Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A Drag n Drop Web Editor that Actually Works!

I have always preferred hand coding, or cutting and pasting bits of old pages to make web sites.  After all, if something works once, sometimes a small change can make it seem exciting to someone else.

So I spent a lot of time in HTML editors and also writing HTML in POTEs (Plain Old Text Editors)

Once in a while though I played with Drag and Drop HTML.  For me it began with StarOffice, some time around 1996/97.  Star Office was one of the earliest integrated office suites and soon after I began using it regularly I discovered it had a built in web editor that allowed me to make pages simply by dragging stuff to the position I wanted.

Over the years I used drag and drop editors for quick and dirty pages, but always went back to hand coding for anything really useful.  As HTML advanced, drag and drop became increasingly harder to use with any reliability.

Enter Quick aNd Easy Web Builder 2.

Download QNEWB2 HERE

QNEWB has a number of advantages, especially for beginners, to web design, and also a number of traps, which may baffle some beginners and even experienced web builders.

The biggest problem I found was that despite its name, due to the way the tutorials and manual were written, it was neither quick, nor easy.

On the other hand, some persistence showed the program's amazing flexibility. 
In the image above you can see a test web page in Firefox 28, and to the right, the layout in QNEWB2 as the same page is being designed.  The text frames are dragged into position, the image also is dragged in, in this case, from a folder, and resized.  It could also be chosen using the image dialog.

A lot of use is made of the 'Properties Inspector' panel at the right, and not realising this may cause hours of anguish to new users, even experienced web designers and programmers.

Once you find, and read the manual, which is a large PDF in the installation folder, you begin to understand the workings.  Things like adding a background image at first seem impossible.  But click somewhere on the page and the option is available in the Page Inspector.  Although finding it and working out how to drive it requires a little 'sideways thinking' that even reading the manual doesn't always clear up.

The same applies to the page zoom function.  I am old and feeble.  I like to zoom my page to a comfortable size on my screen.  However, zooming disable the Edit Text function, regardless of whether you zoom in, or out.  I got so annoyed with not being able to edit text that I posted it as a bug on the support forum, where I was advised to RTFM, although in very friendly and polite terms.

The problem is, the manual (at June 2014) says nothing about the zoom function disabling text editing, in the section on editing text where a normal user would expect to find it.  You have to read on to the section on the View Menu, where it is mentioned at the bottom of the page.

The answer is apparently not in the trouble shooting section because as far as i can see there isn't one.

There are some other areas where small annoyances like this strike unexpectedly, but overall, they are like tiny ripples in a huge pond of useful function.

There are so many things this program has going for it.  For a start it is a self contained program that is able to be installed cross platform simply by downloading it, unpacking the zip archive and running the executable inside its folder. You can use an installer in Windows, Linux and I assume, Mac, but I run mine directly out of the folder like a simple Java app.

Within certain HTML and CSS limits, you can do almost anything in some way.  Need a slider or photo album?  There is a simple one built in and plug ins will be available at times as people write them.  Do you want to create a PayPal button and simple merchant option on a page?  There's a function for that.
These functions are in a list down the left panel of the program and the list is long.  Using them might require some help, but there is a community forum which has a few active members enthusiastic about the program, as well as a very active developer monitoring the forum frequently.  Depending on time of day I have often had an answer to a question within an hour, and rarely later than the following day.  Now that is service.

There is a trial version of the program available, but from my experience I simply wouldn't bother with it.  The price is so small for the amount of fun you can have with this software that it is worth buying just to play with it.  The longer you use it, the more uses you find for it!

I can see myself using it more and more as it matures, and as I get lazy.  It is one of the most fun programs I have ever had and one of the more useful.

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