The Great Mac Software Hunt

Our resident Windows expert has recently switched to the Mac and is on a quest to root out the very best Mac software. Is he making the right choices?

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The Ongoing HTML Editor Saga

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Parallels Desktop is still getting a workout on my Macs. Why? Despite the discovery I mentioned in the last issue of the newsletter -- that Dreamweaver for the Mac incorporates whole chunks of my favorite HTML Editor, HomeSite -- Dreamweaver is not my new HTML editor.

You see, I looked very briefly at Dreamweaver's "coding" environment, saw that it was HomeSite and thought I'd solved my problem. Wrong. As it turns out, Macromedia messed up several of HomeSite's features. For example, HomeSite's excellent search-and-replace features, which let you search for multiple lines of text, don't recognize line endings in Dreamweaver. It's complicated, but I have several routine search-and-replace operations that I carry out in creating my newsletter that rely on newline recognition in the HTML code.

Another annoyance: Macromedia deleted the ability to split the code window to compare two code blocks in different parts of the file. The split screen now offers code in one pane and its pathetic WYSIWYG view in another. The final blow is that the aforementioned WYSIWYG mode is absolutely terrible. I opened several HTML pages that I'm familiar with in the WYSIWYG view, and none of them rendered properly. These are pages that at least six Windows, Linux and Mac browsers render identically. Dreamweaver makes them look like an HTML Frankenstein.

So if Dreamweaver isn't the answer, let me tell you that even worse is Linspire Inc.'s Nvu, the Mac WYSIWYG HTML package that has been most frequently recommended by readers. Nvu didn't have what I needed when I tried it, but it compounded the problem by rearranging my code automatically -- without asking -- when I was working in Nvu's "HTML" mode (the non-WYSIWYG mode). Nvu may be fine for people who don't know how to code HTML, but for those of us who do, this program rivals Microsoft's original FrontPage for worst WYSIWYG HTML-creation package in history.

Another program that readers have frequently recommended is Bare Bones Software Inc.'s BBEdit. It's woefully inadequate for HTML editing. BBEdit is extremely powerful, but I'd rather use the Unix command line than its clunky, sometimes ridiculous user interface. BBEdit continues to be my primary text editor because it does things no other program does, but there's no way this product is a useful HTML editor. Those of you who are using it that way, you're using a tool akin to an iron maiden -- it's just painful. Give yourself a break and find something else.

BBEdit
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BBEdit's HTML-editing interface: Huh?

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I have yet to give Optima System's Pagespinner a real try, and I will do that because several people have suggested that tool as well.

In the meantime, I've been using Taco HTML from Taco Software. Taco HTML has a nice, light user interface. Unfortunately, the features are lightweight too.

 
Taco HTML
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Taco HTML: Nice interface, lame search dialog.

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What is it with Mac apps that don't let you thoroughly customize the toolbar? Why are toolbars considered to be gauche on the Mac? They work, and they are a shortcut for many commonly used functions. For example, the Insert Link function doesn't have a main toolbar option. I use that feature frequently, and I'm not a big fan of three-key keyboard commands. (They slow me down.) A good program should have a two-key command for that function as well as a toolbar button option. Taco has neither.

Taco's biggest failing, though, is its lame search-and-replace dialog. The fields only show one line, which is frustrating when you're working with large blocks of text. And you can't control the direction of the search.

Taco HTML also has no facility for opening multiple documents within the program window. Instead, if you open 20 files, each one is a separate window on your screen.

Taco is far too simplistic for me. I use it for quick nip-in-and-fix-it tasks, but for the real deal, I'm in Windows XP running in Parallels using my old standby, HomeSite.

I'm still looking for answers on this one, folks. If you're serious about helping me, and you have access to Windows, HomeSite 5.5 is available in a free 30-day trial version. Take a look at its multiple-document features, the Edit and Browse tabs, the search-and-replace dialog; if you know of a Mac product that matches these features, please let me know about it.

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