The Practical Mac

Building a Web Presence on a Shoestring

- 2001.10.16

Have you always wanted a Web site but didn't know where or how to start? Has cost been an obstacle? Perhaps you are affiliated with a nonprofit organization which has postponed its Web presence due to financial constraints. Maybe you are the President of your organization and have been charged with getting them "on the Internet," and you do not have the first idea where to begin. Possibly you are the only member of your group who owns a computer, so you were just elected the webmaster!

Relax, for today The Practical Mac will show you how to get on the Web quickly and easily, and, most importantly, without breaking the bank.

This is intended as a primer for those with little or no prior knowledge of what is involved in creating a Web page or a site for others to view. I have intentionally left out many details that are irrelevant for this audience. For example, you will notice below that I do not define what "HTML" stands for. The goal is to tell the reader what time it is rather than explaining how to build a clock. To paraphrase Sgt. Joe Friday, this article (and the one next week) contains, "The [practical] facts ma'am, just the [practical] facts."

The first task is to create your Web site - or even a single page which will serve as the entire site. To do this, you need an HTML editor. This is simply a program which allows you to create your Web page in the format that allows it to be stored and viewed over the Internet. Here are some suggestions:

AppleWorks. AppleWorks versions 5 and 6 allow you to create a document and save it as HTML, the language of the Web. This is particularly useful since it allows you to create a document in an environment in which you may already be comfortable. AppleWorks also fits another of our criteria very well: Since you probably already own it, you don't have to spend any more money for it! There are some drawbacks, however. You cannot easily create complicated pages or links from one page to another. But if you are just starting out, lacking the ability to create complicated Web pages is probably not really a shortcoming.

Microsoft Word 2001. You may also already own a copy of Word 2001. If so, it too has a built-in HTML feature. In Word, you do not have to first create a word processing document and then save it as HTML. Instead, you work in a bare bones HTML editor from the beginning. When you first start Word (or any other component of Office 2001), simply choose "Web Page" from the Project Gallery. The advantages and disadvantages of using Word are similar to those of AppleWorks. There is one additional disadvantage to using Word to create your HTML documents. I won't go into detail, but it's probably enough for you to know that Macromedia Dreamweaver (the premier program for creating web sites, though not for those on a tight budget) has a menu selection entitled "Clean Up Word HTML."

Netscape Composer. If you have Netscape Communicator installed on your Mac, you probably also have the Netscape Web page creator, Composer. Composer is easy to use and is a "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) editor, that is, the page, even as it is being created, appears just as it will to someone viewing it in a Web browser on the Internet. The environment is a little different than creating a document in Word or AppleWorks, but you soon grow accustomed to it. Composer is a part of the Communicator suite and is available as a free download from http://www.netscape.com.

Claris Home Page. This is my personal favorite and, in my opinion, the best entry-level Web page creation program. It is simple to use and has all the features a beginner needs and none of the features which would simply confuse a beginner. It has a built-in, easy-to-use feature allowing you to publish your creation on the Web. The only real disadvantage to Home Page is that it is no longer made. The last version (3.0) was completed in 1997, and the program has not been marketed for a year or more. My advice: look on eBay. Our bank Web site was created with the Windows version of Home Page. I bought the Mac version on eBay several months ago and have been using it for most of the sites I maintain. Even though I own the latest copy of Dreamweaver, I find that most of the work I do can be done more quickly and easily through Home Page. I only bring out Dreamweaver for the "heavy-duty" work.

Publisher's note: Low End Mac is created exclusively in Claris Home Page, as are the other Cobweb Publishing sites. We've looked at "high end" solutions but always come back to the speed and simplicity of Home Page.

Now that you have the tool(s) you need to create your first Web page, why not do it? I invite any of you who have no Web authoring experience to try one of these programs. Create your own simple personal Web page that tells a little about you and perhaps your family as well. Email me with your experiences. But hold on to those pages after you create them - next week, we'll take a look at where and how to publish your creation on the Internet for all the world to see! LEM

Go to Building a Web Presence on a Shoestring, Part 2.

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Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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