ISO Dreamweaver competitors, open source or not

I’m looking for possible alternatives to Dreamweaver for editing HTML documents – in particular, open source alternatives.

For me, an “alternative” is an HTML editor that at least approximates Dreamweaver’s ability to display source data and a formatted (WYSIWYG) display, keep them in synch, and let the user edit either one. (It should have a reasonable set of features for formatting, validation, auto-completion, etc, but that is almost a goes-without-saying item.)

So far I haven’t found a single editor that offers synched, editable source and WYSIWYG displays. I’m puzzled: has the open source community simply neglected to produce any offering in this area? Or am I missing something?

There are some very big, free IDEs out there, like Aptana, but WYSIWYG is probably pretty complex to build, and perhaps there’s not much motivation to do so, given that it produces a pretty dirty result.

Perhaps have a look at Google’s tool:

There have been a few attempts, such as NVU and Kompozer, but considering:

  1. Most developers would rather code by hand than work with the sloppy/bloated code WYSIWYG editors produce.
  2. The WYSIWYG display view is typically its own engine and doesn’t actually display things like a real browser.
  3. The introduction of browser extensions like firebug to look at and help debug your code.
  4. The rise in popularity of CMSes, their ease-of-use, and versatility.

…there hasn’t been a big call for a WYSIWYG from the developer community at large.

Advanced notepad editors, IDEs, and firebug-like browser extensions are typically the tools of the trade these days.

I should explain a bit about the type of work I do, so this will make more sense.

I’m a technical writer. I spend most of my editing time dealing with text, not tags – but the text is full of tables, lists, headings, anchors, and other stuff that gives the document structure in a browser, but makes it look like word soup in the HTML. This type of file is really impossible to read in the sense that you’d read a book.

Thus when I revise an HTML document with a typical editor, my work cycle looks like this:

Locate something I need to change in the browser window.

Choose something near-by that’s distinctive enough to search for.

Search the HTML file for it.

Figure out whether the instance I found is the right one, and search again if not.

Locate the near-by thing that I actually want to edit.

Edit it.

Typically I spend most of my time on the first five steps, leaving not much for the sixth.

I want a tool that will do the scut work and let me concentrate on the stuff that I’m paid to know how to do. Specifically, I want to be able to click something in the browser window and have the insert point go to the corresponding place in the HTML file. If I can actually edit the text in the browser window, that’s nice, but it’s not really important. I’ll switch back to the code window anyway if I need to do anything more than the most elementary tag editing.

If the browser window does a poor job of duplicating what I’d see in a real browser, that’s too bad, but it’s also not important. If the browser window is accurate enough to let me navigate by using my eyes instead of a search command, that’s all I need. I don’t have to know exactly what the text will look like in a browser. The style sheet takes care of that.

My work is different from that of a web designer, who mostly works with tags, and it’s also different from the work of a CMS user, who cares so little about tags that markdown language will do. I don’t think there’s a good term for the tool I need, but I’ll call it a WYSIWYG HTML editor for back of anything better.

It may be that no one has created one of these because code editors on one hand and CMS editors on the other are “the tools of the trade these days.” But that’s just a way of saying, “It’s like this because this is what it’s like.” I don’t believe my needs are so exotic that there’s no demand for tools to serve them. (Nor, I notice, does Adobe.)

I also don’t believe that a WYSIWG HTML editor would be too difficult for the open source community to create. Open source software includes some of the most sophisticated products available today: OpenOffice, for example, and Linux. If the open source community decides to create a WYSIWYG HTML editor, it will.

That’s something Adobe Brackets is promising to do, though I don’t think it’s ready yet:

Interesting stuff! Thank you for pointing it out; it looks like it’s designed to do exactly what I need. Unfortunately the wiki describes the key feature as one of “lots of ideas” for further development, so you’re right, it isn’t ready yet.