Review of free HTML editors

By Murray Bourne, 29 Jul 2006

In the comparison review below:
PageBreeze
Front Page Express
PSPad
Nvu
Before using any of these editors, check them carefully for viruses and spyware.

PageBreeze HTML Editor

The free version of PageBreeze HTML Editor is a simple WYSIWYG editor. It has the usual icons for bold, italic, underline, numbered lists, bullet lists and so on.

PageBreeze

Pagebreeze

There are 4 tabbed areas for editing and viewing your HTML masterpieces:
Pagebreeze

  1. Normal - for basic WYSIWYG editing
  2. Page Properties - for changing page title and inserting Keywords and Description meta tags. There is also a small text editing area for editing the CSS stylesheet
  3. HTML source - for seeing and editing the HTML coding behind the page (this is handy when the WYSIWYG editor does not give you what you want)
  4. Internet Explorer preview

On the left is a handy Explorer-like "Files" tab:
Files
In the "Form Builder" tab are drag and drop icons for Text box, Radio button, etc. There's even a form validation option which creates javascript validation code.

Conclusion: This editor is only so-so. Things I don't like are:

  • The code that is created is sometimes deprecated (like the <font> tag in the following example):
<blockquote dir="ltr" style="MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px">
  <p><font color="#008080" face=Verdana>My text</font></p>
</blockquote>
  • The CSS editor is small and inconvenient - and rather confusing
  • Why only Internet Explorer preview? Any serious developer will need to preview in Firefox, Opera, Netscape and other browsers.
  • Sometimes surprising things happen, like you enter some text and go to view the HTML source and all your text disappears (I think this is because you can save any HTML as a template and it must be stripping off the content for this purpose. Pretty irritating, though. It happened to me several times.)

Enough - it's not my favourite editor, but it is free...

Download from: PageBreeze.com.


Frontpage Express

FPE

I have used Frontpage Express since it first appeared as a freebie on the Windows 98 CD.

Frontpage Express is a simple WYSIWYG editor and it gives clean, tidy HTML. The interface is similar to PageBreeze (bold, italic, dot points, etc) but to view the generated HTML code, you have to open a dialog box, which is not so convenient.

Being an old editor, it does not recognise CSS or <div> tags. In fact, it will strip out tags it doesn't recognise. Like PageBreeze, it produces a lot of deprecated code (not surprising, given its age). But for a quick and easy way to do text, images, tables and simple formatting, it is just fine.


PSPad

PSPad is a sophisticated text editor, but it does not have WYSIWYG capabilities. I use it more than any other editor, because I can edit a large range of things:

  • text
  • HTML
  • PHP
  • javascript
  • perl

...plus about 10 other things I don't use yet.

PSPad has many coding aids, like colour coding of tags, HTML Tidy (which cleans up your code), auto-completion of tags (which I always disable because it's not the way I work), good search and replace functionality, a text comparison feature and an Explorer-like file finder similar to PageBreeze. You can remove all HTML tags to produce a text-only file.

PSPad has an in-built FTP facility which makes uploading files to your server very convenient.

Overall, PSPad is my favourite editor. While it is not WYSIWYG, it has so many other powerful features that I find myself using it all the time.

Download from PSPad.com.


Nvu

Nvu is open source and is standards-compliant. That's great, but I rarely use it because I find the algorithms used for producing CSS-based HTML are odd.

For example, the blockquote icon does not give blockquote - it gives a paragraph that has a left margin of 30px. This is not convenient for styling purposes.

Also, a hard carriage return gives <br> tag, not a new <p> as expected.

Nvu is certainly worth a try, but it's not my favourite.

Download from: Nvu.com.


See the 10 Comments below.

10 Comments on “Review of free HTML editors”

  1. sefik says:

    Thanck zou.

  2. saltydad says:

    What a cool addition to the top page on our site.
    Thank you!

  3. Willem says:

    version 4.5.3 Pspad under 'HTML menu'
    it has 'Page Preview'F10
    and it previews it in 'IE'

    Under the 'Settings menu' then
    submenu 'Program Settings'
    under 'system integration'
    you check [v] viewer IE
    or editor [ ] IE

    Good reviews I have tried all the above
    the only good one Pspad.

    Cheers

  4. Murray says:

    Hi Willem and thanks for the extra info.

  5. Stas says:

    I use free PHP/HTML/CSS/JavaScript editor - Codelobster PHP Edition
    It has also HTML code inspector like FireBug has.

  6. Karen says:

    I've also used fpxpress and loved it as I taught myself a little. but now I have Windows 7 and cannot seem to get fpxpress to be compatible with it, although I have read a little on how to..ohh well..such is life. I odnt know alot anyway, but did come to know my way around that 🙂

  7. Jay says:

    This was a pretty good write up. Although you didn't say what your favorite WYSIWYG editor was. You told us what your favorite editor was, but not your favorite WYSIWYG. I was interested in that as I need a WYSIWYG, because I have very little html knowledge. Thanks

  8. Murray says:

    Hi Jay. I'll need to revise this old post! At the time I wrote this, FrontPage Express was my favorite "super simple" WYSIWYG editor.

    But now I use CSS all the time, it's basically useless and as Karen said, it doesn't work in Windows 7.

    As suggested by Stas, Code Lobster looks pretty good: http://www.codelobster.com/

  9. Will Stanton says:

    Good review of HTML editors. I started many years ago cutting and pasting into notepad doing a mod and then cutting and pasting back into the source.
    I thought I was pretty clever at the time but now my site looks homemade and I need to update and not sure how.
    I am getting lots of recommendations to go with WordPress.
    I started a trial with Joomla but I keep coming back to the free download of Pagebreeze.
    I like a WYZYWIG function but don't resale understand templates.
    Any suggestions which way to go?
    I have a web guy telling me to decide on a CMS like WordPress but do I need to if I am using something like Pagebreeze?
    Your assistance Will B much appreciated.
    Rgds Will B

  10. Murray says:

    Hi Will and thanks for your kind comments.

    I agree with the people who suggest using a CMS of some sort. When you do so, all the links when you create new pages, and categories and so on are pretty much automated, which saves a lot of mundane maintenance work.

    You can still use a WYSIWYG editor together with WordPress - I do all the time. (WordPress also has its own visual editor, but I usually leave it turned off. For simple pages it's fine, but adding javascript and so on can be painful.) Once you are happy with your page, you just copy the HTML into your WordPress post.

    Why not set up Worpress on your server and give it a go?

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