- By Rev. Wesley T. Allen -
A side-by-side comparison of (free GPL) Quanta+ and (commercial) Quanta Gold, two popular HTML editors from theKompany.
First off, the specs of the test machine:
- HP N5000 notebook
- Athlon 950
- 256 MB Ram
- Trident CyberBladeXP
- Mandrake 8.2
- Win4lin patched kernel 2.4.18
- KDE 3.03
And the versions of Quanta being reviewed:
- Quanta Plus 3.00-pr1
- Quanta Gold 3.4.3
What is the same?
Both projects, from what I understand, were born
from the same code-base. Shawn Gordon, who is great about answering e-mails, told me when I asked theKompany why I should buy Quanta Gold that
the original group of developers spawned Quanta Gold as their coding skills developed. At the time I purchased Quanta Gold the "plus" project had apparently slowed down its development. Quanta Gold is not GPLed so
I assume that the code-base is entirely different. This being said, the similarities between the two projects are more than just name-deep, and users of either project would be comfortable "switching."
Quanta Plus and Quanta Gold have similar interfaces. There is one main tool-bar, with the common "word-processor" options, such as "save" and "undo/redo." While the icons are different, most of the options are the same and wouldn't give people familiar with common word-processor buttons much pause. Below the main tool-bar are tabs for sub-menus. These tabs display a sub-set of buttons when selected and are identical in both projects, with the exception of "scripts" which exists only in Quanta Gold. The tabs common to both are: standard, fonts, tables, lists, forms, and "other." The buttons that are displayed for each tab are similar in both projects, but there is some variation.
The text editor is similar in both, though, as would be expected, not identical. Quanta Gold displays line numbers in the left margin by default, and has a series of dockable "windows" for various tools, some of which are only available in Quanta Gold. Quanta Plus, however, does not display the line numbers in the margin by default, and I couldn't figure out how to set this up in my brief use of it. Quanta Plus also doesn't have those dockable "windows" for the various tools it offers.
What is different?
You only have to start up the two projects to see how different they actually are. The interface for each is similar in layout, but the "feel" is completely different. Quanta Plus is a native KDE3 app, and so will have the same look and feel as other KDE apps. Quanta Plus, for example, displayed flawlessly with "liquid." Quanta Gold, on the other hand, is not a native KDE3 application. It is built entirely off the QT librarys and so does not use KDE to render its icons, fonts, buttons, etc. The sole exception to this break is that Quanta Gold can be downloaded in a "shared-lib" format that will allow fonts in KDE to be anti-aliased. Unfortunately, my current distribution is compiled with a different gcc and so I can't use this version.
The difference in interface is more than just eye candy. Most notably different is the "save dialog." Quanta Gold doesn't make use of the KDE dialogs, and opts for Windows look-a-likes. I've got to say, I like the KDE dialogs a lot better, and it was kind of =
depressing to see the windows interface on my nice Linux laptop in any form. I understand the logic, though. Quanta Gold is, in true QT fashion, cross-platform, and theKompany is able to show one interface for people using any available OS for the project. Smart business, easier to port; but strange to look at.
The tool-set is different as well. While both projects make use of "projects" to enclose a multitude of files, only Quanta Gold has an integrated FTP client. While this client is far from perfect (I would like to be able to select common ftp commands via a "right click" for example) its integration to the program in a docked window makes site updates almost pleasant. The FTP client could also benefit from the ability to use sftp for site-updates; but that's just paranoid me 2E Quanta Gold also has cvs, but since I'm a rookie at CVS I'll lay off reviewing that.
Strangely enough, it is the open source Quanta Plus that has a feature as basic as a spellcheck.=A0 Its absence in Quanta Gold has annoyed one of my friends (I don't spell-check, bad habit), and its inclusion in Quanta Plus is a real coup. Users of Quanta Gold, however, are promised that spell-check will be included soon; and given the Kompany's generous upgrade license, this is not a small promise. One thing that the Quanta Plus spell-check tool lacks, however, is the ability to either skip common html tags (do I really need to be told that "html" isn't a word?) or to highlight portions of text for spell-checking (like paragraphs). Without these two options, spell-checking is almost unusable until you say to "ignore all" on every tag you use in a given page at least once. That's not what I call "happy," and may be part of the reason that Quanta Gold is still lacking spell-checking features.
What I like about Quanta Plus
Quanta Plus has a nice feature, which I first encountered in Cute HTML. That feature is an anticipatory list of tags displayed under the cursor as you type. A simple "down-arrow" to the proper tag, and voila! A fresh tag with closing partner! I must say that even in the short sample page where I first used this feature, it saved a good many
keystrokes, and I liked it overall even though it can get annoying when you're doing something "out of the ordinary."
Another nice feature of Quanta Plus is word wrapping. In Quanta Plus you can set this option for a certain column and the text will wrap automatically when you reach it. It can be a bit glitchy. On on test where I had a "/p" tag already at the end of a line, the wrap put the cursor outside the tag instead of on the inside where it belonged.
One thing I would love to see in an HTML editor word-wrap and have never seen is an indent which skips the tag and wrap to the beginning of the text. A little detail like that would may my code much more readable. I don't normally use auto-wrap, because I'm just in the habit of hitting enter at the end of a line, but it is a feature I'd like to explore using.
The ability to set up a skeleton page and then save it as a template is something that exists only in Quanta Plus. This is a nice feature for people developing sites that use the same page over and over again, with only basic differences to the structure of the document. It is a feature I would love to have in Quanta Gold. But alas, it's missing.
The neatest feature by far in Quanta Plus, however, is the ability to define your own "tab menu." There is a "toolbar" menu in which global and project-specific toolbars can be defined. These toolbars can even be e-mailed to other users for easy collaboration right from Quanta Plus. The toolbars appear in e-mails as
g-zipped tar files, and do not need to be extracted to be used in Quanta Plus. This is a great feature, and the person who thought of it should get a pat on the
What I don't like about Quanta Plus
The answer to this is "not much." The fonts are anti-aliased and look as pretty as a mono-spaced font can look. The features are nice and the spell-check and word-wrap, while needing some tweaking, are both great features. The template feature and custom toolbars are also both wonderful features.
Having said that, getting linenumbers in a left margin would be a big help. Another added feature that would be nice is an integrated ftp client like Quanta Gold's. The default syntax high-lighting for Quanta Plus is a bit drab as well, but that's easily changed in the preferences.
What I like about Quanta Gold
Quanta Gold is a commercial application, so you would expect it to have more features than an open source equivalent (or so the thinking of corporate America
MySQL, PHP, HTML, and CSS are included in the package. The only problem with these documents is that switching from the "documentation" window to the "editor" window resets the page you were viewing to the top level. This behavior can be changed by keeping open the "docs" dockable window, but it's not what I'd call an elegant solution. Quanta Gold also has an integrated file manager, which can be docked and used to surf a local drive. It's nice; but I rarely use it.
The icon-set, while windows-esque, is a bit cleaner than those in Quanta Plus. The interface, while not flashy, seems to be more polished; and the left margin
line numbers in the editor are a nice touch. Anti-aliased fonts would be nice, and would available if I used the shared-lib version.
[NOTE: Sometime near the release of Mandrake 9.0 The Kompany began distributing "distribution specific" RPM's; anti-aliased text is back!]
Hitting F4 opens up a "current tag dialog" that has the basis options there to quickly fill-in. This is great for the &=lt;img> tag in particular.
One last thing that Quanta Gold has going for it is its cross-platform nature. Being a purely QT application, both Windows and Linux versions behave exactly the
same, and a Mac OS X port has been promised as well. This would be a good way to get someone to switch over to Linux, although if someone codes pages by hand my narrow mind already has them using Linux, so I'm not sure how effective this is.
What I don't like about Quanta Gold
Before I downloaded my most recent release of Quanta Plus I've got to say that I much preferred Quanta Gold. I'm not sure I can say this anymore. Things just seem to take fewer keystrokes in Quanta Plus than in Quanta Gold. And the fact that even word-wrap still does not work in Quanta Gold is a real problem. While the interface looks more polished, I lose some of that KDE feel I like in the dialogs, especially in the "open" and "save" dialogs, Still, Quanta Gold has some wonderful features, and as a customer I hope theKompany will pay attention to Quanta Plus and see what they're missing.
If you use Quanta Plus or Quanta Gold you can't help but be pleased.
Wesley Allen is an ordained Baptist minister, currently living in Central Massachusetts. He got into Linux while working at a Public Middle school and has never looked back! Wesley also develops the Web site for American Baptist Evangelicals and is helping to design
bible4linux.org, a site devoted to getting Bible research software working under WINE.
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