Electric-Pages is the development journal of the Graphics Research Lab
GRL Notes

Web Authoring Tools
  For a seminar on Authoring Tools, we're studying the leading HTML editors and site authoring systems. Here's the seminar outline from the conference brochure:

Just as ink-on-paper publishers use different desktop publishing tools to make different kinds of pages, Web publishers now have a choice of HTML page make-up systems that run the gamut from the simplest word processing conversion utilities to the most sophisticated WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) workstations. In this overview of Web authoring technologies and products, Graphics Research Lab director and Web publisher Jack Powers describes the various approaches to making Web pages, discusses the leading Mac, PC and Unix-based offerings and suggests some guidelines for choosing the systems that best fit your business. You'll learn about production management in Internet environments and about the latest products that will boost the quality of graphic design on the Web.

Posted by Jack Powers
January 8, 1996
Client: Mecklermedia's
Web Developer '96
Updated May 2, 1996
Client: Spring '96 Internet World
See also: Seminar Slides.

Authoring Features

In roughly ascending order of complexity, web authoring tools offer the following primary capabilities:

  • Manual HTML code entry and revision
  • One-button proofing with your browser
    • ...with many different browsers
  • Automated text code opening and closing
  • Automated anchor and image referencing
  • HTML 3.0 and Netscape support
  • Indented HTML listing format
  • Page templates
  • Style sheets
  • Automated WP/DTP text conversion and coding
  • Integrated HTML parser/proofer
  • Automated forms composition
  • Automated tabular composition
  • Time stamping
  • Revision and user tracking
  • WYSIWYG mouse-driven layout
  • Integrated Helper/Viewer/Plug-In management
  • Production management utilities
  • Support for server-side includes
  • Server loading and file upload management utilities
  • CGI script parsing/proofing
  • Database integration

In addition to the working features, each product has platform, support and implementation issues:

  • Windows, Macintosh or Unix base
  • Freeware, shareware or standard retail distribution
  • Availability of technical support
  • Availability of training and documentation
  • Frequency of upgrades
  • Other competitive advantages

In many ways, web page-makeup issues echo the print pagination discussions of the late 1970s and early 1980s (pre-desktop publishing). Vastly different approaches to page design and production management reflect vastly different systems designs. At one end of the discussion, "Real publishers code by hand," while at the other end, "WYSIWYG makes everybody a page designer."

As serious, large-scale multi-authored websites proliferate, many of the same editorial automation ideas embodied in the best print publishing systems will find their way to web authoring tools. We examined the varieties of approaches available, tested some leading prdducts and reported our findings at Web Developer '96 and Spring '96 Internet World.