Not long ago, I had to teach a workshop on “how to make a website.” The class was to take place in a computer lab with older, unstable machines, and the 15 or so participants ranged from teenagers with a good grasp of web development basics to retirees who barely knew how to handle a mouse. I was given three hours to deliver the workshop, not including a 20 minute intermission. Needless to say, this was going to be a challenge.
Thankfully, it turned out to be far easier than I thought, thanks to the excellent WYSIWYG web development application called Nvu (then still at version 0.8). After using the HTML view to learn a few of the basic codes, we switched to WYSIWYG view and they began to use it like a word processor. We shifted back and forth so they could see how authoring in one view affected the other. By time the three hours were up, almost everybody in the workshop had published their own website, and the attendees were rather psyched up about the fact that they managed to create their own little homesteads in cyberspace.
Nvu occupies the gap left by applications like Dreamweaver, GoLive and FrontPage becoming much more complicated for professional usage: there is a genuine need for a simple but potentially powerful program to create web pages without dealing with difficult learning curves, shelling out hundreds of dollars, or moving too fast and too far beyond the paradigms of a word processor. That isn’t to say that professionals won’t find it handy: I’ve used it a number of times myself for “quick-and-dirty” webpages. It’s also great for keeping a commonplace book that can be accessed from multiple locations via a web server. Although the beta versions were stable enough to use for my purposes, the fact that it’s officially released as a version 1.0 means I can start recommending it to others without fear of beta quirks.
The software is yet another powerful application in the Mozilla family, along with Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird (still in early development) and the Mozilla Suite (in fact, it’s the successor to the Mozilla Composer still included in the Suite). It’s available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, and it’s free to download from Nvu. If you’re a beginner with an itch to start producing your own web pages, or even a professional looking for a cross-platform way to create pages and modify existing sites with a minimum of fuss (or expense), then Nvu could prove invaluable. It costs nothing to give it a whirl, and you may even save a fair amount of money and time in the long run.
(By the way, as with any new tool, make sure you back up your existing files before you start experimenting.)