There has been talk about Nvu on the Wolves Lug mailing list recently (I still keep forgetting it’s pronounced ‘N-View’, not Un-Voo). Nvu is a redevelopment of Mozilla Composer which got orphaned when the Mozilla Suite was split up into Firefox and Thunderbird.
No doubt, it is the great white hope of WYSIWYG web editors on Linux and other open source platforms. Before I stopped using Windows, it was one of the things where I didn’t know what I would use instead of Macromedia Dreamweaver. I’m certainly no web developer, take a look at my website. Dismal design I’m sure you’ll agree. But the fact is that while I aim to move to proper CMS some time in the future, I don’t care enough about web design to put the effort into doing it all in html by hand in Bluefish or something. My blog is a brain-dumping ground. My website is a link, info and silly email dumping portal for myself and some of my friends. I’m not interested in writing it properly because I don’t have the time. I need a WYSIWYG web editor and a copy and paste function ;).
So I heard about Nvu on the mailing list and took a look. As I said in some pother posts, I started my website in Frontpage Express 5 years ago before I knew anything about web design, then I moved to Frontpage and then Dreamwaver.
Aq, who is seriously (and still an understatement) into his web stuff recommended that Peter Cannon write a review of Nvu as a Frontpage user, being that such a review from himself, a committed and experienced web developer whos uses a text editor, would not be as useful as one from a user of WYSIWYG competitors to Nvu, like Frontpage and Dreamweaver. And in that sense, that includes me.
I’ve edited a few existing pages in Nvu and also created a simple ‘this site has moved’ type page. I have admittedly, not created any substantial new pages. But my immediate thoughts were that it’s pretty cool with one or two things missing.
The main thing is site management. In Frontpage or Dreamweaver you define your local web directory and your remote server details. You edit a local copy of a file and then publish the file to your remote server.
In Nvu you define your remote server and edit exisiting files by pulling them down from the server and editing them locally before sending them back up. This is ok, but limiting I think. My server uses ftp to transfer the files and has a maximum simultaneous connection limit to protect from ftp (globbing?) attacks. As my the top level index.html page has a number of images in, this hits the maximum connections limit and means that I have to edit the file with half of the images missing. This isn’t good for judging the aesthetic appearance of your pages and may leave your page looking out of shape while you edit it.
This working with the files direct from your remote server also means that it’s easy to upload files with mistakes in them without realising.
Another nice site management feature would be some kind of site information cache, like an index of all files and links in the site. If you change the name of a file in the site, then Nvu could ask if you want to update all links within the site that point to that file. It could also point out any files which aren’t linked by any file in the site and any external links that are invalid (ie produce http errors – 404 etc) or can’t be resolved by DNS.
Further to those, or while waiting for the above, I would like it if Nvu could remember where the file I am editing came from on the server. I have more than once downloaded an index.html file from a subdirectory of my webserver, edited and uploaded it before editing the index.html in the top level directory of the site before uploading it again. The problem is that Nvu doesn’t remember where you got the current file from. Instead is asks you which directory you want to put it in, defaulting to the last directory you uploaded to. This is how I overwrote the index.html in my subdirectory with a new top level index.html and left the old top level index.html where it was, unchanged. Fortunately, I also went through the (slightly) laborious task of manually making a local copy of every edited file before uploading it.
One more feature that would be useful would be the ability to use SSH to upload files to the server, fewer and fewer people are using ftp these days, more people are using SSH’s encrypted SFTP method and Nvu should offer this.
Now those are some quite big things to request. As I stated [link removed] on the Nvu developer forums [link removed], I would be happy to write these features myself if I were a decent coder, I had the time and knew what I was on about.
Nvu is in it’s infancy and I’m being quite hard on it by expecting these features already. Besides my comments above, Nvu is a very capable WYSIWYG web editor. As I said, it is the best in its field on Linux at the moment and will only get better.
If you are looking for a WYSIWYG web editor for Linux, or a free replacement for Frontpage or Dreamweaver on Windows, go download Nvu now.
If you are a coder with a taste for web development, then go help the Nvu developers [link removed] right away! Writing my requested features is of course your first task 😉