Options for creating pages in HTML
Last revision July 20, 2004
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HTML is an acronym for HyperText Markup Language. This is a language of commands (called "tags") that are included within your pages to tell the web browser how to format the pages for display.
Your pages must contain the proper HTML tags in order to display correctly. You have several options to make pages in HTML.
For simple pages, you can write the text normally, and then insert the few needed HTML tags yourself. The tags are simply command words or phrases enclosed by special delimiter characters. You can use the very basic primer for HTML found on this site, or refer to one of the many tutorials on the web. For example, virtually all of the pages in this Computer Resources web site have been created by directly writing the text and HTML tags.
If you make your own HTML pages, you can write them with an editor on pangea, or create them with a word processor on a Macintosh or Windows PC and then "upload" them to pangea with programs that support the encrypted sftp or scp protocols. Programs that use the older, plain-text ftp protocol (for example, Fetch) are discouraged because they send your password on the network in clear text where it can be captured by a hacker. Or, you can directly access your personal or group web page directory on pangea by mounting it as a file share on Macintosh or Windows computers. If you create your own HTML with a Mac/PC word processing program, be sure to save the resulting file in a "text only with line breaks" format. The native word processor format may contain control characters that will prevent the web browser from properly displaying the page. It's best to use a simple text creation program such as Notepad on Windows or SimpleText on Macintosh.
Using HTML editors
Alternatively, you can create your web pages with a special HTML editor, running on a Macintosh or PC. These editors either have a built-in ftp program to upload the pages to pangea, or you can use one of the upload methods mentioned above.
HTML editors let you work with a graphical user interface using menus and mouse selection techniques. You create your page in the editor to look the way you want, with formatting, tables, graphics, etc., as desired. You add links to other pages using menu commands. The editor then creates the needed HTML code to properly display your page. Usually, these HTML editors also let you open a second window to display (and directly edit, if desired) the actual HTML code that is being created.
The advantage of an HTML editor is that you don't need to learn any HTML commands yourself. You create the "look" that you desire with normal editing and menu commands, and let the program make the HTML. For complex pages, this is the best way to work. However, for simple pages, you may find that the HTML editor creates unnecessarily complex HTML code, which can then only be modified by opening it again in the same editor. Also, the HTML editor is another program that you have to learn.
A simple HTML editor that is adequate for many people is the Composer built into the Netscape Communicator web browser. Stanford has a site license for this package (download from the Essential Stanford Software web site). This editor works best if you keep all images and linked pages together on the local disk while working, and then upload them to the server all at once. Image files should be in the same directory as the HTML file that includes them. When creating links to other pages in the same project, make sure only the minimum path name is included -- just the subdirectory name, if any, and the file name.
Web design professionals prefer the Dreamweaver or GoLive HTML editors. These editors let you create any effect you can imagine, and also have features for maintaining a large web site with many files and subdirectories. There seems to be more expertise and support at Stanford for the Dreamweaver program.
Finally, newer versions of Microsoft Word allow you to create a document as you normally would, and then simply save an HTML version using the Save As Web Page menu item. Word produces very ugly and complex HTML code. But if you already have documents created with Word that you want to put on the web, certainly the easiest way to do that is to use the Save As Web Page feature in Word .
Similarly, if you have documents created with the LaTeX text processing system, you can convert them to HTML to put them on the web using the program latex2html, which runs on Unix or Linux systems. latex2html directly converts LaTeX text formatting tags to their HTML equivalents. It turns tables and equations into GIF images so they can be faithfully reproduced. It has features to automatically break longer documents into separate pages that are indexed and cross-referenced. The latex2html program is maintained on the university "corn" linux systems. Login to corn.stanford.edu and find the documentation at /usr/pubsw/doc/Text/latex2html