Setting up webpages

This page was originally written to outline some basic ways to work with HTML in order to set up simple webpages, like this one. Recent developments have changed the way I would now suggest approaching this, so I here give an abbreviated version and some suggestions of where to look further.

Editing HTML

Webpages are written in a language called HTML, for HyperText Markup Language. The structure is very simple: each page has a header, a footer, and some tags that tell browsers (like Firefox or Safari) how to format the content. You can see the html source of any webpage by looking under "Tools> Web Developer>Page Source" in Firefox or "View> View Source" in Safari (or similarly in other browsers). One of the simplest ways of setting up a webpage is to find a format you like online, then copy the source HTML and replace the content. HTML can be edited like text, but there is a range of software which makes it easier; programs range from simple & free to pricey & complicated.

One program which I have used extensively in the past is Taco_HTML_Edit for Mac OSX. Years ago this was a simple and free program, and I have never updated to the current versions, which promise more features. Because here I would like to show what can be done with free and open source software (FOSS), I'll leave Taco to the side, but you might want to look into it as an option.

The FOSS software I use most often for HTML work is SeaMonkey (formerly "Mozilla") which is produced by the same organization responsible for Firefox, and is available for all platforms.

In addition to a Browser, SeaMonkey includes a Composer feature which allows HTML layout editing in several modes, among them a "What You See is What You Get" (WYSiWYG) editor. It's easy to copy webpages or parts of webpages from the browser to the composer and modify them. It's also easy to create tables and adjust text and background colors.

Preformat Websites

There are now a number of ways of setting up websites without having to look at HTML at all. Some common free website providers are Google Sites, Wordpress and Ning. These provide a set of templates which can set the general appearance of the site, and WYSiWYG interfaces for adding content. In you haven't set up a website before, this is probably the easiest way to start — then if you run into limitations on these sites, you can start digging deeper.

updated 27 January 2012

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