|Essential free software for the Web|
This page is for beginners. I've assumed you know next to nothing, and have written a very basic checklist of all the things you need to browse the Web, write your own Web pages and post them on your server. I hope you won't feel patronized. If you do, you're on the wrong page.
First, a word of caution: this page has links to other sites. You will go to these to download free resources. Downloads may take a few minutes or longer, depending on the speed of your connection, how busy the site is and so on. Even at UK rates, this will be a modest expense for free software. If you pick up all the software recommended on this page, you could tie up your PC for quite a while.
All right, so the fact that you're at this page means you already have a browser like MS Internet Explorer, Netscape Communicator or the less familiar Opera, which uses very little of your system resources. But have you installed the latest version? These are available on cover disks of popular PC Magazines. These will cost little more than the phone charge for a download, will give you loads of other software, and you get to keep the mag. But if you can't, then you can pick up the browsers from these addresses.
Most downloads come as compressed, ("archive", "zipped" or "Zip") files. Some of these, like those from Microsoft are self-extracting. Click on the file icon in Windows Explorer, and they will unpack themselves in the right location, create new directories and so on. But most shareware and freeware is not self-extracting: it needs a zip-unzip utility to uncompress or extract it.
There are several excellent utilities around which do this. The best-known is WinZip, which is available for download as shareware. You are free to use it for a time-limited trial period, after which you should register and pay for the product (still very inexpensive). An alternative is PK Unzip. Click on the links below to download either of these products. In case you are worried about this, yes, they are self-extracting!
If you really want to understand how HTML works, it's best to write it in a text editor. You can use Notepad or Wordpad which come with Windows. But these only let you have one file open at a time. On the other hand you could use your word processor, and save your files with an HTML extension. But there are some excellent text editors available as shareware or freeware, many of which have functions which will help you write or check HTML. One of my favourites is Eric Fookes' Note Tab Light which is available as freeware. A more functional product, Note Tab Pro is available as shareware from the same site.
If you prefer a specialist program for writing HTML, there are lots to choose from. Microsoft and Netscape both have basic HTML editors which come free with their browsers (FrontPage Express and Composer). If you want more functionality, try Arachnophilia or 1st Page 2000.
Arachnophilia is Careware. The author does not want any money but does want you to do something in return for the software, such as helping a young person or learning not to whinge about your life! It is an excellent program.
EasyHTML is another great freeware editor from Toni Helenius.
1st Page 2000 from Evrsoft is one of the best Web editing tools available - and it's free. This is an amazing program. Get your free copy now! Alternatively, you could download OpenOffice.org, which is a full office suite, including a very good HTML editor.
Once you've got the necessary software, you can start writing your HTML. Some of the HTML editors have very good online help, but you'll do better with a proper tutorial. Try Joe Barta's or Alan Levine's. Both are excellent. I know: I've used them.
If you want more information beyond the basics, you should consult the HTML Reference Library. This beautiful program has it all, but be warned: it's quite hard for beginners.
Validators check your HTML for conformity with international standards. This isn't just a matter of obeying the rules. If your HTML isn't sound, your pages may not look the way you want them to. Even if it looks fine to you, it may not look so good to users with different browsers from yours. CSE HTML Validator Lite has been upgraded, and now comes with an excellent built-in editor. I used it to check this page.
Don't be alarmed by the strange name. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. This is the safest way to transfer your HTML files to the Web. Your browser may have FTP capabilities integrated with it, but I much prefer to use an FTP program. You will need to know the address of the server which hosts your pages, your user name and any password which allows access to your user area. Once you've logged on, you can just drag and drop. I use Leech FTP, which is simple and robust (and quick).
Free Internet service providers (ISPs)
I haven't bothered with many links to these. If you've found this page you clearly have an ISP already. If someone else is paying, that's fine, but you shouldn't be. Some subscription services justify their cost by providing "services" like on-line game-playing, which you don't really want. And anyway, you can find similar services free on-line.
Many free ISPs are slow to connect you to the Web, but the best are excellent. Search with Google and you should find a provider. You can usually register online or ask for free installation software to be posted to you. (You don't need such software: you can set up a connection manually in minutes, using Windows Dial-Up Networking.)
To find out about the best current ISPs, check out a mag like Internet Magazine for the latest services. Most of these ISPs give you free Web space, and many (not all) let you use it for business. But if you want to use your site for regular business transactions, you should stick with a subscription service, which will give you the support you need.
If you want to manipulate images for a Web site, you need an editing utility, like IrfanView.
Other free stuff
If you want to learn more about the Internet or want tools or software for writing web pages, use the hyperlinks below. If you would like a bigger choice, click here to go to my page of weblinks (URLs).
Hot Downloads - use these sites for resources
© Andrew Moore, 2002; contact me