Being among the first in porting software from Windows to Linux can’t be easy. Especially if you do not have any feeling for the Linux community. Still, it is nice to see software that you have played with – and sort of liked – under your new OS. This is what has happened to CoffeeCup Software’s HTML Editor ++.
First let me say that feature-vs-easy-of-use wise it is superior to just about anything on Linux. I feel that Amaya is the closest rival if it just wasn’t so eccentric. (At least I think it’s eccentric). In HTML Editor ++ you get wizards, albeit limited, for creating tables and frames. You get three rows of buttons across the top and a set of handy menu short cuts along the right hand side of the screen (Align left, right, centre, new paragraph, new line, etc). And you also get – which I think shows a lack of understanding of Linux culture a big–no, gigantic– shareware banner across and towards the top of the screen. This is annoying but tolerable if you decide to use the editor. When you pay for this piece of software it presumably disappears is if by magic. There is nothing wrong with that but the banner is so large it actually provokes cracking. Another Windows standard that followed the product into Linux is that it is time-bombed: it stops working after 30 days. This together with the banner brought the anarchistic side of me to the front and at least the time bomb « feature » is extremely easily invalidated. CoffeCup Software has a lot to learn from J-M Jacquet and his IglooFTP-PRO which also is shareware but the nag is implemented in a more subtle manner.
A main « selling point » is the directory and file navigation system pioneered by HomeSite. On the left side of the screen you get two boxes, one for directories and one for files. You navigate you site tree by double clicking on the directory name and open the file by clicking on the file name in the box below. Brilliantly easy.
Now, I don’t have anything against shareware (I used to use several (payed-for) shareware applications on Windows). But there is a problem HTML Editor ++. It’s flawed. In the brief period I’ve tried it out I’ve discovered several bugs. Most irritating is that it seems to handle existing documents badly. Not that it adds copious amount of own code, it doesn’t, but the formatting tools freak out regularly.
For example: open a document, place the insertion point somewhere in the text and hit the hyperlink button on the right. You get a screen to fill in a text and the link. Click « Cool ». You would expect it to insert the text and link at the insertion point, right? Unfortunately it doesn’t; just now it scrolled down to the bottom of the page and inserted the text and link there. What you have to do is select a word, hit the hyperlink button insert the linktext and hit « Cool ». (It didn’t work now, but it usually does). HTML Editor ++ is plagued by this kind of problems.
Another example is the « New line » button which may insert the
tag at any random location in the text (although bottom of the page is preferred).
Most of these problems go away if you write a document from scratch. Then everything works as intended. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t write this port. And you can’t help out either – it is not Open Software. The most serious problem though is that HTML Editor ++ is unstable. Various simple formatting actions can crash the editor; e.g., just inserting a new
tag. It took a couple of pages to discover this but one very good piece of advice is, ironically enough the same as for much software with Windows background, save your work often.
A last complaint is the « Save » function which is just plain daft. In a graphical application you really shouldn’t be forced to enter the path manually. And why do you get a confirmation screen which you have to click « OK » on the make it go away?
In all, HTML Editor++ is a promising piece of ported software. It needs much more work to become stable and bug free but to those patient enough it is quite nice to work with.
Copyright © 1999, Martin Skjoldebrand
Published in Issue 46 of Linux Gazette, October 1999