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  1. #1
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    WYSIWYG editors vs. Hand Coding

    I'm curious how many of you who make your living in web design/development use 'WYSIWYG' editors like Dreamweaver, vs. hand coding XHTML etc. Is it really practical to hand code complex websites? Is there anything really inherently wrong with using Dreamweaver or something similar?

  2. #2
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    The professionals mostly use a WYSIWYG editor to create the bulk of the page and then use the code view to tweak any imperfections in the generated code. That gives them the best of both.
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  3. #3
    SitePoint Addict Romuba's Avatar
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    From my experience (very limited that it is) programs like Dreamweaver will get the bulk of the owrk done fairly quickly but there are tweaks that will need hand coding. Also there are occassions when you are repeating what you have already done and then it would make sense to simple copy the code and make any adjustments needed. There are of course a number of pieces of code that you need to do by hand since Dreamweaver (and others I would guess) don't always get it right.

    This last comment is particularly true if you need to change a piece of code and it has effects on other parts. Dreamweaver often doesn't get all the changes done.

    I suppose we can all look forward to the next real generation of develpment software where you merely think what you want and it is produced. Ok that is a little pie-in-the-sky for us here on the ground.
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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    I'd say that most professionals hand code rather than resort to a WYSIWG. If you put too much reliance on one you'll never actually learn the essence of good coding, structure and presentation. Yes it is possible/practical to hand code complex sites and I'd say most of the bigger sites are hand coded. As I see it WYSIWYG's are best suited for client side editing of content .

    Another scenrio..

    You have an emergency job on, a clients html page has an incorrect phone number that needs changing immediately as they're losing business because of it. You have no software to hand, only an FTP client.

    A professional web designer will be able to ftp into the site, open the file in Notepad, make the edit, save the file and reupload. Just like that, and the job is done done in a minute or so.

    If you're reliant on a WYSIWYG you'd be stuck!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluedreamer View Post
    Another scenrio..

    You have an emergency job on, a clients html page has an incorrect phone number that needs changing immediately as they're losing business because of it. You have no software to hand, only an FTP client.

    A professional web designer will be able to ftp into the site, open the file in Notepad, make the edit, save the file and reupload. Just like that, and the job is done done in a minute or so.

    If you're reliant on a WYSIWYG you'd be stuck!
    Well I can do that much now with my very basic HTML knowledge. I think it goes without saying that you'd need to know basic "hand coding" of HTML before you'll get too far. I'm more curious about designing large and more involved sites and whether or not professional designers are really "hand coding" those using notepad or BBedit or something similar or if they're using Dreamweaver etc. They're seems to be this kind of "purist" bias for those that hand code and while I agree it's essential to understand the basics and inner workings of XHTML etc. and that one's code will probably be "cleaner" if done by hand, is it really practical when designing larger, more complex websites? Also, I realize that you can get to the actual code in Dreamweaver and edit that.

  6. #6
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    @bluedreamer:

    That is a ridiculous scenario. You magically have an FTP client and notepad, but no other software.

    @The original post:

    It is definitely important to understand what you are doing. If not everyone would still be designing pages like 1995, tables and all. If you want to use a WYSIWTF then you should by all means, but be prepared and have the knowledge to debug the code it pukes out.

    Personally I hand code my pages using Dreamweaver in the split view. This allows me to get a general feel of what I will see when I view it on my localhost or the web.

  7. #7
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Most of the professionals I know use Dreamweaver and spend most of their time in code view.
    Stephen J Chapman

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  8. #8
    SitePoint Addict Romuba's Avatar
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    I certainly don't think that there would be any hard and fast rule as to which way to go, but whatever works for you - use that.

    I know some folk who think the use of Dreamweaver or equavalent is for sissies, and then there are others who say why hard code and then only later find the thing doesn't look light and battle to find where you went wrong.

    I do understand that there are folk who can hand code and "see" what they are doing in their mind without any WYSIWIG editor. I started with ACEhtml which had no split view but once you had done the nahd coding it has a browser interface to see what your work will look like.

    Go with what works for you. You will never be able to do any web develpment though without a reasonable knowledge of the html code - even if you are going to use pre-designed templates.
    Ross Bartholomew
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  9. #9
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by funktifyknow View Post
    @bluedreamer:

    That is a ridiculous scenario. You magically have an FTP client and notepad, but no other software.
    Chances are very good that the operating system is Windows which means Notepad is installed by DEFAULT. As for an FTP client, if worst comes to worst, one can FTP in via Internet Explorer - which is also installed by default.

    Not very magical if you ask me. But definately possible.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Schulz View Post
    Chances are very good that the operating system is Windows which means Notepad is installed by DEFAULT. As for an FTP client, if worst comes to worst, one can FTP in via Internet Explorer - which is also installed by default.

    Not very magical if you ask me. But definately possible.
    I think you're misunderstanding funktifyknow's point. I think what he/she is characterizing as "magical" and "ridiculous" is the notion that someone would have ONLY an FTP client and notepad and no other software with which to do the job.

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    Dan you are absolutely correct. The scenario is very possible. However if you are at home then the chances that you don't have access to your computer is ridiculous. So then the scenario isn't so ridiculous, if you happened to be out and about one day and a client called and said, "OMG you need to go to FedEx Kinkos and fix my site right away.", but in any other situation is absurd. I do understand his point however that it is very necessary to be able to write code by hand, because it simply makes fixing it easier.

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    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    You obviously haven't been paying attention to my computer problem threads in the General Chat board this year.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    Most of the professionals I know use Dreamweaver and spend most of their time in code view.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    Most of the professionals I know use Dreamweaver and spend most of their time in code view.
    That's me.
    I started writing HTML when it was first introduced. Always used a text editor ("Real men use notepad") and believed ALL WYSIWYG editors were the same. Frontpage, Dreamweaver, etc.

    Once I used Dreamweaver (while learning FLASH ) I became a convert.
    It has so many features that help improve my workflow. However, as felgall so aptly mentioned, I work in code view. I am NOT a designer, so the "pretty pictures" view-of-the-world would do me no good anyway.
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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by funktifyknow View Post
    @bluedreamer:

    That is a ridiculous scenario. You magically have an FTP client and notepad, but no other software.
    Maybe, but I was just trying to make a point. It has happened to me this way - I was working a a clients premises, giving them some tuition on their new shopping cart, when they found a glaring error on one of their existing sites (recently updated but not by me!). It was a big problem so they asked if I could fix it asap. The solution - download an FTP app, login to their server, edit the offending file (ie with Notepad), job done in a few minutes - client was impressed and now spends a lot of money with me.

    The point here is having the ability to work without your usual software or machines.

  16. #16
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    I'm only new to this but I like to layout the basics of the working site in notepad but then use dreamweaver to add content. Simply because the auto tag close is a little easier on the old rsi. It's also nice to go </ </ </ to close a nested list and it does it so it validates. I also like the way that starting keeps the indentation of the code to make it look purdy.

  17. #17
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    You are absolutely right bluedreamer. I guess I took it out of context. Hand coding should be a high priority. So I apologize

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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    No worries, it's always good to question things

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    SitePoint Guru redhillccwebmas's Avatar
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    For the first few months when I started coding xhtml + css I used Dreamweaver; when I started to get into even basic css (float model inparticular), I realised that Dreamweaver's design view was flawed and didn't accurately render what I was coding (I was using Dreamweaver 8 at the time).
    So I dumped that ages ago and to cut a long story short, I am now using Aptana, which is the best tool I've ever used; its a hell of a lot better that Dreamweavers code view IMO and doesn't cost anthing.

    James

  20. #20
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    When I first started learning HTML, Photoshop, and Web Design (way back in the days of 1998) I hand-coded everything. I would just hand-code the homepage, the basic content page (if different), and then just copy the code of the secondary pages. This technique I used shortened development time immensely.

    I was one of those that believed in the disgusting nature of WYSIWYG editors such as Front Page (which inserted code that not only shortened the process but actually made the process take 10x's longer to debug and modify the code until it was W3C-compliant). Then I found Dreamweaver and was literally shocked. I couldn't believe that a WYSIWIG that output valid code existed!

    Of course, Dreamweaver does produce minimal errors, which are easily corrected by going through the code itself. It is, however, one heck of a much better tool than that stupid blunder of M$ called FrontPage.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by webatomic View Post
    Is it really practical to hand code complex websites?
    Sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by webatomic View Post
    Is there anything really inherently wrong with using Dreamweaver or something similar?
    Yes. They produce sub-standard code. Dreamweaver's getting better, but a hands-on approach (in any endeavor) is always superior to letting a machine do it for you. XHTML/CSS are the easy languages to learn and I say if someone's too lazy to learn even those then they should look into different lines of work.

    In fact, I'd go so far as to say that anyone who uses a WYSIWYG editor is not a professional web designer.

  22. #22
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    At work I use Dreamweaver but yes, in code view all the time. I find its preview design window to be mostly inaccurate when it comes to displaying a page with placeholders for dynamic content, but in code view it does have some nice editing features. I like how it automatically closes tags for you when you add that "</" for example. Trivial things like these really add up with hours of work. As a developer though, it really bugs me that DW doesn't highlight matching curly brackets.

    Most of the designs I hand-code as I go along. I rarely do Photoshop mockups and only sketch up the site maps and sections.

  23. #23
    SitePoint Zealot detzX's Avatar
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    Here is my editor. I can do code by hand 10x faster than using any WYSIWYG editor but it's probably because I've done it by hand for so long it's much easier. When I code I don't touch the mouse which makes everything much quicker too. Plus even if I'm away from my computer I can still make any changes since I just need access to a computer with a shell.

    The only "correct" way to do it is the way that works the best for you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Romuba View Post
    I know some folk who think the use of Dreamweaver or equavalent is for sissies...
    And I agree with them.

  25. #25
    SitePoint Addict Romuba's Avatar
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    And WhiteWebServices, if there were no sissies, where would that leave us? Come on, sissies are needed to make some feel that they are better than others.

    I'll be a sissie and use Dreamweaver so that you can feel good.

    Seriously though I can only agree with detzX "The only "correct" way to do it is the way that works the best for you."
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