Mac-based Webheads: What tools do you use?

Bridget got me rambling about Web development tools on another thread, and now I’m wondering what the kids are using to write their Web sites these days. Over there, we mentioned Nvu, Dreamweaver, GoLive, BBEdit, and TextMate.

I use BBEdit myself, but it’s kind of pricey and I’m not a big fan of the user interface (though I haven’t upgraded to the latest version, on which the interface may finally be better; I’m just sick of paying for upgrades all the time). I’d probably prefer a dedicated Web editor, but nothing that offers only WYSIWYG. (I have never met a WYSIWYG editor that generated code I would use on my dog’s site. If I had a dog.) Suggestions?

Also, for those of you who use Firefox and have tricked it out with Web development–related extensions, bookmarklets, and Greasemonkey scripts, what accoutrements are you sporting? I installed the following extensions last week, most of which I haven’t yet had time to play with: Web Developer, Fangs, HTML Validator, Link Checker, CSSViewer, Colorzilla, EditCSS, and Clippings. I’ve also got the Slayeroffice suite of bookmarklets. I learned about most of these from Leslie Franke’s Rapid Web Development and Testing with Mozilla Firefox. I also picked up some stuff from Alex Bailey’s 20 FireFox Extensions That Every Web Designer Should Know About.

And, of course, what relevant blogs or news sites do you read? I get A List Apart and, but that’s about it. I unsubscribed from a huge pile of Web development–related sites when I figured I’d never do that kind of work professionally again, and now I can’t recall what any of them were.


(Also, now that I’m no longer bound by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, what do you think—Web site, web site, Website, or website? I think I used to prefer website, but I honestly don’t remember.)

21 thoughts on “Mac-based Webheads: What tools do you use?

  1. I love TextWrangler—used to use it all the time for GREPing gunk out of text files coded for typesetting—but I also have a lousy memory for syntax, so for regular coding I’d like to have a nice, sturdy crutch. Also, built-in preview, validation, and FTP would be nice. BBEdit has excellent features, but using them is not always easy, and almost never elegant.

  2. Hmm, I don’t do web development, but now I’m all curious about some of the stuff you’ve linked for Firefox extensions, so I’m going to check those out.

    I am commenting, though, because I have a strong opinion: website. Lowercase, one word. If enough of us use it in print, maybe lame-ass style sheets will get slightly less lame-ass and start using it! At one mag I work at, we’ve gone to “email” but still use “Web site” — arrgh!

  3. I may stop hyphenating e-mail when I receive definitive proof that hell has frozen over . . . but, nah, probably not. I have a far less pigheaded reaction to website, though. I can’t explain it; that’s just the way it is.

  4. For the never-implemented style sheet I wrote for the day job (needed to support family & book selling), I used email and website. So I am proudly the author of a NOT Lame-Ass Style Sheet that languishes somewhere waiting for one last review.

  5. Another vote for BBEdit here, though it’s worth knowing Dreamweaver because that’s what folks who don’t know the code will use, and when they come to me with questions it’s invariably “How do I get Dreamweaver to do xyz?”

    A colleague of mine swears that skEdit beats the pants off BBEdit, but I’m too ornery to give it a try.

    As for Firefox plugins, I do everything with the Web Developer toolbar and Firebug.

  6. Doea anybody know—since Macromedia bought Allaire, and Adobe bought Macromedia, does that mean that Dreamweaver now incorporates HomeSite? (The FAQ at Adobe appears to be out of date.) Because that would make it less repulsive. Or is it a semi-standalone product, like Photoshop/ImageReady? And, come to think of it, has it been ported to the Mac version of Dreamweaver in the first place? Seems like they wouldn’t bother.

    Oh, wait—I guess I could look in the box. As of this morning, I think every piece of gear I ordered has arrived except the most important one: the computer. Grrr.

  7. Ah, skEdit! Thanks, Greg. I was trying to remember the name of that. I checked out the very first version, I think, and used to get e-mails whenever there was an update, but then I unsubscribed, finally, because, you know, I wasn’t going to do any Web stuff ever again.

  8. I’m not as web-savvy as you guys, but I maintain my blog (and may someday try a full website {website, website, website!]) with Sandvox, a nice little Mac-only app that’s as easy to use as a butterknife. The developers are still working out some kinks, but it’s cheap and flexible and fun.

  9. All y’all are nuts. It’s e-mail and Web site. Try anything funny and I’ll send my AP goons after you. (We know where you live.)

    I haven’t done Web designery in quite a bit, but I learned Dreamweaver in college. I tended to like it, because my teacher wrote the book Dreamweaver for Dummies, and therefore was a very informative, entertaining teacher. When you learn something right, it’s a joy to use. But then again, I liked being able to quickly switch from WYSIWYG to text editing.

    Re: a comment in your other thread, I was of the understand that the program of choice for Web retards was FrontPage, which to me was the worst piece of crap Microsoft ever put out. (Well, probably not the worst, but the worst I can think of off the top of my head at this particular moment. . .)

  10. Yes, FrontPage was the tool of choice for total Webtards, but it was PC-only. (And I doubt it was the worst piece of crap Microsoft ever put out; there’s tough competition for that title.)

    Dreamweaver was, IIRC, the tool of choice for Mac-using graphic designers who were trying to expand into the lucrative Intarweb arena. Designers who thought they could just do the exact same design they’d make for a printed piece and, you know, Webalize it.

    (Um, when I was in college, there was no Web.)

  11. I haven’t upgraded to the latest version, on which the interface may finally be better; I’m just sick of paying for upgrades all the time

    Just out of curiosity, when was the last time you upgraded your BBEdit? I’m curious because it would help quantify “all the time”. :-)

  12. Eeek! Um, I think I have whatever was the last unpaid upgrade before the current one. Version 8.2.6, perhaps? Won’t know until I get home. I’ve been faithfully upgrading since I switched to the Mac in January 2002—version 4-point-something?

    BBEdit is a fine product, as I said above, but it’s also one of those programs 98 percent of whose features I will never bother learning to use. For me, it’s sort of like using a food processor to mince garlic. Or, . . . you know, . . . some better metaphor. It’s a lot more text editor than I need, most of the time. And yet, the fancier features that I do use don’t often quite work in the way I would like them to; too many clicks. And there are a lot of other no doubt useful features that I just can’t be arsed to learn or set up. (What the hell is a Text Factory?)

    I’m sorry, Rich—I like it, but I don’t love it. And there are a lot of competing products, most of which cost less. I’ll download the trial of 8.6, but it won’t be an automatic upgrade for me this time. And I won’t order it for my nonprofit job unless I’m convinced that it would be the best use of their money, as they’ll be springing for a fresh new license.

  13. Eeek! Um, I think I have whatever was the last unpaid upgrade before the current one. Version 8.2.6, perhaps?

    Actually, the answer is that you upgraded to BBEdit 8.0 on February 18, 2005. (Two years and a week ago.) And every update you got since then was free. I say this not to put you on the spot, but only because I was looking for a quantifier for “sick of paying for upgrades all the time” — whenever someone implicitly questions the value they got from one of our products, I always undertake a bit of a reality check just to make sure I haven’t missed something important. In this case it looks like our standards of “all the time” are divergent, which is something I always find interesting.

    I’m sorry, Rich—I like it, but I don’t love it. And there are a lot of competing products, most of which cost less.

    Hey, you don’t have to justify anything to me. I don’t love my hammer, either, but there’s no amount of money that could convince me to part with it. :-)

    But if you decide that your US$30 to upgrade your license to 8.6 is better spent elsewhere, I’d certainly be interested to hear why you feel that is, since that’s the sort of feedback I’d find to be worth any price. (You’re welcome to send your thoughts to me directly, out of respect for your readers. :-))

  14. If you’re a full-time carpenter, you’d damn well better love your hammer. :-)

    I have to feel affection and esteem for a guy who’s the head of a successful (I hope) company but who nevertheless makes time to go around reading and responding to random people’s comments about his product. Your attention deserves a thoughtful response. Which I’m not really caffeinated enough to give right now, but I’ll make the attempt.

    Two years and one week ago, I wasn’t a Web worker. I didn’t think I’d ever be a Web worker again. I was just a lowly text wrangler (not even a glorified typist, as I can’t type worth a damn), yet I spent $49 for the upgrade to 8.0 anyway, for old times’ sake. At my cheap-ass workplace, where we had still been limping along with BBEdit 3 on OS 9 (or, on a few machines, OS 8), I was very happy to be able to upgrade to TextWrangler for free once I broke my computer enough to where it had to be fixed by installing OS 10.2. (Heh heh.)

    Then at my next job, which in theory was far less cheap-ass, in practice it was even harder to obtain new software. Whatever was free—again, TextWrangler—got installed right away. The nonfree things I requested, however inexpensive, never materialized. And since I thought I might be leaving soon, I didn’t press the matter. Maybe the almighty GoG knew this, in his wisdom, and that’s why he never brought the treats he promised me. Or maybe he just didn’t like being called GoG; we may never know.

    Now that I’m back in a situation where I can choose my tools and install them myself, I find that I’m not so attached to BBEdit as I once was. Certainly not attached enough that I would automatically buy a new license—that’s $125, not $30—for my workplace without first trying out its competitors. That would be irresponsible, and I’ve already raised eyebrows by ordering a second monitor. Which was totally, totally necessary.

    If the program cost $30, I would buy it without hesitation, just to save myself the learning curve; but for four times that, knowing I have to provide a written explanation of my purchase, I must at least try to honestly assess the value. It may turn out that after working with TextMate for a month, I’ll see that there’s a good reason why BBEdit costs almost 2.5 times as much. If that’s the case, I couldn’t be happier, as it’ll prove that I haven’t been a sucker for upgrading it “all the time.” If, on the other hand, I find a program that works better for me, I couldn’t be happier, as to be better than BBEdit, it would have to be pretty damn good.

    So now, obviously, out of respect for you and my gentle readers, I’m going to have to carefully evaluate both these programs—as well as CSSEdit, and skEdit—and report on what I end up using and why. Thanks for all the extra work, buddy. Sheesh.

  15. BBEdit is one of the tools I miss from my time as a Mac programmer. That was 10 years and many versions ago, though, so it hardly counts as a current recommendation. (I also miss Andrew Welch’s ProFont. Ah, nostalgia.)

    I’ve found the Firefox extension View Source Chart very useful for crawling around other people’s web pages. It displays the current rendered (post-Javascript) page’s source with nested blocks in different colors. Blocks can be collapsed by clicking on them, so you can isolate the bits you care about.

    And I third the recommendation for Firebug.

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