Welcome to the wonderful world of WYSIWYG (‘what you see is what you get,’ pronounced wizeewig) html editors. They let you put up pages quickly. In fact, after you have set up the style of the pages you want to use, they can be as fast as a blog post. You can type or paste in the text that you want to use and the editor will work out the code for it.

I prefer working with pure code in simple text editors, but do appreciate and make use of Expression Web (a part of Expression Studio).

A quality product at el cheapo prices

Expression Studio 4 Web Professional used to sell for over $300 for each of its 3 parts. I had to check today to update this page and found it is now under $100. That’s a very pleasant surprise.

I do make good use of Expression Web. The capability I appreciate most is its emphasis on valid code. That is a nice new direction for Microsoft.

If there is a problem with a page, one of the first things I do is run the code through a validator. With the w3.org online validator, error reporting is sometimes complex and doesn’t point to just where the problem is. A single error might get a dozen comments. Often none of them will point to the exact problem. There will be comments like “this error might be produced by an unescaped ampersand somewhere on the page or it might be something else…” Have you ever been frustrated by that sort of stuff?

With Expression Web, if you type in anything invalid, there is a small warning triangle at the bottom of the window. Each invalid part of the code gets a light yellow highlight. On hover, a simple comment appears about why it is a problem. Once you see exactly where the problem is, most of your troubles are over.

Another use for EW that I am happy about, is code optimization. It does that better than any online optimizer I have used. Optimizing css is not a problem, but with html it can get tricky. I once had vertical Amazon ads that displayed as horizontal ads of a different size after optimizing. Did that ever mess up the layout.

The ad used a script, and after a couple of pages like that, I quit optimizing the script part of pages. I would only optimize the rest of the page. When I optimized a page using EW, to my surprise, all the white space was stripped out except for the scripts. They were left intact. The people that put EW together are at least as smart as I am. smile

And finally, one of the serious problems putting web pages together is that they will often look different in different browsers, even if the code is valid. Different browsers just do things differently. EW has a “Super Preview” program that is great. If you ever have to beat a site into shape for IE 6, this is the perfect tool. It shows the page you want in 2 browsers side by side. You can select Firefox or any Internet Explorer from 6 up.

You just paste the file path into it and it opens the page into the 2 selected browsers. This works better than any of the online “browser shots” sites I have used.

It was IE 6 that inspired the recipe for the web developer’s cocktail. Pour 4 oz of brandy into a blender. (Adjust as needed.) Add an aspirin and a Tylenol. (Adjust as needed.) Blend, relax, and recover. smile

And finally, one of the strongest advantages of EW. If you have a large site, the navigation and the file paths can get complex. Every site I have has been growing. I keep finding more ideas to add to them. There are folders within folders.

Suppose you have an images folder and you want to add a second folder called graphics. You move your smilie collection to the graphics folder. Now you will have to adjust the file path on every page that calls for a smilie. On a large site, that will take a lot of time.

If you open Expression Web, and do it there, it will change all the file paths to point to the new folder. It will basically become a content management system for the site.

I’ve been embarrassed by wrong file paths, and appreciate that part of EW.

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