents so they can be read and navigated quickly and easily and serve the demands of your readers.
|Q||You, as an author of HTML books, probably know HTML pretty well. What HTML editor do you use?|
|A||For the vast majority of my HTML work, I use a plain old text editor: Emacs on a UNIX system, or Alpha on a Macintosh. However, many of the editors I've reviewed in this chapter have impressed me, HotDog and Netscape Gold in particular, so I may start using an editor for some of the more basic pages. I don't think anything will entirely replace working directly with the tags, however; it's difficult for an editor to be able to keep up with the rapid changes in HTML technology and still be easy to use.|