When I decided to list the best web editors for Windows, Macintosh and Linux, I didn't want to give a list that was just based on my initial reactions to the editors. I have been using some HTML editors for years and I knew that if I wasn't methodical, I would end up rating the editors I was comfortable with #1, simply because I was familiar with them.
So, I came up with a some criteria that I felt were important in a web editor. At that time, I simply evaluated the editors based on whether they had the criteria or not. But I only had about 10 features at the time, and eventually nearly every evolving web editor offered those features. So first I added features and finally I decided to weight them based on how important they are. For example: an editor that includes pre-written scripts has a useful feature, but that feature is not as useful as an editor that writes valid HTML. You can see all the features I evaluated the editors against and the scores I gave for each on the last page of this document.
What Features are Important in a Web Editor
Obviously, every web editor is going to have either a text editor to edit the HTML tags or a WYSIWYG editor to edit the pages visually. But an editor that has both will be the most flexible. So these are my highest weighted features. Every editor I evaluate will get at least one of these two features, and many have both. There are some editors that have a facsimile of a WYSIWYG editor, like Alleycode which has something called “SynchroView” to show what you're editing as you write the HTML, or EditLive for XML which has a WYSIWYG editor for XML, but not for HTML.
Other features that are extremely important include:
- HTML validator—you can't write valid code if your editor doesn't, and if it doesn't have a built-in validator you can't check to be sure everything is going well. Many of the pure text editors don't include an HTML validator, like Boxer Text Editor and Crimson Editor.
- CSS and Accessibility validators—just like with HTML validators, if you can't check your work, you won't be writing correct CSS or accessible pages. Accessibility validation in editors is fairly new, so not a lot have this feature. Some web editors that do have accessibility validation include: Dreamweaver, Expression Web, and HTML-Kit.
- Color coding and tag completion—these features are only important in text editors, but when you're using a text editor, they are very important. Color coding makes it a lot easier to see what you're writing, and tag completion helps you get the right attributes or just the correct spelling of a tag.
- FTP, FTPs, and site manager—Once you've created a web page you want to get it to the web hosting provider. FTP built into your editor makes this easy. And the best web editors include some type of site manager so that you can upload multiple files, compare live files to files on your desktop, and keep your site up-to-date automatically. And to be secure, it's better to use FTPs or secure FTP, so good editors should include that as well.
- Edit multiple files or tabbed editing—You would be surprised how many editors only allow you to edit one file at a time. And while it used to be common to have multiple windows open for multiple pages, now most editors that support multiple files do so with tabs. This makes it a lot easier to manage pages because you can compare the code on one page with another right in the editor and copy and paste between them quickly.
- Search and replace—There are very few editors that don't have some form of search and replace, but many don't allow for search and replace across multiple files. The best editors allow you to search and replace across all open files, all files in a directory, or even all files in a project or site. This makes editing a standard change (like a copyright date) quick and easy and you don't even need include file support on your hosting provider.
- Version control—Version control allows you to check-in and check-out files. This makes it much easier to correct mistakes quickly and work as a team on projects.
There are more features that I evaluate editors on. Page 2 goes into some of the features of secondary importance in the perfect web editor.