Adobe Dreamweaver, part of the CS5 suite, is the gold standard for commercial web authoring programs. You won’t find many who will dispute that. Top universities teach on Dreamweaver and clients working with designers often request that sites be submitted as Dreamweaver templates. So it makes perfect sense for budding web designers to begin working with Dreamweaver. Until you see the price tag.
A full-featured, professional web authoring tool is a must for any serious web developer, but is the cost of Adobe Dreamweaver justifiable? For many, that’s a non-issue—they simply can’t afford it. So, they are driven to free alternatives to Dreamweaver, such as KompoZer. KompoZer is a free HTML editing suite that combines hand coding and WYSIWYG editing features. Billed as an easy, yet full-featured authoring tool for non-technical users, it seeks to straddle that gap between entry-level HTML editors and the professional community with money to burn. So, how does it chalk up? Read on to find out if you can afford to rely on a KompoZer.
Key KompoZer Features
For any experienced web developer, there’s nothing that can be done in Dreamweaver that can’t be done with a simple text editor. So, the benefit of web authoring suites are the time-saving conveniences that are incorporated into its interface. The same is true for KompoZer—there is practically nothing that can be done in Dreamweaver that can’t also be achieved with KompoZer (and a free other free tools). But can it be done as easily?
KompoZer touts the following key features, many of which overlap with Dreamweaver’s feature set:
•\tWYSIWYG editor – For anyone who’s still learning the ropes with HTML, KompoZer allows you to create professional-looking webpages as easily as you might format a Word document.
•\tIntegrated file management via FTP – Most websites consist of several pages, files and directories—KompoZer brings it all together, allowing you to edit/publish and create entire websites from within the program.
•\tFast switching between HTML and WYSIWYG editors – Dreamweaver has the very cool split code/design screen, but KompoZer’s tabbed editor works in a pinch as well. You can hand code a section and switch over to the WYSIWYG editor to see what it looks like when it’s rendered or vice versa.
•\tSupport for forms, tables and template – These are some of the most arduous and code intensive tasks, and even seasoned coders prefer to put them together using a graphical interface. KompoZer makes it easy.
•\tCross-platform support – Available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS. Dreamweaver, on the other hand, has yet to be released for Linux—and it’s too weighty to run in a virtual machine.
These bullet points are usually enough for most web designers. But there are some Dreamweaver features that KompoZer doesn’t replicate. In general, you’ll get many more bells and whistles in Deramweaver, such as code hinting and voluminous “insert” menus that let you pull up complex bits of code with just a few clicks. Plus, you’ll get stellar support from the Adobe team.
KompoZer is also not quite as stable as Adobe, and it still has the feeling of a “work in progress.” For example, KompoZer doesn’t currently have a release for Intel Macintoshes, although Macs have been using x86 processors since 2006.
While KompoZer does an excellent job of making HTML and CSS less intimidating, it does little for non-techies who want to dabble in PHP or MySQL. Dreamweaver, on the other hand, makes working with databases and server-side scripting almost as easy as WYSIWYG makes HTML editing. That’s a powerful feature, and given the amount of things that can go wrong when hand coding, an immense timesaver.
Overall, however, it all depends on your needs. Adobe Dreamweaver’s vast array of features may be just what you’re looking for and worth every penny, or it may just be feature bloat. For a bread and butter program that won’t cost you a dime, KompoZer will fit the bill.