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BBEdit Adds Precision to Website Development

by Glen Emerson Morris

Buy it now!

There are two kinds of applications that can be used to create the HTML code needed for Websites, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) applications like Adobe GoLive, and text editor applications like BBEdit from Bare Bones Software. BBEdit has a long and distinguished history. For years it has been site-licensed at Apple where it is spoken of in close to reverential tones. It’s also frequently listed in questionnaires placement agencies use to evaluate the skill sets of job seekers.

There is a perception that a program like BBEdit is more for coding experts than for the general Web developers, but this is not really the case. BBEdit is nearly as easy to use as a WYSIWYG application, and it offers far more capability. It’s even possible for a person with a limited understanding of HTML to use BBEdit effectively. In the hands of someone familiar with HTML coding, BBEdit can be an extremely effective Website development tool.

BBEdit is essentially a text editor on steroids that has been optimized to produce HTML code. It combines many of the features of an advanced text editor with features specifically designed to make HTML programming fast and easy.

BBEdit stands for bare bones editor, which is an accurate description of the product. Though feature rich, BBEdit isn’t bloated with features of questionable use the way products from Microsoft tend to be (ever met anyone who’s used more than 50% of the features in MS Word?). Every feature BBEdit has is useful to many, if not most, of its users. Some development companies add features just because they can add them, and never consider whether they actually should add them. This is not the case with the developers of BBEdit.

The code BBEdit produces is also lean and mean, especially compared to code created by Microsoft’s Front Page and Adobe’s GoLive. BBEdit even has a feature that removes some of the excess code present in pages imported from its WYSIWYG competitors.

The interface of BBEdit is as well thought out as its feature set. Adding HTML markup to a page done through a menu aptly named Markup, which contains sub-menus of just about all commonly used HTML markup tags. For instance, to make text bold, simply highlight the appropriate and select Markup->Font Style Elements->Bold.

The search and replace capability of BBEdit far surpasses that of common word processors and rivals that of many programming applications like CodeWarrior or Apple’s MPW. Not only does BBEdit have the ability to do batch replacement of text strings in entire folders, it also can also do things like replacing all of the text between two different text strings. For instance, BBEdit can replace all of the text between the comments <! header begins here> and <! header ends here>. This would allow all of the headers in one or more folders to be replaced by executing only one search and replace. However. BBEdit also offers an even easier way to to the same thing.

BBEdit also supports includes, which are useful for inserting sections of HTML code that appear on several Web pages, like headers and trailers. A brief line of HTML code tells the browser to include, or insert, a small text file stored separately. Using includes means that only one file has to be updated to change several pages. Most Web servers support includes and using them is as simple.
With BBEdit placement of images on a page can be done simply by dragging and dropping them in place. After an image is dropped a dialog box opens asking, but not requiring, details like the alternate name, path, alignment, space and border preferences.
Table creation is also simple in BBEdit. To create a table, you just select Table from the Markup menu and enter some basic data in the dialog box that opens. Only a basic understanding of the way tables work is required to use the feature.

BBEdit also has a built-in FTP feature which allows files to be saved directly to a Web server. BBEdit lacks some ot the capability of a dedicated FTP application like Fetch, such as the ability to transfer entire folders to and from a Web server, but this is a minor issue. Fetch is readily available on the Inernet for a small fee, and recently a new, robust and completely free FTP program for Mac OS X has been released named Cyberduck.

BBEdit also has a spelling checker and a syntax checker to spot mistakes in either spelling or HTML coding. These are both very convenient and useful features.

Viewing the completed or in progress HTML pages is easy using BBEdit’s preview feature. Located in the Markup menu, the preview command will open the page being worked on in one of several browsers, including different versions of IE, Netscape and Safari.

BBEdit comes with a comprehensive and well written manual. Two additional books on BBEdit are available from Amazon; “The Official BBEdit Book” by Bob Levitus and Natanya Pitts, and “BBEdit 4 for Macintosh” (Visual Quickstart Guide Series) by Mark R. Bell (a good introduction but now somewhat out of date).

System requirements for BBEdit 7.1.4 are a Macintosh running OS X 10.2 (10.2.6 or later highly recommended including 10.3), or OS 9.1 or later with CarbonLib 1.5x. BBEdit is not supported on the Windows and Linux platforms.

BBEdit lists at $179.00, less than half the $399.00 cost of Adobe GoLive CS. Even if you have Adobe GoLive, there are good reasons to have BBEdit as well.

Another useful product from Bare Bones Software is TextWrangler ($49.00), which they describe as “a powerful and richly-featured tool for composing, modifying, and transforming plain-text files.” TextWrangler lacks the HTML coding features of BBEdit, but it’s great for many jobs that BBEdit isn’t. For instance, TextWrangler can be used to process Website log files, like counting the number of unique visitors to the Website in any given time period.

Demos of both BBEdit and TextWrangler are available for download from Both are worth checking out.

Glen Emerson Morris has worked as a technology consultant for Network Associates, Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius, and is the developer of the Advertising & Marketing Review Data CD.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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