Everything a web designer needs for free:
Designing and managing a website need not be an expensive affair.
There are several useful free and open source applications available for download that allow you to do everything from designing the graphics for your site to editing blog posts.
This list is not comprehensive, but rather provides the categories for each step of website management, as well as open source examples of tools you can use.
Special thanks to 34sp.com dedicated web hosting for their insight.
When choosing an HTML editor, you need to decide what you actually need. Those who gained their first web design experience using a text editor, like Notepad, might prefer to continue using a text editor. Beyond the basic plain-text support of simple editors, these powerhouses offer syntax highlighting for numerous languages and many other features that take some of the pain out of web development. Some popular open source text editors are:
Bluefish – Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows
Notepad++ – For Windows
If, however, you need a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, something similar to Adobe Dreamweaver, there are a couple of options:
Kompozer (formerly NVU) – Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X
Amaya – Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X
Image Editing Software
Few websites these days are text-only. Creating quality web images is very important, and the standard for high-end graphic design is Adobe Photoshop. For most web designers, however, Photoshop may have a lot of features they do not need, and therefore, it may not be worth the exuberant price. Here are a couple of great free and open source image editing programs.
Gimp – Raster image editing software with support for most Photoshop-like features. - Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and other operating systems.
Inkscape – Vector image editing (similar to Adobe Illustrator) with support for SVG (a W3C standard for images).
File Transfer Clients
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is your primary method of uploading your creations to your website, at least for the first time. There are a plethora of free and open source clients available.
FileZilla – Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux
Cyberduck – Mac OS X
WinSCP – Windows
FireFTP – Runs in Firefox on all operating systems
Content Management Systems
Most modern websites utilize some form of content management system (CMS). It allows the user to update and maintain the site, without having to edit HTML files and upload them every time a small change is made. There are undoubtedly hundreds of free and open source content management systems. These are a few of the most popular.
Joomla – PHP/SQL, runs on Linux and Windows servers.
Drupal – PHP/SQL
eZ Publish – PHP/SQL
Web-based blogging software is basically a CMS that is designed with blogging in mind. Many of them actually started as primarily blogging-only systems and later expanded to include more website features. Rather than hosting your blog with a service that uses their domain for your blog, you can use your own.
WordPress – The same company that offers the popular free blogging service, also distributes their software for free. PHP/SQL.
Moveable Type – Previously commercial, Moveable Type is now free and open source. Perl/PHP/MySQL.
If your website is a business, there is a good chance you will want to sell products online. While you could easily empty your bank account on a commercial or custom-built e-commerce solution, there are a few good free and open source solutions that work very well, at no cost.
OS Commerce – PHP/SQL
Magento – PHP/SQL
Spree – Ruby on Rails/SQL
Languages/Databases for Development
If you prefer to build your own web applications, there is no shortage of free and open web development languages and database software/servers. Some of the most popular include:
As you can see, creating your own website can be a free and painless experience. If you search for any of the above-mentioned categories, you will find a myriad of software applications in those areas, all free for use and development. The Web itself is free and open, and there is no reason why publishing on the web needs to be closed and expensive.
Tavis J. Hampton is a librarian and writer with a decade of experience in information technology, web hosting, and Linux system administration. He currently works for LanternTorch.Net, which offers writing, editing, tech training, and information architecture services.