Another SCPCUG member has joined our list of Member Home
Visit Bob Wilhoit's site at http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Tower/2415/.
Bob is into writing poetry. It never ceases to amaze me as to
the diverse interests we all have and yet the web brings us all
Last month we learned how to create a basic home page and
get it up on the web. I told you this time we would discuss learning
HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) so that you could expand and
modify that home page. I really don't want to get into teaching
HTML step by step as there are many places on the web that will
give you that instruction. What I plan to do is give you the
information to find some of these sites and also talk about my
experiences with creating web pages. I'll explain why I think
you need a basic understanding of HTML even if you use one of
the HTML Editor programs like Microsoft's FrontPage (http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/)
or Adobe's PageMill 3.0 (http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/pagemill/main.html).
Of the many sources of information on the web for learning
HTML, one of the best (in my opinion) is called Web Tutor. Web
Tutor 3.5 is a great basic course in HTML and is available
as freeware at http://junior.apk.net/~jbarta/.
Go there and look at the menu on the left side of the page. Clicking
on the "Web Tutor 3.5" link will take you to a page
offering download options. From there you can download the whole
course as a 1.3Mb zip file. Simply unzip Web Tutor to its own
directory. It does not install or scatter files all over your
hard drive. Just double-click on the index.html file in the unzipped
directory to run it. Web Tutor uses your browser to teach you
HTML. This allows you to take the course offline at your leisure.
The complete course is also available online so you can preview
it first and then decide if you want to download it. Just click
the individual menu items under "Main Tutorials" at
the link mentioned above. I found it much easier to take the
course offline as everything is instantly available on your hard
drive whenever you want it.
The Web Tutor 3.5 file actually contains several tutorials
plus a bunch of other goodies. There is the beginner tutorial
"So, you want to make a Web Page!" along with other
goodies like a Color Picker, Font Viewer, info on Netscape's
216 colors, info on Special Characters, Short List of free HTML
Editors, etc. Other more advanced tutorials also included are
"Table Tutor", "Form Tutor", and "Frames
After you have completed the tutorials offered by Web Tutor
you should have the basic knowledge you need to hand-code your
web pages. You can now start to expand and modify your home page.
One method of increasing your knowledge is by looking at the
source code on other web pages. It is best to start with simple
pages like the home pages of friends rather than commercial sites.
(With commercial sites you might also get involved in a copyright
problem.) If you are using Windows 95/98, first open your home
page in WordPad. Next open your browser to view the source code
of the web page you want to copy from. When you have the source
code visible on the screen highlight what you want to copy, hit
the "Ctrl" and "C" keys together to copy,
and paste it into your home page within WordPad. Finally, save
your home page as a text file with the htm or html extension.
Then view the result in your browser by selecting open file and
calling up your home page. Depending upon what you are trying
to accomplish it may take a bit of trial and error to get the
code perfected. This is a learning process to see how the code
affects the resulting html page that appears in your browser.
Once you understand what code changes affect the resulting web
page, you are on your way to becoming an HTML expert.
Okay so you have taken the HTML course and tried your hand
at hand-coding but long for the ease of using an HTML Editor.
A word of caution here. The HTML Editors are not the answer to
all your web page creation problems. They are a very useful tool
for creating complex web pages but knowledge of HTML code is
essential for correcting their mistakes and getting around their
shortcomings. Before you rush out and buy an HTML Editor you
might want to try a free one like the "Composer" that
comes with Netscape Communicator. I tried Composer briefly when
I was hand-coding my personal web pages and did not find it easy
to understand yet other friends have used it and think it is
great. What you will find is HTML Editors come in a number of
flavors and it becomes a personal subjective choice as to what
you like. You can check ZDnet's Software Library (http://www.zdnet.com/swlib/)
for several HTML Editors to try out. I would stay away from Microsoft's
FrontPage unless you are running a professional web site. A friend
said it took him over a month to learn it going at it daily,
just because it is so big and complex.
So which HTML Editor do I use for creating the web pages on
the SCPCUG web site (http://www.scpcug.com)
and why? The respective answers are "Adobe PageMill 3.0"
and because the SCPCUG provided it for my use as Web Master.
When I took the job of Web Master in May 98 I thought I could
continue as I had on my personal web site by hand-coding the
SCPCUG web pages. I was reluctant to try an HTML Editor as I
knew there would be a learning curve. I very quickly found that
the complexity of the SCPCUG web site that Dave Nottingham had
originally created with Microsoft FrontPage was just too much
for editing by hand. This was in fact a blow to my ego, although
I had known for some time that the complexity of my personal
web site was also getting to be too difficult to edit by hand.
So where does the break point come when one must give up hand-coding
for an HTML Editor? I would say when you get into tables of more
than several rows. I have tables with many rows on both Curt
& Milada Potsic's Home Page (http://www5.palmnet.net/~cpotsic)
and Curt's Midi & Music Page (http://www5.palmnet.net/~cpotsic/index4.html).
It was becoming a nightmare everytime I wanted to add a new link
in the middle of my "Favorite Web Links" on the home
page or a new midi song in the middle of my Songs table on the
Midi & Music page.
It took me some time (a couple of hours/day for several weeks)
to learn the PageMill program and I was already familiar with
HTML code. Nevertheless I persisted and today am quite comfortable
using it. One thing I have found is that PageMill wants to do
things certain ways. It will screw up a perfectly fine existing
page of code because things are not in the exact format and/or
place it's program requires. This is probably true of most HTML
Editors. This does not matter if you are starting out fresh and
creating a new web page with the HTML Editor. But copying a page
(or part of a page) of code from the web and then pasting it
into an existing page you created with the editor might present
problems. Last July I took my own personal web site (which I
had hand-coded for two years) and dumped it into PageMill. I
figured if I was forced to learn PageMill for editing the SCPCUG
web site why not use it on my own site. That proved to be more
of a challenge than I expected. It took me two weeks to get it
all working again within PageMill. I still have to tell PageMill
to ignore certain sections of code as it does not understand
that code (but Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers do). To
do this I use "NOEDIT" tags which informs PageMill
to ignore everything between these tags. The CGI (Common Gateway
Interface) code that is used on the SCPCUG home page for the
visitor counter is an example of where these "NOEDIT"
tags come into play. Here is what the source code looks like:
<TD WIDTH="147" BGCOLOR="#00ffff">
<TD WIDTH="147" BGCOLOR="#66ffcc">
<P><CENTER>You Are Visitor</CENTER></TD>
<TD WIDTH="147" BGCOLOR="#66ffcc">
<TD WIDTH="147" BGCOLOR="#00ffff">
<P><CENTER>since May 31, 1998</CENTER></TD>
Without the "NOEDIT" tags PageMill automatically
changes the code making the counter inoperable. Please note that
this visitor counter code will only work for home pages based
on Palmnet's server. (Palmnet, our Internet Service Provider,
graciously hosts the SCPCUG by providing free server space for
our web site and conduct of SCPCUG business.) If you are not
a Palmnet customer, copying this code to your home page will
not give you a working counter.
Every so often I still find myself having to go into the source
code within PageMill to straighten out code which PageMill (because
of its unique interpretation of the rules) chose to change in
a way other than what I intended. The bottom line is no matter
what HTML Editor you pick it is best to have a basic understanding
of the HTML code and how it works or you will be totally lost
when the editor does something you didn't intend. Sometimes the
undo command will work but other times you are on your own.
Earlier I said I planned to give you information on finding
some of the sites that instruct you in HTML. So far I have only
told you about Web Tutor. Here are some other sites to check
out: The Web Developer's Virtual Library: The Beginners Page
reallybig.com "The Complete Resource for All Web Builders"
The Webmasters Services at http://www.thewebmasters.bc.ca/resources.html;
CNET's Builder.com at http://www.builder.com/.
Under the download section of Builder.com you can also find HTML
Editors. Finally, you might need a site to see if your site is
"up to snuff". For that go to Web Site Garage
and get a checkup.
Note: Web Master Wanderings
articles contain links to external web sites. Web addresses are
constantly changing. There is no guarantee that the information
links provided in this article will remain unbroken or up-to-date
beyond the date that this article is originally published.