Programs to Help You Write HTML
You might be thinking that all this tag stuff is a real pain, especially if you didn't get that small example right the first time. (Don't fret about it; I didn't get that example right the first time, and I created it.) You have to remember all the tags, and you have to type them in right and close each one. What a hassle!
Many freeware and shareware programs are available for editing HTML files. Most of these programs essentially are text editors with extra menu items or buttons that insert the appropriate HTML tags into your text. HTML-based text editors are particularly nice for two reasons: You don't have to remember all the tags, and you don't have to take the time to type them all.
Many editors on the market purport to be WYSIWYG. As you learned earlier today, there's really no such thing as WYSIWYG when you're dealing with HTML. "What You Get" can vary wildly based on the browser.
With that said, as long as you're aware that the result of working in those editors can vary, using WYSIWYG editors can be a quick way to create simple HTML files. For professional Web development and for using many of the very advanced features, however, WYSIWYG editors usually fall short, and you'll need to go "under the hood" to play with the HTML code anyhow. Even if you intend to use a WYSIWYG editor for the bulk of your HTML work, bear with me for the next couple of days and try these examples in text editors so that you get a feel for what HTML really is before you decide to move on to an editor that hides the tags.
WYSIWYG editors tend to work best with files they've created themselves. If you have some existing HTML files that you need to edit, opening them in a WYSIWYG editor can do more harm than good, particularly if the files were created in a different WYSIWYG editor.
In addition to HTML and WYSIWYG editors, you also can use converters, which take files from many popular word processing programs and convert them to HTML. With a simple set of templates, you can write your pages entirely in your favorite program and then convert the result when you're done.
In many cases, converters can be extremely useful, particularly for putting existing documents on the Web as fast as possible. However, converters suffer from many of the same problems as WYSIWYG editors. The results can vary from browser to browser, and many newer or advanced features aren't available in the converters. Also, most converter programs are fairly limited, not necessarily by their own features, but mostly by the limitations in HTML itself. No amount of fancy converting is going to make HTML do things that it can't do already. If a particular capability doesn't exist in HTML, the converter cannot do anything to solve that problem. (In fact, the converter might end up doing strange things to your HTML files, causing you more work than if you just did all the formatting yourself.)
As previously mentioned, Appendix A lists many of the Web page editors that are currently available. For now, if you have a simple HTML editor, feel free to use it for the examples in this book. If all you have is a text editor, no problem; you'll just have to do a little more typing.