KompoZer is an open-source program based on the old Netscape Composer. Open-Source means the programming work is done by volunteers and it’s totally free (although donations are accepted).
You might see some references on Mac websites to an HTML editor called NVU (pronounced N-view). You might even see some references to an editor called Sea Monkey. These are all based on the Composer component of the Mozilla Application Suite and Gecko 1.7 (and they all have a Mac version).
What’s the difference between them? KompoZer is the most actively updated and most bug free. I have tried all three, and while the interface of the three programs is very similar, KompoZer works best in my experience. (In fact, Nvu has now been discontinued.)
The situation around KompoZer is something like that of NeoOffice, which is an updated version of OpenOffice (recently renamed LibreOffice). OpenOffice came first, and NeoOffice was spun off of it by other volunteers. Unlike NeoOffice however, which is exclusively for the Mac, KompoZer is cross-platform and runs on both Macs and PCs.
If all this seems confusing, that’s because it is! All you have to remember, however, is that for open-source office applications for the Mac, NeoOffice is the way you want to go, and for open-source HTML editors for the Mac, the best choice is definitely KompoZer.
KompoZer is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor, which means that you create your page in a word processor-like interface, and the HTML coding is done automatically in the background by the software. You can view and edit the HTML code if, for example, you need to add Google Analytics code or another piece of code that adds extra features to your website, by clicking on the HTML Tags tab at the bottom of the KompoZer window.
KompoZer is remarkably capable (but not perfect) at reading HTML and interpreting it correctly. You can open virtually any webpage you may find in KompoZer and it will look pretty much the same as it does in your web browser.
In fact, KompoZer even has an “Open Web Location” command under the File menu that allows you to type in the URL of a web page, and the program will download and open it in its own window, ready for editing. This means that you can work with sophisticated templates you find online with no problem.
The feature is good but not perfect. For example, open Apple’s homepage in KompoZer and it will look fairly good in preview mode but the formatting will get messed up when you switch to editing mode. On the other hand, KompoZer is standards compliant and doesn’t add strange tags to the HTML it creates, unlike older HTML editors you may be familiar with if you’ve been around webpage creation for a while.
Just because you can open a complex template, however, does not mean that you will be able to edit it to your liking. A novice may find it impossible to figure out how to add and remove columns, sidebars or other elements without destroying the overall formatting of the page. If you want to start your website from a template, you would be well advised to test it thoroughly first to make sure you can make the changes to it over time that you will need to.
The KompoZer interface is somewhat Windows-like but not overly unintuitive. I found the online support for the software to be generally good. There is an active message boards staffed by passionate volunteers available for you to get your questions answered.
KompoZer can open multiple tabs at the same time, so you can work on different webpages (for example, to copy and paste elements from one page to another) without having a gaggle of separate windows open and cluttering your screen. It has unlimited undos, the ability to add tables and forms, and boasts support for cascading style sheets (CSS).
CSS is a standard that allows web designers to set various style elements such as fonts, colors, indentation and other formatting without having to add individual HTML tags. Similar to the style sheets in your word processor, you could set a heading to be boldfaced and a certain size and then you can apply this formatting to all relevant parts of your webpage for consistent results. If you change your mind about the characteristics of the style, you could edit the style sheet, and all instances of that style that you have defined on your webpage will be changed accordingly.
Although KompoZer is definitely an improvement on NVU and SeaMonkey, in addition to the problems opening some webpages, a fair number of bugs still mar the interface. For example, the amount of space it adds between lines on the page is often inconsistent and can require quite a bit of struggling to get the page to look like what is wanted. After closing all windows, it sometimes refuses to open another, unless you quit and relaunch the program. Sometimes applying a headline style to selected text does nothing, and sometimes some keyboard commands stop working until a relaunch.
KompoZer also lacks features such as the ability to create image maps, and the software doesn’t give you much help in selecting fonts which are cross-platform, or available on most computers. However, you can’t beat the price, and if you want an HTML editor that allows you to easily inspect and edit the underlying code for the greatest flexibility, KompoZer is your best free choice.
KompoZer also has a site management feature, but don’t let the name fool you. This is just a built-in FTP program. If you’re looking for a feature like the one found in Adobe Dreamweaver that allows you to change your site’s organization and move pages around between various folders on your Mac without breaking any of the internal links (often useful for working with templates), you won’t find it here.
And as far as FTP goes, I prefer to pay a little extra money and just use the commercial program Transmit, one of the best FTP programs available for the Mac (Panic software – $34). Transmit features an intuitive two-panel window that makes it easy for you to upload your website and perform other FTP operations. On the left side of the interface is a panel that works much like a Mac Finder window, and on the left side is a panel that represents your FTP space. Uploading or synchronizing your site is a simple drag-and-drop operation from the Mac side of the interface to the FTP side, or by clicking the Sync button. A bookmarks feature lets you store the login details for all of your websites, so that the login process is as easy as clicking a button.