Not a Web Editor

Why is it that there are people around who are attempting to use a program such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher to create their web pages who then complain because they can't get the web page to display properly. Do these people also complain that they can't get screws to go in proplerly when using a shovel to bash the screws in? That is just about equivalent to what trying to build a web page with one of those programs is doing.

Microsoft Word is a word processing program and Microsoft Publisher is a desktop publishing program. While the actual emphasis on what part of the content of a document each is primarily designed to work with is different between these two programs - the word content itself in the one case and the page layout in the other - both of these programs are designed for producing documents that are to be printed. In neither case is the program intended for producing web pages.

The online equivalent of a printed page is not a web page. A PDF is a far closer representation of a printed page for electronic use (since that is precisely what that format was designed for). You will therefore have far greater success in creating electronic output from any word processor or desktop publishing program if you produce a PDF of your content rather than trying to convert it into a web page.

If you do decide that you absolutely must produce a web page from your Word or Publisher document then using the "Save As HTML" option in the program is not the way to do it. That version of HTML is a proprietary version created by Microsoft specifically for transferring files between different versions of Word and Publisher. You should therefore only use that option if you need to send the document to someone who is running an unknown version of Word or Publisher where you need them to be able to access the document regardless of which version they are using.

The "Save as HTML (Filtered)" option that more recent versions of the software include get rid of all the proprietary code leaving just standard HTML tags however the output produced is still a long way from producing a consistent output across different web browsers and so would still require a lot of manual adjustment to the actual HTML in order to get the result to actually work as a web page. Unless you have a thorough knowledge of HTML in order to be able to make all the necessary manual corrections to the produced output this option isn't going to help much either.

There are literally hundreds of free web editor programs out there that you can download and install on your computer. Unless you have a specific need to produce something that needs to have a specific print layout and therefore needs to be created in Word or Publisher in the first place you will be far better off obtaining one of these web editor programs and using that to create your web pages (after all that is what the program is designed specifically to do, the same way screwdrivers are designed for inserting screws). If you have a copy of Microsoft Explression Web or Adobe Dreamweaver then using either of those would be an even better alternative as those are programs that are sold with the specific purpose of producing web pages and therefore contain even more options to help with that task than the free programs do.

Note that Microsoft declared their program Frontpage to be dead some years ago as it was designed to produce web pages intended specifically for Internet Explorer 6 and earlier and Microsoft decided that it was easier to produce a new program (Expression Web) to create web pages for modern browsers than it would have been to fix Frontpage to produce modern web pages. This is actually very similar to the way that it is much easier to start with a proper web editor program to produce your web pages than it is to use a program intended for a totally different purpose (such as Word or Publisher) and then trying to patch the output to work as a web page.

If you absolutely must work with a Word or Publisher document as the source for your web page then the following is the easiest way to produce a proper web page that looks similar to the original. The first thing you need is a web editor to construct the web page in (just as you would if creating a new web page). Instead of trying to output from Word or Publisher into a web format directly you should instead copy the content from the Word or Publisher document and then paste it as plain text into the Web Editor. You then need to reapply all the formatting manually to the content so as to give it the same appearance as the original (this should be done via CSS as much as possible since HTML isn't designed to specify how the content should look - which is why trying to export print documents into HTML doesn't work). While this method also involves a lot of work in recreating the formatting, if you use a "what you see is what you (almost) get" web editor to create the web pages you can generate the necessary HTML and CSS by using the appropriate tools in the web editor which will be relatively similar in the way you use them to the way the equivalent tools in a word processing or desktop publishing program work except that the web editor will generate the proper code to work as a web page which those ther programs cannot do. You'd effectively have had to format the content twice in that case (one for the print version and once for the online version) but at least that way you end up with copies of the document properly defined for each media.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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