Free Windows Web Design Software

Charlie R. Claywell
Woman working on a web page design

When it comes to web-authoring software, "free" does not have to mean sub-standard or limited-use. If you are looking for a powerful tool, these five programs rival any paid version currently on the market.

KompoZer

If you prefer the WYSIWYG approach to website creation, KompoZer should be a comfortable fit. CNET's editors give it an excellent rating of 4 out of 5 stars, and they note that it does an "admirable job" of creating clean coding that is not bloated. With this system, you can concentrate on the design and layout of your site and let Kompozer deal with the coding required to make it a reality.

Screenshot of KompoZer software
Screenshot of KompoZer Software

If you prefer to be inside the coding when building a page, instead of WYSIWYG, select the Source tab from inside the workspace and access all of the coding used on the document. The work area is intuitive with easily accessible menus and tabs directly located above the work space, which makes it easy to bounce between tasks. The buttons used for publishing, tables, and images allow one-click steps for those processes.

Pros

  • WYSIWYG editor
  • Designed for non-technical users
  • HTML knowledge not required

Cons

  • Somewhat unpolished look
  • Feels like you are working inside a browser window

Microsoft Expression Web 4 (Free Version)

Formerly a paid product, Microsoft's Expression Web software has consistently received strong ratings over the past few years. It is probably as close to the Dreamweaver interface as you will get, and it feels superior in some ways. It looks cleaner, you can drag and drop tags onto the page, and accessing the coding (instead of WYSIWYG) is only one click away.

Screenshot of Microsoft Expression Web 4 software
Screenshot of Microsoft Expression Web 4 Software

The software offers a split view where you can see both the design and the code. The SuperPreview window is another very handy feature, especially for novices, because it allows you to see what your web site looks like in various browsers. This means you can quickly see if your page is displaying as desired. The software contains all the standard tools needed in interactive websites, like: PHP, XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, and AJAX.

Pros

  • Easy to learn
  • Three views: Design, Code, or Split
  • Expandable for novices since sites can also be built in .PHP and .ASP

Cons

  • No technical support
  • Must rely on an online community for help

BlueGriffon

Named the best free software of 2012, by PCMag.com, BlueGriffon is a user-friendly and powerful WYSIWYG HTML-editing tool. Like Dreamweaver and other WYSIWYG programs, the software is especially helpful for novices who are unfamiliar with HTML tags or Web standards. Of course, advanced users can always access the source code with one click.

Screenshot of BlueGriffon software
Screenshot of BlueGriffon Software

The toolbar is located directly above the well-designed workspace and is easy to use and understand. The program has its own CSS parser, and the CSS styles you create work in all browsers. The program also includes the SVG editor, which gives you the ability to draw vector graphics from within the program and embed the graphic into your page. The program is ideal for someone who is looking for an alternative to Macromedia's Dreamweaver and intends to have the site optimized for Firefox.

Pros

  • WYSIWYG editor
  • Designed for non-technical users
  • Built-in graphic editor

Cons

  • Uses Gecko renderer created specifically for Firefox
  • Design may render slightly differently in non-Firefox browsers

Bluefish

Bluefish just may be the granddaddy of all open source HTML editors. First launched in the '90s, the software is light, fast and stable. Its interface is very user friendly, and it contains syntax highlighting, code folding, and a tooltip that displays reference information about highlighted code.

If you are somewhat skilled in programming languages, this is a good fit. The software includes common programming languages like PHP, C++, Python, and many more. It has an online manual that explains the various features of the program, and it also has a very handy built-in auto recovery feature that makes losing your work a thing of the past.

Pros

  • Easy to learn, stable program
  • Multiple options for placing HTML tags in the page
  • Help text describes tag's purpose

Cons

  • Does not have design view for WYSIWYG
  • Must be comfortable working in Individual Development Environment

Aptana Studio 3

Aptana Studio 3 is web-authoring software designed to help a web developer create, test, debug, and deploy all from one environment. It's not necessarily for the novice since the approach of this software is to work inside the coding. For more advanced users, however, web authoring is quicker because of the program's auto-fill function and syntax color coding features.

Screenshot of Aptana Studio 3 software
Screenshot of Aptana Studio 3 Software

Aptana Studio 3 supports several programming languages like PHP and Python. It is current on browser technology, HTML5 tags and CSS3. The Individual Development Environment (IDE) is fully customizable, contains hundreds of pre-loaded commands, and includes a debugger that allows you to set break points and control execution of the debugger.

Pros:

  • Support for most, if not all, of the tools needed to build and deploy a site
  • Built-in support for FTP
  • Clean, easy- to- use interface

Cons

  • Does not have design view for WYSIWYG
  • Not for the novice

Which Is Best?

When deciding which HTML editor is best for you, consider your end game and seek out an editor with features that fulfill most of your software goals. Although no editor will be a perfect match, one or more will have enough of the features you need to build your website.

Free Windows Web Design Software