Webmaster Tools: Website Administration Tools
(By Dino Borelli)
What “tools” does a webmaster (website administrator) need?
Depending on the responsibilities and preferences of a Webmaster, there is no one perfect all-things-for-all-webmasters toolkit as such. Individual preference, and work habits, mean it's a personal choice as far as what tools you will use for the job.
There are however a group of tool types that are a standard part of most Webmasters toolkits, and these can be grouped as...
* Text/Programmers Editor
* WYSIWYG Editor/WYSIWYG HTML editor
* Site Manager/Developer
* Log Analyser (Web log analyzer)
* Link Checker
* FTP client
* Telnet Client
Text Editor/Programmers Editor
Now, this one is pretty self-explanatory, I mean, chances are you already have a collection of favourite text editors on the system your use currently.
Commonly installed options on various platforms include Notepad or Wordpad on a PC, VI or emacs on a Linux/Unix machine, or BBEdit on a Mac, however there are some free/shareware tools out there that provide a little more functionality than your average garden Text editor.
There are plenty of options out there on shareware sites, but how do you make a selection, and what features are useful and worth paying for. Here are a few to consider.
* Search and Replace (on multiple files/lines)
* Macro/Script Language
* Libraries of common text or tags
* Spell Checker/dictionary
* Edit multiple files
* File organisation
* Context Sensitive colouring (e.g. HTML tags, scripts etc)
Following are some popular alternatives you might like to have a look at.
"The ultimate free Notepad replacement and a handy HTML editor. Handle a heap of files with a simple tabbed interface. Search files, strip HTML tags and format text quickly. Formerly called "Super NoteTab". 100% freeware -- no ads and no nags."
b. 1st Page 2000
c. Coffe Cup
d. Ace Expert
Web Log Analyzer
There are loads of Shareware log analysis tools out there, some fully featured which will cover the following features and more, and some pretty basic. Useful stats and features to look out for in a log tool include...
* Popular (and equally unpopular) pages
* Browser versions, and platforms
* Search engines that crawled the site
* Time spent on the site by visitors
* Popular paths people follow through the site
* Choice of Graphical and/or Textual reports
* Number and size of files requested
* Referering sites (those that are linking to yours)
* Reverse DNS Lookups
* Countries that people are visiting from
* Configurable log format (ie for any web server)
* Command Line, Graphical and/or CGI interfaces
* Scheduled/Batch running
* Runs on various platforms (DOS/Windows/Mac/Unix/Linux)
* Ability to restrict the scope of reports
If you have plenty of time you could write your own, but it is a lot easier to try out one of the dozens of existing tools, some of which are free, some costing $100's and check the features they offer against what you need and how much you can afford to spend.
Indexes of popular log tools can be found on the following pages...
UPPSALA Univeristy (Sweden):
A recent (2008) popular online tool that can serve similar functions as offline web log analyzers is Google Analytics. Google Analytics (abbreviated GA) is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website.
Its main highlight is that the product is aimed at Marketers as in addition to webmasters and other IT staff from which the industry of web analytics originally grew. On the marketing metrics GA can track visitors from all referrers, including search engines, display advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing and even digital collateral such as links within PDF documents.
WYSIWYG Site Editing/WYSIWYG HTML editor
If your a WYSIWYG editor biggot, and you know what I mean, then this chapter will only elevate your blood-pressure. READ WITH CAUTION!
A WYSIWYG (acronym for What You See Is What You Get) editor may or may not be a part of your Wembastering arsenal but you should have at least a passing familiarity with all WYSIWYG editors that your clients are using. When they run into trouble, and their colleagues or local or departmental support staff are unable to help, who are they gonna call?
You should also consider putting yourself on any training thats available which will help you plan for the things that will go wrong, and be able to politely tell clients that "NO" that Frontpage extension is NOT supported by our server.
Love em or hate em, the major players are in the WYSIWYG arena are...
1. NetObjects Fusion
2. Microsoft FrontPage now Microsoft Expression Web and Sharepoint Designer (2008)
3. Maromedia Dreamweaver, now Adobe Dreamweaver (2008)
4. CoffeeCup HTML Editor
5. Symantec Visual Page 1.0
6. Freeway (originally Uniqorn) by Softpress Systems (2008)
None of the above is really exceptionally better or worse than the other. They all misbehave in one way or another. Nearly all claim to be leaders in the market and each has loyal bands of users, as well as those who think they suck.
The important thing for a webmaster is to do some research on any of these tools that your users are using. Get the demos installed if you have the time, and consider things like the following before reccomending an editor to the people that will soon be asking.
* Do the clients require any project or site management tools
* Can it perform link checking
* What licensing agreements will your ogranisation get
* Are any of these already covered under any existing licenses or agreements
* How well does it integrate with your current environment
* Is a site-wide search/replace tool available
* Are there server extensions available for integrating client and server
* If not, does it support FTP uploads to your web server
* Is it available in other languages
* Can you drag-and-drop from other applications
* Does it handle FRAMEs (if your site/clients use them)
* Will it do HTML validation on your pages
* Do training organisations offer courses in your area
* Does it context-colour the tags in HTML view
* What are the system requriements, and do client machines meet them.
One thing you should encourage, is that your clients upgrade their editors ASAP after a major release has proven it's stable. As these editors progress from one incarnation to another, they are progressively getting better at not wrecking the HTML under the covers.
Site Management/Development Tool
Selecting a tool like this is no mean effort, it takes some serious research and lenghty consideration of many factors. Assessing products like these is out of the scope of this document, however some things you might consider and features to look for when making your descision are...
* Does it support CSS editing and validation
* Does it provide HTML2/3.2/4 etc validation
* Will it provide versioning for different browsers
* does it integrate with any end-user publishing tools
* does it provide template or layout control
* Does it recognise and color-code various scripting languages
* Can you perform search/replaces accross the site
And here are the major contendors
* Adobe Go-Live (Ended development and sales on April 28, 2008), now using Dreamweaver
* Microsoft Visual InterDev, now Microsoft Visual Studio (2008)
* NetObjects Fusion
* Checkweb (freeware). CheckWeb is a HTML links analyser. The program scans HTML pages and explore all the links for errors. When CheckWeb is done the program generate a log file with all errors it has found.
* Xenu's Link Sleuth. Xenu, or Xenu's Link Sleuth, is a software that checks websites for broken hyperlinks. It is written by Tilman Hausherr and is proprietary software available at no charge. The program is named after Xenu, the Galactic Ruler from Scientology doctrine.
Commercial tools that offer similar functionality of links analysis include:
*Web Link Validator.
One of the most widely used FTP client software is Wise FTP. Apart from using the normal FTP protocol, Wise-FTP supports SSH (SFTP) and FTPS (FTP/SSL) protocols and the cryptographic protocols SSL and TLS. Transfers can be carried out via drag&drop, as the program interface is based on Windows Explorer.
Telnet Clients Multiplatform
* PuTTY is a free, open source SSH, TELNET, rlogin, and raw TCP client for Windows, Linux, and Unix.
* SyncTERM is a free open-source TELNET/RLogin/SSH client/terminal for Windows and *nix platforms (including Mac OS X) with windowed/full-screen and Zmodem support.
* AbsoluteTelnet is a terminal application (telnet, ssh, serial, dialup) for Windows desktop platforms. It includes file transfer capabilities such a zmodem and sftp.
* MobileVT is a telnet, ssh, vt100, dialup terminal client for Windows mobile and Pocket pc. It includes file transfer and script capabilities.
Source: Dino Borelli at http://www.deeknow.com/notes/webmastering/tasks.html
(Minor content updates by Eric Gondwe)