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Web design on a budget. Six free alternatives to Dreamweaver.

Paul Anthony / April 12, 2008

Posted in: Archive

As webdevelopers most of us have been born and bred on Adobe’s (formerly Macromedia’s) weapon of choice Dreamweaver. I have seen the various incarnations of the program through from version 3, to UltraDev (cutting my teeth with ASP), to the latest version CS3. However there are a couple of alternatives available on the market, which are well worth a look if you are on a budget, or are on an alternative platform. Dreamweaver has always been traditionally Windows based, and if you are looking to make the switch to Linux, you need to find yourself a solid alternative. If you are making the switch, have a browse over some of these badboys..



License GPL, cost Free. Platforms Win | Mac | Linux

kompozer.jpgSome of you will know kompozer as Nvu, which grew out of the Mozilla Composer WYSIWYG editor, as a result its rendering engine uses Mozilla Gecko, so you can pretty much expect to see the same things as the Firefox browser gives you, and for those of you who use CSS layouts when developing, this is an absolute Godsend. Develop for firefox, fix for I.E is the way to go. Kompozer also has built in support for FTP, similar to DW in that respect, the download is also surprisingly small for the capabilities of the program – a testament to how tight the codebase is. Simply download and extract and away you go. As well as a fully integrated site manager, Kompozer also shines with its CSS editor. Think of the way Dreamweaver handles its CSS, well Kompozer is alot cleaner, and gives access to a few more less known CSS attributes. There’s also a useful “HTML tags” window, which allows the same functionality as the Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox, outlining all your elements so you can see which part of your code relates to what. Problems I encountered were the support for server side languages. Kompozer doesn’t know how to handle include files, but if you are looking for a good static site editor, Kompozer fits the bill.



License: W3C, cost free. Platforms Win | Mac | Linux

amaya Web EditorAmaya 10 (released Feb 2008) is the latest incarnation of the web browser and authoring tool from the W3C. As you would expect from the W3C, it has a strong focus on standards, and new web technologies, including SVG image format..(although personally I find SVG as a format complete waste of time) . The download size comes in at around 7 MB, similar to Kompozer, although it extracts to a good bit bigger than that. As well as being a fully featured web page editor, it has the added bonus of being a web browser too, and the program allows you to switch between these “modes” if you want. I’d like to have seen either a site manager, or FTP support built into the editor, one of DW’s strengths is good site management as well as being a good code editor. That said, Amaya has a wealth of options including theming, quick tags and a good css designer.

Bluefish Editor


License: GPL, cost free. Platforms Mac | Linux | (Windows with CYGWIN)

bluefish Web Editor Screenshot Linux CYGWINBluefish is one of the better text editors available for Linux, although it is not as focused on Web development exclusively than some of the other alternatives to dreamweaver listed here. If you are a code monkey on Linux, and need a stable and extremely fast editor, you wont go wrong with Bluefish. They state on their site that the program can open up to 500+ simulataneous documents without so much as a blink, and any of my tests on the program have more or less proven that statement. Not strictly a web editor, but good if you know what you are doing. Bluefish also has syntax support for a number of different programming languages, including the following..

C, Coldfusion, CSS, HTML, Java, Javascript, JSP, Perl, PHP, Python, SQL, XHTML, XML



License: GNU, cost free. Platforms Mac | Linux

screemeditor.jpgWhilst Screem supports only POSIX based OS , it has all the features that you could want in a webpage WYSIWYG editor. It has site support / FTP access, built in HTML structure layouts, thanks to the developers of Bluefish, Screem also provides a complete PHP help reference. The find and replace also support RegEx’s which to those who know what they are doing is pretty neato.

Quanta Plus


License: GNU, cost free. Available for: linux (KDE).

quantaplus.jpgQuanta Plus is steadily becoming a worthwhile competitor to the commercial web editors on the market, the project is steadily gaining a number of open source software developers. Certainly if you use PHP as your main development language it’s going to be very difficult to find a better tool than Quanta. Quanta Plus’s feature set includes multi-document interface, WYSIWYG editing and templates. Among the more advanced features your will find plug-in support and integrated PHP debugging. It also has third party support for revision control, and source control (with teams). It is part of KDE, a Linux distro, so for you Windows monkey’s out there it aint gonna fly.

Aptana Studio


License: Closed Source Cost Free. Win | Mac OSX 10.4+ | Linux (with GTK)

aptana.jpg Aptana’s business model is to release the community version for free, then get you hooked into the pro version, however the program itself is a robust environment for building web pages and applications supporting JavaScript, Ruby on Rails, and PHP development. It has great Ajax, DOM, HTML and CSS support and plug-ins for Adobe AIR and Apple iPhone development. Think of Aptana Studio as the Web 2.0 of free web development tools, their site also gives the impression that this is a super slick tool. It has more of focus on people developing for Rails, but is equal as useful for PHP developers.

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77 responses to “Web design on a budget. Six free alternatives to Dreamweaver.

  1. I know absolutely nothing about web design, coding etc.

    Im good at graphics etc but cant be arsed to learn coding, css html blt gcse hiv etc

    Sure, maybe Im ignorant bastard. But what can I use to make a simple website? i.e, few buttons and exhibit of images?

    Considering I know nothing and dont want to spend days learning crap i dont need to know?????????

    Help or suggestions much appreciated


  2. Hi, thanks for this post. Can someone please tell me do any of these free software support FTP? Great post BTW.

  3. I have a pretty basic knowledge of web design. The technique I know is the one of creating the appearance of the page as an image in photoshop and then turning it into an actual site by adding links etc in dreamweaver. I’ve tried a couple on this list (Kompozer and Amaya) and neither of them seem to work with this technique. I would rather stick with what I know if I can, especially as I have already done much of the photoshop part. Can anyone help me on whether any freeware WYSIWYG programmes, on this list or otherwise, work well with this method? I’d be grateful for any info.

  4. Hi Matthew,

    I think the technique you are talking about is the use of “imagemaps” to draw the links on the image. Linking page to page. (Little blue icon in DW?) Whilst this works, I wouldn’t endorse it by any means, as it fundamentally goes against everything, including usability, speed etc. Your problem highlights one of the reasons WYSIWYG are dangerous – that they allow people to skip the fundamentals in understanding the code to ‘get the job’ done.

    I’d have to recommend perhaps utilising some of the PSD to HTML services out there if you aren’t willing to learn the fundamentals. The end result will be much more professional than your current methodology.


  5. Thanks a lot for your response. It probably is a good idea for me to try and learn the fundamentals better as you suggest, but in the meantime I will try what you suggest so I can get on with things roughly the way I know until I can learn a better way.

  6. Hi,

    I have a rudimentary understanding of HTML and I’ve been doing a lot of reading. So I have a lot of knowledge in my head and I’m ready to put it into practice. While I want nice web design, I want nice graphic design as well. I would like to focus first on Good web design. In short, I am learning. I want to start with a FREE option before I spend the big bucks. What would be your suggestion on an application to begin with? and do you have any other suggestions on where to start?

  7. I’d say probably Kompozer, its a good all round bet, although if you are comfortable with HTML, perhaps something like Notepad++ would be sufficient.


  8. This post is really nice.I never know about these things which we can use as alternate of dream weaver. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  9. Hi,

    I’m about to try building a website for the first time – a simple ‘advertising’ one for a small business partnership. Googling for a free alternative to DW turned up something called ‘Arachnophilia’. It may sound like something obscene (!), but it does seem to have a decent tutorial.

    Now I’ve found your Webdistortion site, and I’m confused… I was hoping it might be reviewed amongst the six – but it ain’t! Have you, or anyone else, got any experience of the above spider-loving software? If so, how good/bad is it, and would Kompozer (I’m guessing) still be your recommendation?

    Thanks for any advice you can offer

  10. I am web designing on a small netbook and was looking for a good alernative to dreamweaver. Having read this artice I decided to download Kompozer because it has been built around mozilla and I use their firebug tool all the time. Thank you for the article and the site looks great, very sharp, clean and clear design.

  11. This is a godsend! I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place as a new designer working for an independent non-profit who wants things done yesterday, and having only one computer at home with Dreamweaver (and unable to buy on a student license until next year). Much appreciate the suggestions!

  12. Hi there,

    Had a read through the suggestions above however I can’t find a free alternative to DW which has the ‘design view’ capability – does anybody know of one?



  13. I think eclipse for J2ee is a good choice for developing web pages.It also has php plugin too.Ofcourse,it is more of developer centric than a designer one (like dreamweaver).But using netbeans for any development purpose sux time..

  14. hi,
    I had my website up and running until recently and now DW will not conneact with FileZilla for me to publish the site and corrections. I have Kompozer loaded and have tried it but keep getting errors. I know I am probably not puttint the right stuff in the righr places. The help indez is no help to me. Is there a tutorial or screen shots of just what goes into the settings tab and the other tab(I can’t remember it and I don’t want to loose my place her. If anyone can help, I would be most appreciative.


  15. Hi Andhie –

    There is one program I haven’t got on here – and its worth a mention, specifically for PHP. It’s called ‘Eclipse’ I use it primarily for Java development, but there is PHP plugins also available for it.


    Have a hunt for the PHP edition, as the plugins will give you helpful hints on syntax and built in libraries used within PHP. (saves you remembering all the commands etc).

    Best of luck,

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