A plethora of free WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML editors have been released over the years. Several of these – SeaMonkey, KompoZer, Nvu – grew out of Netscape Composer, which was last updated in 2004. SeaMonkey and KompoZer have not seen much meaningful development in several years and Nvu was discontinued in 2005 thus leaving those looking for a no-cost easy HTML authoring solution few good options for developing web pages using the most current coding practices – that is, until recently.
BlueGriffon has recently entered the free Open Source HTML editor scene and incorporates contemporary web standards including HTML5 and CSS3. Developed by Daniel Glazman, who was the original Nvu developer, the software is available for Windows, Macintosh and Linux and shows a lot of promise for beginning- and intermediate-level web page authors looking for a no-cost solution for creating and editing basic web pages. And while it does not have all the features I’d like to see in an HTML editor, it does a great job producing clean markup and CSS without touching the code.
The interface is similar to other HTML or text editors and allows you to have several files open in separate tabs. It’s easy to add images and drag and drop them into position in your layout. Lists, tables, and forms are also easily added and formatted. A quick toggle to the source code allows experienced authors to directly adjust the code as desired.
One of my favorite features in BlueGriffon is the style properties box which gives you access to CSS properties in an easy to understand and use format. Not only can you do standard formatting of text and borders in this panel, you can also position elements, make shadow effects, create columns, define flexible elements, and much more.
BlueGriffon is missing some handy features included in commercial HTML editing software, such as Adobe Dreamweaver. It does not come with any integrated site management or remote file access mechanism so you’ll need to mount the server hosting web files on your or use an external file transfer application like WinSCP or Fetch to access your web files. There is a free FTP add-on but I found the interface clunky and preferred to use my favorite FTP program. Additionally, most of the add-on features, including the user manual, will also cost you a few bucks. Template users may also be disappointed to find out that, like the other free editors, BlueGriffon automatically adds , , and tags to HTML “fragment” pages.
The Final Verdict
If you are looking for a free HTML editor, you should give BlueGriffon a try. It is a truly modern editor with a user-friendly interface. My only major gripes are the integrated “paid” add-ons and the lack of integrated WebDAV or SFTP and site management tools.