Saturday, November 19, 2005

The sad state of web site authoring on OS X -- and XP

I recently came across a set of enthusiastic announcments about RapidWeaver. I tried it in demo mode.

Simple, yes. Useful? Minimally. By comparison to FrontPage 98 it's a toy. (FrontPage after 1998 went into a downwards death spiral comparable to the post 1997 collapse of Microsoft Word.)

So then I tried NVU, an open source Java app. It's a partial clone of FrontPage 2000 (shame they didn't clone FP 98!!). It's far beyond RapidWeaver, but one of the first things I did was create an anchor on a page, then create a link on the same page to that anchor. The HTML was well formed, but the GUI didn't create a viewable link. Ooookaaay, so much for NVU.

Well, there's always the ghost of Mozilla composer, though it's very much a page rather than site oriented application. Then there's Dreamweaver, with its increasingly feeble OS X support. I suppose there a bunch of other page oriented solutions.

Here's Faughnan's test for a serious web authoring tool. I don't think any OS X app can pass this test today -- FrontPage 98 did it well:
  • View a web site as a file hierarchy or a directed graph of links.
  • Click on page icon see metadata, drag and drop into a page to create a link with text taken from target page title.
  • Create an anchor on a page. Drag and drop to create a link to anchor. Drag anchor to another page to create a link.
  • Change the physical location or file name of a page. Have all links in web site update to reflect this change.
If a document-oriented end-user tool can't do this, it's not a serious contender. In 1997 (almost 9 years ago) we had at least four applications that were contenders, of which FrontPage/Vermeer was only one (AOL had another, I forget the rest). Now we have a range of OS X solutions that look like this:
  • Blogger with TextArea support for Firefox/IE (but not Safari)
  • Slightly more sophisticated blogger solutions
  • Various page oriented solutions (wordprocessor save as HTML)
  • Toy site management tools like RapidWeaver
  • The missing domain once inhabited by FrontPage
  • The missing domain once inhabited by Dreamweaver
  • Industrial content management solutions that aren't particularly author-friendly and cost thousands of dollars.
The XP situation is only slightly better (if you consider Dreamweaver to be a non-industrial solution). Alas, the bottom line is that there just isn't a large enough market like me! I do need to migrate off of FrontPage on my XP machine. Perhaps my best option is to see how active NVU development is, and do some QA for them.


Tim said...
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Tim said...

Let's see: BBEdit, Dreamweaver 8, skEdit, TextMate, NVU, PageSpinner, (etc.); virtual hosts to allow testing php, mySQL, etc. on local machine; all sorts of GUI apps for working with mySQL. Not sure what your user-level is, but as a professional web designer and developer I've never felt a lack of tools, just the time to learn what all of them can do.

Not sure why you think Dreamweaver isn't well supported on the Mac, either. I mean, it's not perfect, but it's pretty damned good.