Web authoring system

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A web authoring system is software to produce web contents. They range from simple HTML editors to fairly sophisticated integrated development environments. Today, most web contents are not produced with web authoring systems, but with portalware of various kinds (and that include content management systems, wikis, learning management systems. In other words, you don't necessarily need a web authoring tool for producing web contents. The advantage of web sites made with static web contents is that they last (e.g. tecfa.unige.ch has been around since 1994. In addition, they are fast.

See also: Text editor (for more technically minded people)

List of editing software

Specific tools for web programming are not included here.

Free structure editors

There are dozens of available systems. They usually offer support for editing HTML and CSS. Some also support scripting languages. We don't have time to evaluate these. You should look out for features like:

  • Syntax high-lighting
  • Code formatting
  • Code completion
  • Validation

See also XML editors to edit XHTML, SVG etc.


Daniel K. Schneider can recommend these systems, i.e. they do a job, but prefers to use a programming editor, e.g. (X)Emacs.

Cheap structure editors

For the Mac:

Programmer's editors with HTML support

Programming editors also offer support to a wide ranger of other languages. Other than that, they should be no different to structure editors.

There are lots of text editors with HTML support, e.g.

  • Notepad++ (Windows)
    • Lightweight and easy to use, does good syntax highlightning but no indentation
    • Has a rather large library of plugins.
  • PSPad (Windows).
    • Lightweight and easy to use, does syntax highlighting, but no indentation (too bad !)
    • Only thing you need to know is: "CTRL-space" will open a popup for contextual code completion
  • (X)Emacs (Most systems, that's what I prefer, but young people have trouble with this.)
  • JEdit (Most systems)
    • This is a more complex editor than PSPad or similar, ok for programmers.
  • BBEdit (commercial) is popular with Mac users. The free TextWrangler has some HTML support.
  • Aptana (Mac)
  • Brackets by Adobe (multi-platform)

See the text editor article for more information about text editors.


  • Kompozer (formerly NVU). A fairly nice editor, HTML4 and XHTML only (!). Good for beginners.
  • Mozilla SeaMonkey Suite (a followup from the earlier Mozilla browser that includes a navigator, includes a composer and an email client). HTML4 only ?
  • Amaya, The W3C sponsored test browser and editor.
  • BlueGriffon HTML 5 editor
  • BlueFish
  • Coda (MAC)

Wikipedia has a list of some Free HTML editors

Through the web editors

See also JavaScript links. These systems work with JavaScript and usually are installed on some web page with a server-side connection (e.g. in a CMS. But nothing prohibits someone to use them client side only (and copy/paste the HTML code)

Commercial Mid or High End tools

  • Microsoft FrontPage
  • GoLive is a dead product since April 2008. See Dreamweaver.
  • Dreamweaver (Adobe's flagship web authoring tool, students can get substantial discounts).
  • Espresso by MacRabbit. A lean but yet powerful tool.

Other editing software

  • Some word processors like Adobe FrameMaker can be configured for single source HTML/XML/PDF production.
  • Word can export HTML (although the code is pretty non-standard and may require cleanup)
  • Open Office / Libre Office also can export html (and also to word)
  • Presentation software can export to HTMLweb authoring

For both Word and Libre/Open Office, you should try out the various options, i.e. make sure to save as "pure" HTML.

See also document standard, since one can produce HTML from any reasonably well defined document format.

Static web site generators

As we said in the introduction, most of today's website are built with some kind of content management system. However static web sites do have advantages: They are not hackable and they decay much slowlier. Therefore, it is not surprising to find various CMS-like tools that allow creating and maintaining a static web site. E.g. read Static Site Generators, Modern Tools for Static Website Development by Brian Rinaldi.


Useful browser extensions and browser tools

Many authoring tools don't provide you with enough information about what you are doing.

(1) Browser extensions, in particular for Firefox, can help. E.g. if you develop web page, Web Developer is a must have.

(2) Most modern browser also include built-in development tools. For the moment, read:

Software of particular interest to education

These systems offer additional functionality, e.g. can export to IMS Content Packaging.

  • Adobe Dreamweaver (with the free CourseBuilder extension, iff still available)
Free stand-alone
  • eXe, is an HTML or IMS CP/SCORM 1.2 generation tool
Free server-based
  • Docendo (a free server-based solution to produce SCORM 1.2 packs or HTML zip files, needs a JAVA servlet engine such as Tomcat)


Browser tools