BlueGriffon is a free WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editor powered by Gecko, the rendering engine within Firefox. It is cross-platform with versions for Windows XP and Windows 7, Mac OS X, and popular Linux distributions. There is also a portable version (Windows only).
Like its predecessor, NVU, BlueGriffon provides an easy-to-use interface and includes all the most common options for creating web pages that comply with the W3C web standards (HTML 4, XHTML 1.0, HTML 5 or XHTML 5 / CSS 2.1 and parts of CSS3 already implemented by Gecko).
A handy wizard guides users in setting up their canvas, starting with selecting the document type, filling in property details, choosing colors, adding a background image, and deciding on page layouts.
The interface is intuitive and almost basic at first, closely mimicking the layout of a word processor’s toolbar. The icons for the most common options are clearly laid out – adding a table, single image, or thumbnail that links to a large image, link, video, audio file, or form to a web page is easy. Switching from the WYSIWYG view (where you can arrange objects visually) to the web page source code (where you can manipulate the web page by editing the HTML code) is done by clicking the two buttons at the bottom of the page. Multiple web pages can remain open in multiple tabs, making it easy to quickly switch from one document to another, copy and paste, and more.
Adjusting styles can be done through the style properties panel, which would require some coding knowledge for most functions in addition to the more basic ones. For example, it is fairly easy to change the color of a font or adjust the style of a border, but, while the style properties organize the many style options in a fairly neat manner, most of the available style options probably won’t be. immediately understood by beginners: this makes BlueGriffon more suited to intermediate encoders.
Another drawback of BlueGriffon if you are starting to create your first website design is the lack of proper documentation (offline or online) yet. If you’ve used any decent web-building tools before, or want to create a fairly basic page, this shouldn’t be a big deal. However, if you are a beginner at coding websites, you may find yourself stuck at some point without much help available. Hopefully the BlueGriffon documentation improves over time, starting by offering some walkthroughs on creating new pages and sites and developing your forum.
On the other hand, one of BlueGriffon’s strengths is plugins – the most obvious one is the free FireFTP plugin to easily publish your page from BlueGriffon. Most other plugins need to be purchased for a small fee to support future development, according to the BlueGriffon website. The CSS Pro Editor extension, for example, is much more powerful than the default CSS toolbox and gives web authors full control over their style sheets. Some popular paid extensions are the Mobile Viewer plugin (for testing your pages with a large number of mobile devices), Eye Dropper (a color picker that allows web authors to choose a color from fonts that cannot be directly viewed or edited inside the editor), the Project Manager plugin (a synchronization tool between a local directory on your hard drives and a remote directory accessible via FTP), the Snippets plugin (useful when manipulating the exact same snippet of HTML code or text within documents) and the Toolkit Manager plug-in. It is possible to buy all the plugins at once at a discounted price on the publisher’s website.
Clicking the Preview button will open the web page in any browser of your choice (as long as it is already installed on your system, of course), which is useful for cross-browser testing, to check how it looks. your page in Internet Explorer or Google. Chrome, for example. This is also useful for checking your scripts, as these will not run directly in BlueGriffon.
The Brand Cleaner that can be found in the Tools menu can help you clean up your HTML code. You can also spell check your pages and BlueGriffon even integrates a small SVG editor (svg-edit, originally distributed as a plug-in for Firefox and adapted to BlueGriffon) for quick drawing work.
BlueGriffon is a very promising open source and cross-platform web editor. With only version 1.31, of course you can’t compete directly with massive and expensive web development applications like Adobe Dreamweaver, but this is already a very good application for creating web standards compliant pages without too much effort. It’s also a great tool for educational purposes, like teaching design students the basics of HTML and CSS. You need to improve the documentation and online forums, but once you get traction and support from the community, you could quickly become much more popular.