1. Technology

Free and Inexpensive Web Design Software Pick of the Week

Free Tools for Web Designers


There are lots of different tools out there for Web designers. Editors are just the tip of the iceberg. There are CSS editors, FTP clients, Web analytics software, CMS's, image map editors, databases, graphics software, and so much more. This list will have some of the better free tools for Web designers, and it's updated every week.

From October to December every year I do Web editor reviews, so my focus will change from software to Web editors. The weekly reviews will start up again in January.

CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor - October 4, 2009

CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor
Screen shot by J Kyrnin

There are two versions of the CoffeeCup HTML editor, and many people mistake the full version for the free version. This is not surprising, as the free version is really just a limiited trial of the full version. It has many of the features but not all of the features of the full version. One thing that many reviewers who don't actually test the software don't realize is that the free version is not WYSIWYG. The tab is there, but when you click on it, you're told you must upgrade or use the 30-day free trial of the full version.

But this software is still fine for most HTML developers. It has a lot of features we expect from HTML editors and works fine for most jobs. And of course, it's free.

SeaMonkey - September 27, 2009

Screen shot by J Kyrnin

SeaMonkey is not primarily a Web editor - it's an Internet applications suite that includes a Web editor. As such, it's not well suited to most professional Web designers because it's too simplistic and doesn't include features like version control, CSS, or project management. But for a beginner to the Internet who also wants to build a Web page from scratch this might be a good tool. It gives you the same interface for all your Internet applications so you don't have to learn something new in order to browse the Web or read your email. And if you want to edit a page, you just browse to it and click the edit button.

Aptana Studio - September 20, 2009

Aptana Studio
Screen shot by J Kyrnin

Aptana Studio has a lot of great features for Web developers who build Web applications. It has several frameworks built in for Ruby on Rails and Ajax among others. Plus it has support for Adobe Air and many other programming tools built right in or available as plugins. This is not an editor for a beginning Web developer or Web designer. But if you do a lot more code work than design work, and you like making your Web pages sing, then Aptana has a lot to offer.

KompoZer - September 13, 2009

Screen shot by J Kyrnin

KompoZer is a perennial favorite among my readers, mostly because it's one of the only free WYSIWYG editors available. It's based on the Nvu code but is supposed to get updated more often. I haven't seen an update of either product for over a year now, but KompoZer still works well. And it runs on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux variants. So if you're looking for a free WYSIWYG editor, you've found it.

CocoThumbX - August 30, 2009

Screen shot by J Kyrnin

CocoaThumbX is a freeware thumbnail creator for Mac OS X. I've been using it for over a year now for two photo blogs that I run, and I love it. You just drag the photo(s) you want thumbnailed over to CocoaThumbX, and it does all the work for you. Now you have to realize that I have Photoshop open nearly all the time, but I still use CocoaThumbX to creat my thumbnails, because it makes it so easy. Yes, I could probably create an action to get Photoshop to do it too (and add the drop shadow I like and create an icon and so on), but why should I when CocoaThumbX does it all automatically. I don't know yet if it runs on 10.6, I'll add an update once I've upgraded.

Putty - August 23, 2009

Screen shot by J Kyrnin

SSH isn't available natively on Windows, and telnet isn't secure, so many hosting providers don't let you connect via telnet. There are other SSH clients out there (including a bunch for the iPhone) but most cost money. I've been using Putty since around 1999, and it's a very useful tool for Web developers.

Adobe Kuler - August 16, 2009

Adobe Kuler
Screen shot by J Kyrnin

Kuler is another one of those tools that I use so often that I forget that I use it. I love browsing Kuler. It is fun to just set a base color and then see what Kuler provides for a color scheme. It's also a great way to create several palettes to show to clients so that you have a lot of ideas to work from. If you're looking for color ideas, Kuler is a great place to start.

Web Developer Toolbar - August 9, 2009

Web Developer Toolbar
Screen shot by J Kyrnin

This is a tool that I use nearly every day - the Web Developer Toolbar. This is a Firefox Add-on and you can install it in Flock and Seamonkey as well. And as I said, I use it constantly. It has features like:

  • Disable different actions like JavaScript, refreshes, page colors, CSS, and more
  • Work with cookies right from the bar, like deleting them, turning them on and off, even adding them
  • And so much more

Even if you're a developer who doesn't believe in using add-ons in your browsers, you should consider including this one. It provides so much value in a very small footprint. The only days I don't use it are the days I don't turn on my computer.

Spiffy Corners - August 2, 2009

Spiffy Corners
Screen shot by J Kyrnin
CSS can be a lot of work to build, especially things like rounded corners, but there are wizards online that make them easy to build. And Spiffy Corners is a fun one. Just choose the foreground and background color of your boxes, and Spiffy Corners writes the HTML and CSS for you. It's like magic. The only problems I had with this wizard were that it appears to provide 3px, 5px, and 9px corners, but only 5px corners worked in my browser. There are also a lot of ads on the page, so don't get distracted. But if you need a lot of rounded corners on your pages, this could help you save time.

Accessibility Wizard - July 26, 2009

Accessibility Wizard
Screen shot by J Kyrnin
You tell the Accessibility Wizard what your role is in creating the Web page, and what level of accessibility you want the page to function at, and this wizard will tell you what you need to pay attention to. For example, if you're an Information Architect creating dynamic features on a AA-conformance site, you need to remember not to create auto-refreshing pages, use W3C standards, and avoid deprecated features. And the wizard will go into as much detail as you need to help you fulfill your role.

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