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HTML Editors - Basic Building Blocks of a Website
This section sheds a little more light on Hypertext Markup Language (“HTML”) and HTML Editors for those of you that are interested in getting more acquainted with the universal language that is used by websites to communicate. Let’s first reemphasize that you do not need to be an HTML expert to be successful online.
In fact, you don’t even have to know one bit of HTML code because of the convenient website development and marketing tools we have available today. However, it is very important to at least learn the very basics of whatever is that you are delving into, in this case websites. Even if you never use it, and chances are you won’t, knowing how your website is created and its different functionalities will give you a good comfort level that you can leverage to understand the other complexities and capabilities of websites and the different areas that surround it.
But that being said, if you are able to learn even the basics of HTML - which is very simple - you will be able to modify and customize your webpage to expand your website’s functionality. I am talking functionality like adding a discussion forum to your website, or incorporating a Blog within the website or just putting up a simple “Contact Me” form that allows your visitor to type up a comment on your webpage without having to open up his or her email program.
Not all point and click web design software allow you to do everything you might want on your website so knowing HTML code can be very useful. Don’t be afraid this is not technical at all – And the best part is that you DON’T even have to learn it to be successful online!
HTML DefinedHTML code is a very simple mix of letters and numbers that both computers and programmers understand. That is the easiest way to define what HTML is. HTML is the most basic website programming language that is easy to understand and is the basic framework of websites.
Think about HTML as the wooden framework or structure of a new house that is being developed. The wooden structure is what allows the house to stand from the ground. It is up to the house developer what kind of roof, doors and windows to add. The same goes for the wall, flooring, paint and pretty much everything else you can think off in a house.
HTML has been around for as long as websites have been. To this day, no matter how fancy a website may look to the eyes and no matter how many bells and whistles are attached to it, it is really HTML that builds its framework. Without HTML a website is not possible.
How Do You See HTML?Our eyes often fool us because HTML is not visible and therefore we think different looking websites are all built with different coding languages. HTML or any other coding language for that matter is not visible to the eyes but exists in the background. Do you ever look at a house and are able to see the wooden framework that it stands on? If you want to see the framework, you have to break a piece of the wall and see what is beyond it. Similarly, you will have to look beyond your web browser to see the programming language supporting the webpage you are browsing.
The best way to do this is to open up Internet Explorer and go to any website and click on the “View” tab on top. You will see a drop down menu and toward the bottom you will see “View Source”. Click on this and you will be able to see the code that is supporting the webpage you are on.
Now go to another website that looks different in appearance and do the same. Notice how similar the language is yet it’s different in the way it’s written? You will see the same letters and numbers indicating that it is the same language. However, you will see them arranged differently.
Just like two houses, one of which is a 3 bedroom colonial and the other a 2 bedroom ranch. As you can imagine, the way the wooden structure is arranged behind each of the houses is very different. Another way to view the code of a webpage is to right click on any empty space on the browser and a drop down menu will appear. Click “View Source” on this menu and left click on it. Sometimes this option also appears as “View Page Source”.
The HTML code appears on a separate text file that opens up in a new window. Don’t expect to see strange constellation outlines or Chinese language like looking characters. You will see familiar Roman alphabet letters and numbers with all kinds of symbols that are familiar to you from a computer’s keyboard.
Depending on the complexity of a webpage, sometimes you will be able to just copy the source code of another webpage and paste it on your web design program to create an exact replica of the webpage you took the source code from. You can experiment with this to see how it works but don’t go doing this and publishing web pages or you will be in serious copyright violations.
But yes – this is exactly what HTML is, the all so complicated sounding See how simple it looks? It’s simple enough to type up in a word document or even write it on paper ? This simple combination of familiar letters, numbers and symbols is what makes the most complicated websites possible to exist. It is the universal Web language that our Internet browsers read and translate into images and other fancy functions that our eyes are used to seeing.
It’s always a good idea to get your hands on an affordable HTML editor tool like CoffeeCup so that you can see how HTML translates into images, colors, shapes and graphics that our eyes see. With an editor like CoffeCup, you are able to design your own webpage using point and click technology while having access to the HTML code that is automatically being generated in the background with each point and click you make. There are many HTML editors these days that allow you to do this. CofeeCup is one of the best and cost efficient ones out there however. Other software to consider is Adobe’s DreamWeaver (very advanced and powerful)
Other HTML EditorsTo further resonate the simplicity of HTML, consider that you don’t need special software to code in HTML. As discussed above, when you view the source code of a webpage, the HTML code appears in a simple text file. You can pretty much use any free text editor or word processing program to write HTML. Some of these include Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Notepad, WordPad, and SimpleText (Macs).
Regardless of the program you use it is important to remember to save all your work in ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) text format. This is because ASCII is the standard amongst the various computer operating platforms (i.e. Windows, Mac) and will work in most environments. The ASCII option can be selected at the time you save and close your files. Often in the save menu you can choose this option by selecting “Text” or “Text Only” as the save as option.
How to Read HTML and Make it Work?When you view HTML code, you will see familiar keyboard symbols like brackets “< >”, parentheses “( )” and slashes “/” and “\”. The most common of these will be the brackets “< >”and the back slash “/”. Think of these basic symbols as the first word of every English sentence and a period or punctuation mark that ends the sentence. Typically, brackets “< >” open up the sentence and a back slash inside brackets “< / >” closes it. These symbols are also known as HTML tags.
So when you look at an HTML page, you will notice that the first line is always "html" in < > brackets and the last line of the page is "/html" (also in brackets). Every HTML page requires this as it tells the web browser to read everything in between. The first HTML tag tells the browser to start reading the webpage in HTML format and closing tag tells the browser that this is the end of the webpage. A web browser will not read your code if you fail to include either one of these “commands”.
The Most Common HTML TagAside from the actual language content, the letters and numbers, the most common HTML tag you will see is arguably the paragraph “< p >” tag. The paragraph tag tells the browser to read everything between it as its own paragraph. So for example, if you wanted to display a one paragraph small story on your webpage, you would start the story with < p > and end it with < /p >.
Remember, you always need a “< / >” to end a command that you initiate. In this case, since you opened a paragraph command by typing up “< p >”, you have to close it with “< /p >”. The number of paragraph tags will determine the spacing between one paragraph to another. So if you closed the command by typing up “” and subsequently following up with “< p > < /p > < p > < /p >”, there will be 2 extra indents between your last paragraph and the new one.
Alternatively, you can also use the break tag < br > to create spacing from one paragraph to another.
Other tagsThere are many, many other tags that are used in the HTML language. For example, if you want to change the color of a particular text, you can incorporate < color=”whatever color you want” > into the code. Or if you want to underline, bold, or italicize a word, you will have to type the following commands: < u >, < b > and < i >.
You will usually find all these tags between the paragraph “< p >” tags, unless the commands are meant to bring a broader change into the webpage like a color change in the background for example.
ConclusionHopefully this section has made HTML less intimidating, as it should be, and has shed some light on how HTML editors function. There is no extraordinary skill required to learn and apply HTML. In fact it doesn’t take very long to get comfortable with the mere basics because the language is so simple; it uses letters, numbers and symbols that are familiar to us.
A lot of the commands can also be somewhat intuitive (i.e. < p > for paragraph, < b > for bold text) And like any other language we humans read and write, HTML is also a language that requires connecting the various letters, numbers and symbols to become readable by the web browser. Below are some excellent easy to read and understand resources for further education on HTML.
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