A basic text editor comes included with all operating systems. Text editors use ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) which is universally accepted by all modern operating systems and is therefore portable to any machine. In the future more and more text editors may be using Unicode which includes characters from many different languages [Uni99]. Unicode is a backwards compatible superset of ASCII.
I tend to use a text editor over a wordprocessor primarily for its portability. If I need any fancy formatting, I can simply make whatever I am working on an HTML document. I use a text editor over a Web authoring tool because I find the current state of these tools unacceptable. They produce markup that cannot be easily ported from one such program to another, nor that is easily maintainable, due to messy and inefficient markup standards.
For instance <H1,2,3...> is a heading designation, not a size designation. The tag <H1> designates a title level heading. Headings are often used by Web spiders to index material and rank its importance in matching a search. For awhile the size of the text, as determined by a heading, only indicated how deep a sub-point a reader was looking at, since the Web was developed for academic purposes and aesthetic considerations were determined to be of minimal significance. However, when the Web's use quickly expanded beyond the university, the heading levels started to lose their original meaning. So, a new tag was developed to control font size. Most Web authoring tools either indiscriminately use the heading tags or only use the font size tags. I have to admit I am still in the process of retraining myself in this clearer form of usage.
The two Web authoring tools that seem most promising at this stage are Amaya [Wor99a} and Dreamweaver [Mac99]. Nevertheless, they are enforcing certain behaviour onto the user in order to make the programming for these applications easier. In particular rather than making the distinction between markup and content clear by using all caps within tags, they enforce use of lower case, so that the programs can more easily compress the resulting documents in order to use less storage space on servers. The programs could display the words in the tags as upper case, but store them as lower case, as a part of their function. This apparently has not been considered.
Though I do not use a Web authoring tool, I do scan my text pages with Web Lint [Wor99b], HTML validation software. Since I am doing my markup by hand rather than through automation, markup errors can easily creep in unnoticed, particularly considering how forgiving Web browsers like Netscape can be.
Copyright © 1999 Katherine Phelps