BlueGriffon 1.0 Released: Open Source WYSIWYG Web Editing Comes Back to Linux

If you're looking for a WYSIWYG Web Editor for Linux, look no farther than BlueGriffon. The recently released 1.0 of BlueGriffon brings an impressive toolset to Web designers and other users who want a slick, open source, Web Editor.

For some users (like me) Vim or another text editor is all that's wanted for creating Web pages or working with CSS, etc. If it was good enough for Web pages in 1999, why change? But not everybody is happy with technology that was cutting edge when Flock of Seagulls were popular.

Many users have cut their teeth using WYSIWYG tools, and don't want to wrestle HTML and CSS code. There's certainly been plenty of demand for a WYSIWYG editor — and now we have one, BlueGriffon. Actually, it's not the first on the scene — there was Nvu, but it fell by the wayside after the sponsorship from Linspire dried up. BlueGriffon is sort of a continuation of that, since it's the same developer leading the effort.

What is BlueGriffon?

BlueGriffon is a Mozilla-based "content editor" for the Web. The core application (as opposed to add-ons, which we'll cover in a minute) is tri-licensed under the Mozilla Public License 1.1, the GPLv2, and the LGPLv2.1. It uses the Firefox Gecko rendering engine for its WYSIWYG view, and seems to inherit quite a bit of other code from Firefox as well.

In terms of looks and feel, BlueGriffon seems quite a bit like Nvu, and Mozilla (and Netscape) Composer before it.

But it's been updated quite a bit since the Composer days. It's set to handle any of the current HTML/XHTML specifications. I hesitate to use the "HTML5" moniker, since that's so overused to mean so many things today, but BlueGriffon does have support for elements in the current HTML5 specification. That includes support for embedding audio and video using HTML5 elements.

BlueGriffon also includes an SVG editor, support for CSS up to CSS3 — including a CSS parser (JSCSSP) that is meant to ensure that its CSS is valid for all browsers — not just Firefox. I'm not a CSS expert, but in playing with BlueGriffon a bit, it seems that you can produce some really interesting results without having to know much (if any) CSS at all.

These days you not only need a Web site that's optimized for all the desktop browsers, but also a site that renders well in mobile Safari and the Android Web browser as well. BlueGriffon has support for generating CSS Media Queries, so you can have stylesheets that are applied depending on what features a device supports.

Using BlueGriffon is deceptively easy. I say "deceptively" because you can start using BlueGriffon to create a page in the same amount of time it takes to open a new document in LibreOffice. And if all you want to do is to create a basic page that's in HTML, that's all you need to do. But it has a lot of features for digging in and tweaking styles and making a page pixel perfect if that's what you want to do too. That will take quite a bit longer.

I've been watching BlueGriffon pretty closely for the last six months or so, looking for the 1.0 to come out. There's not a ton of changes in the 1.0 if you've been using the development releases. The feature set has been pretty solid, and the application is fairly robust. If you're not a Web designer, BlueGriffon isn't going to turn you into one — but it will make life easier. In the hands of someone who actually knows what they're doing, I suspect BlueGriffon could be a really useful tool.

It's also worth pointing out that BlueGriffon is not Linux-only. It runs on Mac OS X and Windows as well. This may not be important to most of the audience, but if you're trying to adopt a standard tool in an organization, it might be an important feature so that users on different OSes can use the same tool.

Note that BlueGriffon falls down quite a bit when it comes to documentation, so far. There's very little inline help, and the docs on the BlueGriffon site are sparse, at best. It would be a good idea if the site had a few walk-throughs on creating new pages and sites.

Add-ons and the Freemium Model

While BlueGriffon is open source, the company behind it is trying to make a go of a "freemium" model that would support development by selling add-ons.

The add-ons include things like a FullScreen mode, a word count utility, a Table Layout tool, and so on. For casual users, most of these are really not necessary — but some are annoying omissions. For example, the CSS table tool and word count seem like features that really ought not be premiums. I'm not against paying for features — but if they're going for an "open core" model it'd be nice to have a bit more "core" and have the for-pay goodies be real value-add.

But, if you're spending a significant amount of time doing Web development, then you might want to consider ponying up for the add-on pack. Even if the tools themselves aren't hugely important, it's good to support the development of an open source alternative rather than proprietary tools. I would suggest that the company add a tip jar or some other option for users to show support for the application in general.

BlueGriffon may not be quite competitive with Adobe's DreamWeaver, but it does seem like a decent WYSIWYG Web editor. If you're doing any Web design, you should definitely take a look at BlueGriffon and see if it meets your needs. Odds are, you can get the job done with open source tools — and that's a good thing. BlueGriffon isn't 100% of the way "there" yet, but if it gets traction and support from the community it could go far.

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