[This is part III in a series on HTML editors. Part I focused on CoffeeCup’s HTML Editor ++. Part II was about Bluefish. -Ed.]
This will conclude my look into HTML editors for now. I’ve gotten a few questions about other HTML editors and I’ll look at one of them in this article. There are lot’s of HTML editors out there – many of which I haven’t used at all, or recently. A few seem unmaintained (like asWedit, Ashe) and frankly I find little point in using unmaintained and quite limited software when there are very good alternatives. Which leeds us on to ….
OK – I cheated I grabbed a rpm on the quanta site and installed from there. No problems at all it just slipped in to my Mandrake machine. Just like an install should behave. First thing that meets the eye is that Quanta follows the new standard of tabbed tool palettes instead of multiple button rows. This is definately a Good Thing (TM) as otherwise the button rows easily grab too much screen real estate. The palettes are more limited than those in Bluefish lacking CSS and PHP « wizards » to name two.
Another thing that meets my eye is a problem with all KDE applications. It’s ugly. Yes, a wholy subjective notion I agree but nevertheless visual impressions play some part in forming an opinion about a piece of software. That said I think that some of the tool buttons are better than those found on (e.g.) Bluefish.
A third pretty obvious feature of Quanta, one which I like, is the directory tree on the left hand side of the screen. Double-clicking a file in the tree opens it in the editor screen. I miss this in Bluefish. There is no drag-and-drop between the directory tree and the editor screen though.
Writing and editing text
I will turn to a couple of thing that has been bugging me about Quanta in the past – and there still is a problem in this respect. Firstly – how do I make the editing screen wrap lines? Continuing this line for more than what’s visible produces a very long line. This is the standard setting, which in my humble opinion is dumb. I found the wrap lines settings is Options/Editor Options. So that is a problem less. The second irritant is that the default font for Quanta is Courier, a serif font set a 12 pt. Two things about this, I think most people agree now that a sans-serif font is best for the screen, and a serif font, if acceptable, is hard to read at 12 pt on a 1024×768 screen. Changing the setting to 14 pt Clean is OK for me. Just noticed that writing this sentence and formating « is » as bold re-formated the display. Now I get much smaller margin for writing. Weird. Apparently what happened was that the word wrap doesn’t take hold until another tag has been completed.
Minor irritants as these migh be, a thing that is a problem, and seems to be a bigger one at that, is the handling of extended ASCII. Opening a page written in Swedish you might be excused to believe that some kind of DOS virus has mirculously struck in Linux. Where there once was beautiful extended characters like ä and ö there is white space. This is because Quanta does a « on-the-fly » translation of these characters to the entities equivalents. But – this feature is only one way. If you’ve written a page full of extended characters Quanta isn’t smart enough to translate these when opening the page. And, to make matters worse – the entity translation is buggy. It manages ä and ö but fails on å and ü, handling the latter as seperate dots and the letter u.
To end this section on a possitive note there is context sensitive help and in place tag editing. Highlighting a tag and then pressing the right mouse button you get a context menu including context help, tag attributes and tag edit. For the two latter you select either and simply fill in your attributes. Quanta does the rest. Neat. Selecting context help naturally opens the relevant passage in the hypertext HTML reference document. Which goes to prove that the best Linux HTML editors are catching up with HomeSite. Next evolutionary step would be tag completion where you (even more simply) type SPACE within a tag and get a list of attributes to select, and so on.
A neat feature of Quanta is the possibility to have a preview of the page you are working with unfortunately this is not a real-time feature but seems rather to be a snapshot of the document as some time in the past. When doing this review I’ve had problems in getting Quanta to understand that I want a preview of another page. Loading a page brings you the preview of that page. Loading another and making it active changes the preview. Here the problems start. Changing between the loaded documents doesn’t change the preview. Nor does unloading the document that is previewed. The only way to refresh the review window (I’ve found) is to exit Quanta and reload the documents.
The lefthand frame
To do Quanta justice I must mention the left hand frame once more. In it you have four separe tabs. The default shows you the complete directory tree, although why it doesn’t default to the working directory is beyond me. It is very useful for quickly finding your files wherever they may be. You’ve got a Struct tab which shows you the structure of the document you are working with, broken down into separate major tags like P, IMG and Hx. Clicking on one of those brings you to that place in the doc. Neat and useful. Even neater would be if you could drag those tags around and thereby rearrange the document in the editor. Perhaps in some future version. The fourth tag is for HTML documentation. It is hyperlinked document providing all the information you might ever need for writing correct HTML 4 documents. There is also a tab for Project management – which I haven’t used for this review.
There has been some time since I looked at Quanta and I must admit to being a bit impressed at the progress of the editor.All in all Quanta is a very nice HTML editor, very powerfull but with a major bug for non-English users that rely on extended ASCII for their webpages. I’ve also found somewhat more minor irritants in Quanta than when using Bluefish.
File handling, document structure and HTML documentation, is very impressive and something that I miss in Bluefish. It might be enough to give Quanta a lead over the latter for those that are not dependent on extended characters for their documents.