A Review of Linux Web Development Tools

linux38 A Review of Linux Web Development Tools
Christophe asked:


Vim and Emacs

Vim and Emacs are not dedicated development tools, but still, they offer a fair number of features for editing HTML and, in fact, any language you may use for web development. They both support syntax highlighting (HTML, PHP, Python, Perl, CSS and many others) and offer support for editing files on remote machines. Both programs are very versatile and can be extensively customized because they support numerous scripts and extensions to extend their functionality. However, both programs are complex tools and present a very steep learning curve.

OOo Writer/Web (OpenOffice.org web)

It’s possible to write a simple web page without knowing any HTML at all using the Open Office own web creation tool. This would be a very basic page indeed, because it does not support CSS or forms, for example. I would not recommend using this tool for a complete web site because the code it produces is sometimes unnecessarily complicated so it could present a nightmare in the future to edit and transform a large project which was initially created with Open Office web. But for a quick page, why not ?

SeaMonkey Composer (ex Netscape Composer, ex Mozilla composer)

The Open Source SeaMonkey Composer is based on the venerable Netscape composer, so it’s now incorporated into the SeaMonkey suite. It is a fairly simple WYSIWYG editor which generates clean code – unlike many commercial WYSIWYG editors. Unfortunately, it’s not very powerful and it only partially supports CSS. SeaMonkey Composer is a suitable tool for complete web design beginners who want to create a very basic website.


Available on Linux, Mac and Windows, Kompozer is based on the Mozilla composer so it shares a relatively similar interface. However, it is a much more advanced tool now, while trying to maintain a non-scary approach for new-comers in web design. The documentation is good and the community active, so, if you have questions or problems, help is not far away! While SeaMonkey Composer lacks many features in WYSIWYG mode, with Kompozer you can almost create a complete website staying in pure WYSIWYG mode. Still, if you want to add some code manually, it’s possible to jump in a second between WYSIWYG Editing Mode and HTML, using tabs. The preview mode uses the gecko engine (Mozilla, Firefox) to render web pages. While the code is clean, it will still be necessary to test your web pages against less-compliant web browsers, such as Internet Explorer 6, for example. It’s got an easy-to-use, built-in FTP client to quickly upload files to your webspace. Support for forms, tables, and templates is very good but CSS support isn’t perfect and it doesn’t currently support server-side language like PHP. In conclusion, for the moment, Kompozer rests somewhere between tools like Frontpage (Kompozer produces better code) and Dreamweaver (yes, this is huge gap !): it is a good web development tool, aimed at beginners or intermediate users but it will need more refinement and support for server-side language if it wants to approach the very best web editors available on Windows, for example.


Quanta Plus

Quanta Plus is a user-friendly HTML editor and web development tool designed primarly for the K Desktop Environment (although it can run on almost any environment). Unlike Bluefish, Quanta is capable of both WYSIWYG designing and handcoding. It supports a huge number of languages, and its syntax checking and highlighting are excellent. It has code folding and current line highlighting. Features also included are: templates, document structure management, project management, plug-in support, DTD support,etc, integrated FTP client and preview function to let you see the results of your work while you’re working. There is also a commercial variant called Quanta Gold, available on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows, with more features. For Gnome users, the KDE interface of Quanta Plus will look a bit out of place, but overall that’s quite minor (note : this is not the case with Quanta Gold, because it’s based on QT).

Quanta Plus is free; Quanta Gold costs US $49.95.


Screem is an open source web development environment written for use with the GNOME desktop environment (it can also be used on other windows managers, however). Screem supports Dreamweaver templates and offers a number of wizards to help with the addition of multimedia content. It does not provide a WYSIWYG display of pages and it’s more aimed at advanced users.



Bluefish is a powerful and lightweight open-source editor targeted towards programmers and web designers, with many options to write websites, scripts and programming code. Browser integration is good and it’s got very good support for HTML, CSS, XML, PHP, Pearl, C, JavaScript and even … Pascal or Octave/MATLAB ! As the developers say on their web page, it’s “a what you see is what you need” interface, so it’s not a tool suitable for complete beginners in web design (and it was never meant to be !) and there is no graphical preview (but you can quickly access/launch external browsers by clicking on the relevant icon). One important feature missing is FTP integration. Otherwise, it is by far my favorite editor !


Amaya is the W3C’s -the international consortium which helps develop standards for the World Wide Web – browser and web editor. Although it’s theoretically a WYSIWYG package, the interface is rather confusing and not very well designed. Finally, this program can be relatively unstable.


There is no native version of Dreamweaver on Linux, on which it is officially not supported. However, Dreamweaver MX and Dreamweaver 8 run well using Wine or Cross-over office. Dreamweaver is the now ultra-dominant web design package available on Windows and Mac OS : it’s often excellent and very expensive.

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