For the budding newbie web designer who is not entirely sure if this is the correct career path, or for experienced web professionals who might be looking to economize their software budget, there are a multitude of shareware, downloadable freeware, or inexpensive online tools available. Inspired by an email inquiry from one of our TR Web Master readers, I have culled together this list of available resources that have little or no associated costs other than the required components to run Windows, Mac, and in some instances, Linux operating systems, an Internet connection, and an attitude for learning new tools.
The tools are divided into sections by web development and design tools, image editing tools, file transfer tools, and web hosting providers — and in no particular order.
In this part of the series, I'll present several web authoring and design tools and image editing tools; part 2 of the series will highlight several file transfer protocol tools and some of the free or low cost web hosting providers. This is not so much a review of each tool, but more of an overview of selected applications available within each category. There are far more tools and applications out there than will be presented in this two-part series. If you have experience with tools and online applications that fit within one of these categories and meet the guidelines for free or low-cost, please share them with us in the comments section at the end.
(See the gallery version of this post.)
Web authoring and design tools
These web authoring tools are all free and available for download from their respective organizations.
Considered by some to be the best free XML editor available today, Komodo Edit includes a lot of features for HTML and CSS development and coding design. It also features many extensions, and add-ons for languages and special characters, and while it might not be the best HTML editor, it is considered to be at the top of the pack for the price. It can be run on Windows, Mac, and Linux and can be downloaded from ActiveState, the self proclaimed Dynamic Language Experts.
KompoZerKompoZer is another WYSIWYG web page editor that combines web authoring with web file management, designed for ease of use, and ideal for non-technical users who do not have all the knowledge of HTML or coding. It is provided by KompoZer, offering versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Image editing tools
Along with creating and authoring web documents, a good web developer also needs to learn how to manage and manipulate images. Several free online tools are available for editing photos.
Picnik is a photo editor acquired by Google in March of 2010, and the online tool is available for free. A premium upgrade is available for $24.95 on an annual renewal basis.
An easy to use photo editing software that enables you to fix and enhance photos, Photoscape is provided by MOOII TECH and offers such features as batch processing, page layouts, combining/ joining images, and modules to create frame-based animation from multiple photographs. The screenshot shows the feature to make one photo by merging multiple photos at the page frame.
GIMPGIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program and has been compared to the free version of Photoshop due to its steep learning curve and similar functionality. Available for use on Linux, Windows, and Mac operating systems, it is frequently updated with new features and fixes, customizable and extensible with the addition of plug-ins and scripts. The program is available at Gimp.org.
Aviary Phoenix Image Editor runs within the browser and offers similar functionality and editing features as the expensive desktop imaging software. Developed by Aviary, the image editing tool is part of their free suite of online tools including screen capture, vector editor, effects editor, music creator, audio editor, image markup, and color editor tools. The screenshot of the tool in use is taken from the video tutorial on "Unzipping a kitty," Several tutorials are also available for the Phoenix Image Editor.
Remember to check in next week when I continue this series with free or low-cost tools for file transfer protocols and web site hosting providers.
Are there any free or low-cost online tools that you use that were not mentioned in this piece? Share any tips or tricks you have for utilizing them in your web development projects.
Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal government.