Comparison Between Various Authoring Tools Computer Science Essay

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Before that, as an extra knowledge, web page is known as a document that is connected to the World Wide Web which contains of many electronic documents. These web pages at the beginning were being created by using normal text editors where creators have to remember all the codes for each function and write them down in the text editor such as Notepad. The first website created by Tim-Berners Lee in 1991 with limited markup language, to today's modern web pages with stunning visual designs and more programs and utilities to tweak the code behind. These visual and programs have been able to be created nowadays by using Web Authoring tools which can be said as an easier way to write hypertext or multimedia applications.

Modern web pages are almost impossible to create nowadays without a web authoring tool as our new generations are only being taught to use these tools and not normal text editors like Notepad. There are many different kinds of tools used these days like Adobe Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expression Web, NetObjects Fusion, Frontpage, and HotMetal.

2.0 Objective

As mentioned, there are many web authoring tools available today and this itself creates confusion in users to choose a good user-friendly authoring tool to create their own web page according to their own specification and taste.

In this report, two most popular and most used Web Authoring Tools will be compared in detail. The two tools are Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expression Web. These two software or tool are very highly known for web page creating but there are their own boons and banes which suits some users and does not suit the other users. As times grows, newer versions of both these tools are being brought up such that each of their features becomes more and more alike. Their very first versions were in a vast difference, but in the current versions which are Adobe Dreaweaver CS5 and Microsoft Expression Web 4, they both have many common features. So, to be general and more specific, their top most features will be compared throughout this report.

There are many aspects of features that must be seen in a web authoring tool. Starting from the basic, there is the Views feature which is usually divided into three parts; Standard View, Code View, and Split View. Next, the Heading and SubHeadings part in the text formatting toolbar that contains the feature of creating a heading or subheading which defines that is that web page being created for. Then comes the feature of Inserting Links by looking at how easy it is for the tool to allow user to insert a Link or Hyperlink. Finally, Inserting Images or any visuals will be the expected feature as visuals is a very vital object needed in every web page nowadays. Well these features are just the basic ones used to determine a web authoring tool. Let us explore more features between these both tools.

3.0 The Two Web Authoring Tools

3.1 Microsoft Expression Web

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The entry of Expression Web saw its limelight when the popular web authoring tool, 'Microsoft Front Page' pulls itself from the platform. In 2006, Microsoft made the beta version public for the Expression Web application. That was in September 2006. This has been always seen as the first preview of Expression. The complete version was released in December by Microsoft and can be found on their website. It is a WYSIWYG, which stands for What You See Is What You Get, where it allows users to create web pages by just dragging and dropping essentials on the page and start editing. These essentials makes web page creating much easier as there is many more tools provided.

Adobe Dreamweaver

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Adobe Dreamweaver is a web authoring tool which was earlier known as Macromedia Dreamweaver. Adobe bought it over from Macromedia in the year of 2005 of December and started developing it even further for as a key to professional Web production and Web site design. Dreamweaver allows you to work together with many more other Adobe tools like Adobe Flash, Adobe Fireworks, and Adobe Photoshop for picture designing. These integration could make the web page look more innovative and creative. Dreamweaver was at first an American web-graphics and website development software kit. It worked alone from 1992 to 2005. It had its headquarters in San Francisco, California. This software house produced a variety of products such as Dreamweaver and Flash.

4.0 Comparison of Features

Firstly, how fast the tool itself takes to become a part of your computer system does count as its feature. For now, let us focus on how fast it takes for Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 and Expression Web 2 to install into a normal computer system. The installation of Dreamweaver takes over 5 minutes to fully install and Expression Web takes a smaller gap of time to install which is over a minute. This shows Expression Web has a faster installation feature.

Secondly, the speed that any software takes to open once a user double-clicks on the icon is an important part of the feature too and same goes to these tools. According to the result recorded, Adobe Dreamweaver took an average time of 8.57seconds for it to fully load up, whereas, Expression Web again has a faster time which is an average of 3.47seconds.

Thirdly, coming to the authoring tool itself where the real comparison begins. Adobe Dreamweaver have always had this feature where user could view their web page which is under-construction is 3 different views, which are Code View that only shows the codes that user is typing, Design View that only shows the layout of how the web page looks, and lastly the Split View that shows both codes and also the design of the web page together. Expression Web 2 did not have this feature, but the newer versions do have this feature. But, what differentiates these two tools in terms of View feature, Adobe Dreamweaver has an additional feature where user could have their own customized view of layout they want to have which Expression Web is lacking of.

Pictures above shows the custom views that Dreamweaver provides.

Next, the zooming feature which is very vital for users who wants to view the web page being created in a bigger size or bring it back to the actual size. Dreamweaver has a feature of this shortcut key where user has to just hold down the 'CTRL' button and scroll the mouse wheel front and back to zoom in and zoom out respectively. Sad to say, Expression Web 2 doesn't have this feature.

Picture of the Zoom tool in Dreamweaver

After that will be a feature that most of the users rarely use which is the Help feature. Well even though not many of them use this feature, beginners who have not touched a web authoring tool would expect to learn more from this Help feature. Adobe Dreamweaver's Help feature are quite systematic as there is a built in search box where user types for a keyword and it brings straight to the company's Adobe community to find the solution. For Expression Web, it uses an on-board help directory where user just types a keyword and the solution appears from the database which is faster but less up-to-date.

Then comes the Extension feature where Adobe copied trend of having extension products from Macromedia (Dreamweaver's previous owner) and have them integrated into most of their own products. Adobe comes with a Extension Manager Software for the Adobe Dreamweaver where user could include all the wanted extensions such as Flash and Photoshop CS3 / CS4 / CS5 which makes Adobe Dreamweaver almost limitless in terms of its power. On the other hand, Expression Web doesn't have much extension but as for the newer version, there is compatibility of Adobe Photoshop to integrate with Expression Web.

Picture above shows the Extension Manager provided by Adobe for the Dreamweaver.

Both these giants are massively used by WYSIWYG users all over the world and it has been a tough job for them to create pages without authentic AJAX or JS enabled widgets. Then it started from Dreamweaver CS3 until the newest CS5, the Spry Widgets feature was included and the number of widgets was being added as Dreamweaver was growing. Since then, users just have to drag and drop whatever they need. Although Expression Web has none of these widgets available, it is much easier still to create a site to organize. Furthermore, Dreamweaver is much easier to toggle between sites and compare projects done and it also has a fruitier list in terms of its FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and security functions.

Picture above shows the Spry Widgets in Dreamweaver

Next, the menus and buttons feature in both Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expression Web. Expression Web has a very neat and organized interface but at the same time, it also gives the way in to complicated controls even though it is much more organized. Plus, Expression has very less shortcuts for their users. On the other hand, Adobe Dreamweaver gives user the freedom to tie up controls and windows as his/her comfort. Well, the UI (user interface) does look packed since there are many different controls which could lead to more time take for user to get used with. Moreover, Adobe Dreamweaver keeps in memory of where your windows are located the moment you close the program and when Adobe Dreamweaver is started again, the window preferences will stay the same as the previous settings. (Towers J.T, 2000) Adobe Dreamweaver is crowded with shortcut features for every most of its formatting and inserts.

Pictures above shows Expression Web's (left) and Adobe Dreamweaver's (right) shortcut feature availability.

5.0 Critical comments and analysis

There are the good and bad sides of both Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expression Web. Starting with the advantages of Microsoft Expression, this web authoring tool is very well known for its user friendly interface because most Windows Operating System users are more used to the interface of the Microsoft Frontpage which evolved to Microsoft Expression. Not only the user interface, but it allows wide range of editing in PHP, XML/XSLT, JavaScript, HTML/XHTML, CSS, ASP.NET and ASP.NET AJAX. Expression Web provides a feature named Super Preview, where you could use it to have a look on how you have the designed the web page on other browsers like Internet Explorer(all versions) and Firefox. To make it simple, it lets user to test the web page for browser compatibility. Expression has the IntelliSense feature for you to make your editing more productive as it does gives immediate feedbacks so that you can make sure where is the mistake done to be corrected. Expression Web did answer back to the complaints of 'Missing plug-in' offering the user with the ability to locate and install this missing plug-ins on his website easily from a third party. The disadvantage is that Expression Web cannot straightforwardly use Flash files. In order to use Flash, users have to insert HTML code to make this work.

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Dreamweaver allows you to create web pages easily according to your choice of coding and design using CSS, HTML, XHTML, JavaScript, Ajax, PHP, and ASP. Dreamweaver lets you to preview a page in any browser that you choose without the need of saving the file and closing Dreamweaver by using its LIVE VIEW function. With this, you could check if there is any error or dissatisfaction that you have with the design and layout. Dreamweaver provides you with all the powerful CSS tools that you would need as it visually shows the CSS box without having specific utility and the need of editing CSS codes manually will be lowered.

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Picture above shows the CSS box provided by Adobe Dreamweaver

6.0 Conclusion

In a nutshell, it is tough to see which web authoring tool has better and more advanced features. On the first angle, looking at Microsoft Expression Web, it has a good user friendly interface, many new high-end features, takes a lesser time to install and startup, covers most of the advance coding languanges, and a good design viewer (SuperView), and many more new features. At the same time when we do look at Adobe Dreamweaver, it has a complicated interface which users must spend more time with it to get used to it, has a very wide choice of codings and languages, can be integrated with most of the Adobe softwares, can be used for Flash purpose unlike Expression Web, the Spry tool where user could have their own widgets to make web creating easier, and their Page Views where they have various types of views including own custom view that could be set by the user. These two giants of web author could actually be divided into two category; professional use and intermediate use. Adobe Dreamweaver can be included in the Professional use category as it involves everything a web page would need like photo editing from Photoshop, animation objects through Flash and Fireworks, and many other extension softwares which Expression Web doesn't have. Whereas, Expression Web can be included into Intermediate use as its interface is very easy-to-use and beginners would enjoy its interface as it is user-friendly. To close up, feature-wise, Adobe Dreamweaver does have a better lead than Expression Web and Expression Web definitely has a better interface.

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