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Free software everywhere

A few months ago I bought Allaire HomeSite, it cost me about $100 and today I found an almost as good html editor for free. Seems like everywhere I go there's plenty of free software around, I have so many choices that I don't care anymore, getting a new application doesn't excite me as much as it did a few years ago.

It's like when you get rich you can get everything you want and soon enough you stop caring and that glare in your eyes fades. The same goes for software.

Monday, February 4, 2002

If, like me, you run a company of about 12 developers the cheapest of which costs you $52 per hour. And a new productivity tool arrives, and it really works, then the gleam returns.

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

i think it depends on the area.  i do mostly backend web applications now, but started out being a jack of all trades.  i still haven't seen freeware products that match Macromedia's Dreamweaver 4.0 or Flash 5.0 (they are worth the $400, especially Flash 5.0).

on the other hand, there are a lot of code editors out there-and since i do everything in text-i see no reason to purchase an editor (i did purchase one for perl a long time ago-but i've really never needed after i became familiar with the language).

especially in areas like graphic design-i think freeware will be lacking because it's partly dictated by what the geeks really want.  so, there will be a lot of text editors, and maybe stuff to facilitate exchange of music and porn.  on the other hand, a high-end graphic design program or flash editor is not something that has either geek or broad-based appeal.

razib khan
Tuesday, February 5, 2002

You found an HTML editor that's free and almost as good as HomeSite.

Wow! I only ever use HomeSite for HTML, because IMO it's the best HTML editor by a long long stretch, so I'm curious about something that is "almost as good". What's it called?

Walter Rumsby
Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Walter, it's called 1st Page 2000

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

1st Page 3000 has been "almost finished" for almost a year now (apparently never read "Painless Software Scheduling"?)

The only thing I really miss from 1st Page 2000 is global search and replace. Otherwise, it's pretty neat.

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

check out HTMLkit it rocks and is free. Great for PHP and ASP also.

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

You can't beat HomeSite IMO

But there is a fantastic lightweight FTP client I have found called FileZilla

I'm not involved, but I use it, love it, so I'm plugging it :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

I like Homesite too, but I never use it much. The reason is that a lot of times you'll miss some of the features that your favorite general purpose editor (Emacs, vi, insert yours here...) has to offer.

You can use Emacs, vi, textpad, uedit to write php, asp rather efficiently but you can't code C or Java using Homesite.

My favorite editor is Visual SlickEdit. Granted it's expensive, but during the first week of use it has already saved enough of my time and worth every dollar I spent.

It's Emacs with a decent gui configuration menu (instead of tinkering with elisp) and include a set of nicely packaged macros and key binding (instead of telling you that the editor is indefinitely configurable as an excuse for the fact that everything does not work the way you wanted by default).

Its major strength though, is that it can tag variables and functions for almost all modern languages (C, perl, java, even ASP with embedded VBScript, JScript and client side javascript).

I bet if you are working with a large code base you will like it because every function definition and reference is just one click away.

Of course Visual Studio.Net is an exception because you are not just after the editor, but the IDE as well. I don't know of an editor that can let you manage VSS project properly (add / remove files, compile, build).

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

I agree with Mac's comments re: not using HomeSite as a Java IDE - I use IntelliJ, it's very nice and I use TopStyle Lite for CSS work. I've only taken a token look at Visual Studio.NET - I have RC2 installed on my machine, but I've done no more than confirm that it installed - but my previous experiences with all-in-ones is that they don't match up with the best specialised tools.

Ok, I've downloaded 1st Page 2000 and it does look A LOT like HomeSite, but seems to want to put 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 links into my favourites - so now I've deleted them all will it stop this annoying habit? There's no obvious way of managing projects and I'm going to hate that document close is not Ctrl+W, but I'll see where my tinkering takes me before I pass final judgement.

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, February 6, 2002

I didn't mean to start a conversation on which HTML Editor is better.  It was more of a question actually. With all the free software out there how can one justify paying for software?

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

I thought you answered the "why pay for software" question by yourself when you mentioned the free product was *almost* as good as the "pay for" one.

What if the feature you absolutely must have is the difference that makes up the "almost"? Then its worth paying to have it, isn't it?

What if what you really need is good support? That's also worth paying for.

Robert Moir
Wednesday, February 6, 2002

One angle is that the purchase price is often a vary small part of the total cost of using the software.  The human ramp up time may be more relavent that purchase price.

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Ok Roger,

Fair point, and I'll use my brief experiences with 1st Page to give my case for purchasing software.

I'll start by saying that I only spent a couple of hours playing with 1st Page last night and a lot of that was spent on a tangent thinking about how I could develop a site after being inspired by the CSS switching example I saw on (take a peek, it provides a very compelling case for the superior modifiability of CSS-based web interfaces).

Given this and given the fact I am going to compare it to HomeSite, an application I have used for over 3 years, the comparison will not be perfect. Nonetheless I will attempt to compare the two.

Relative to HomeSite, 1st Page seemed to be lacking features which were readily apparent to me:
- No clear concept of projects
- No obvious tag-completion features
- No obvious preferences controlling features such as convert tabs to spaces
- Seemingly, no integration with Dreamweaver, TopStyle, VSS/CVS etc

Now these "problems" may be rectified in the next release of 1st Page, but without these features I cannot work as efficiently, quickly or as pleasurably as I can with HomeSite. 1st Page is definitely a step up from Notepad and I may choose to use it on my home PC, but put me in a commercial context and my preference would be HomeSite.

Given the modest cost of HomeSite I think it pays for itself fairly quickly. In a commercial setting the productivity gains would probably pay for the cost of the product in the first month of ownership. On top of that I don't have to contend with the software trying to add bookmarks to my web browser. The issue here is the total cost of ownership.

A similar line could be taken comparing a product like PaintShop Pro vs. PhotoShop + Illustrator. The Adobe offerings offer more features that advanced users benefit from.

Similarly, look at the use of Linux + Apache vs Windows + IIS. If you just want a box to act as a simple web server the Linux choice saves you dollars, but situtations exsist where paying for the Microsoft offering is a better fit.

It's a matter of whether or not your requirements are satisfied and what you are prepared to pay to achieve that.

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, February 6, 2002

I'm curious if anyone thinks that free software kills comptitiveness in the sense that a commercial company might be relunctant to develop product in a space where a free alternative exists.

A long time agao I wrote a free add-in for Delphi called GExperts ( and have basically been accused at various times of killing the market for Delphi add-ins. On one hand I can see the reasoning, on the other I think if as a commercial developer you can't compete with some guy working nights out of his basement apartment your in the wrong business.

Personally, I don't buy the hypothesis that free software kills competitive commercial software. There are plenty of examples to show commercial software doing extremely well against freeware. Windows is highly successful against Linux, JBuilder seems to be doing very well despite the availablity of free Java IDE's like Netbeans.

I think the primary reason commercial software remains competitive is polish, polish and polish. The vast majority of developers that produce free software do so because it is fun. But the fact remains that in any given software project, there are parts that are just plan tedious and boring to work on. Commercial software developers have motivation to do the tedious work whereas free software developers do not.

Gerald Nunn
Thursday, February 7, 2002

In Knuth's Digital Typography book, he explains a sort of guilty feeling that TeX displaced some guy who wrote a commercial typesetting package.  That person complained to the US gov't that they were funding unfair competition.

But I know how the original author of this topic feels.  I never really use commercial software anymore, unless I like the people who wrote it so much I feel like "subsidizing" their good work.

Commercial software to me is always just for people who want glitz, and a nicer learning curve.  Occasionally there is software you absolutely must pay for, like Photoshop, but usually corporations take care of that for me.

Quentin S.
Thursday, February 7, 2002

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