Other Tools You'll Want
Beyond editors to help you create your HTML documents, the Web author's arsenal isn't complete without some other tools. In particular, you definitely need a good image editing application on hand to help you convert and tweak the images that you plan to use on your Web pages. As you dig deeper into Web authoring, you may also find you'd like to work with other applications that enable you to create animated content and multimedia content, as well as other tools that simply make being a Web author easier.
If you plan to put images on your Web pagesand I bet you doyou need a decent application for translating, cropping, resizing, and otherwise tweaking your images. Of course, your options include some wonderful and expensive commercial applications, such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Fireworks. If you don't have such applications, however, you might opt instead for downloadable shareware options. Two of the most popular for Microsoft Windows are Paint Shop Pro (http://www.jasc.com/) and LView Pro (http://www.lview.com/). For Macintosh, the standard-bearer is GraphicConverter (http://www.lemkesoft.com/). For Linux and other open source operating systems, it's the Gnu Image Manipulation Program or GIMP (http://www.gimp.org).
Whichever graphics application you opt to use, you want to be able to perform at least a few basic tasks:
Creating images using shapes and text.
Cropping and resizing images.
Changing the number of colors used to render the image.
Saving images in JPEG, GIF, or PNG formats.
Working with the special features of the various graphics file formats, such as transparent GIFs and progressive JPEGs.
These things are discussed in much more detail in Chapters 6, "Visual StimulusAdding Graphics," and 11, "Advanced Web Images and Imagemaps." For now, bear in mind that you might want to shop around (either on the Web or in the computer store) for a graphics editing application.
Web animation comes in a few different forms. One way to animate images on a Web page is to use the animated GIF specification, which is less interactive (it doesn't respond to user input such as mouse clicks) but common for animated images such as online advertisements.
You'll find a few animated GIF applications available as freeware or shareware, although some animation toolsparticularly those designed for creating Web advertisementstend to be a bit more expensive than shareware image-editing applications. Try Ulead GIF Animator (http://www.ulead.com) and Animagic GIF Animator (http://www.rtlsoft.com/animagic/index.html) for Microsoft Windows. For Macintosh, try GifBuilder (homepage.mac.com/piguet/gif.html) or VSE Animation Maker (vse-online.com/animation-maker/index.html).
Up one step from animated GIFs are Macromedia Flash animations. Flash is very popular, in part because it allows for interactivity. Viewers of a Flash animation can click controls to make choices within the animation, altering what they see next. This is popular with car manufacturers, Web application businesses, and many others who want to show products or ideas in a multimedia presentation.
Aside from Macromedia's own Flash application (http://www.macromedia.com/flash/), which retails for several hundred dollars, other Flash tools include CoffeeCup Firestarter (http://www.coffeecup.com/) for Microsoft Windows and ez-Motion (http://www.beatware.com/) for Macintosh. Chapter 13, "Adding Multimedia and Java Content," discusses Flash in more detail.
Editors and image applications are the basic tools in the Web author's arsenal, but you may want to go beyond those basics if your focus is on multimedia content. You may find yourself creating movies using QuickTime, Windows Media, or other multimedia formats. Or, you may find yourself creating and editing sound files for your Web siteanything from basic background sounds using the MIDI standard (for computer-synthesized playback of songs) to the MP3 standard for CD-like recorded audio playback.
If that's the case, you want to shop around for applications that enable you to create and edit such media. Before venturing too far afield, however, be aware that such tools may come bundled with Microsoft Windows and the Macintosh OS, depending on the version of the operating system with which you're working. Microsoft Windows Me and later versions include Windows Movie Maker, which enables you to edit video recorded on a DV-compatible camcorder. You can then turn that video into Windows Media or a similar format that can be displayed via the Web. Similarly, many Macintosh models include iMovie, which offers simple editing of DV video and exporting to the QuickTime movie format. QuickTime Pro is available for both Windows and Macintosh users, offering some simple tools for editing and translating movie files into QuickTime format for display on the Web.
DV stands for Digital Video, a file format for video images that are recorded using DV-compatible camcorders (often on MiniDV cassettes). The video is easy to edit using a computer application such as Movie Maker or Apple's iMovie. DV is quickly becoming a popular competitor for VHS camcorders.
Likewise, many different applications are available for editing and translating sound files into one of many Web-compatible sound formats. Such applications include Sound Forge XP (http://www.sonicfoundry.com) for Microsoft Windows and Sound Studio (http://www.felttip.com/) for Macintosh. iTunes, included with most Macs, is also capable of creating MP3 and other sound files, and the QuickTime Pro player can be used to translate between different sound formats.