Free tools to build and promote a website

The web has created a culture of freedom, and many programmers have developed free tools to create websites. Ten or fifteen years ago the vast majority of free tools had serious limitations or added unwanted advertising to pages, but today it’s possible to develop a professional website using only free tools. Bellow is a selection of tools I use often.

Inkscape, a free vector art editor

Build html, CSS and Javascript

  • Aptana Studio – Html, Css and Javascript editor
  • Kompozer – Simple WYSIWYG web html+css editor
  • Firebug – Experiment and debug in webpages (Firefox extension)
  • Pixel Perfect – Firebug extension to help the translation to html (Firefox extension)
  • Page speed – Firebug extension to evaluate the page speed (Firefox extension)
  • Web developer – Experiment and debug in webpages (Firefox extension)
  • YUI: CSS Grid builder – Start building templates
  • YAML Builder – Template builder
  • CSS3 Please – How to implement some new CSS3 tricks in different browsers

Browsers

  • Firefox – The second most used browser in the world. Gecko engine. Excellent use of extensions
  • Chrome – Lightweight and fast browser
  • Opera – Fast, complete, full features and respects the web standards
  • Safari – Very good browser with webkit engine. In Linux I use Midori and Konqueror as replacements.

File transfer

Revision control

  • Bazaar and Bazaar Explorer – Easy to use decentralized revision control program that can work also in  centralized repositories
  • Git and GitX- Popular and sophisticated decentralized version control program. Not as easy to learn as Bazaar
  • Subversion – One of the most popular centralized revision control softwares in use today.

Graphics and video

Color

Hosting companies

  • Nearlyfreespeech – Great supporter service and you pay what you use. They use a cluster-type server that allows scalable solutions with a constant speed
  • Dreamhost – Not the cheapest, but it has many interesting features at a higher price than Nearlyfreespeech
  • Blogger and WordPress.com – Your blog for free. On new blogs I use a regular hosting company and WordPress.
  • Blip.tv – Video hosting.

Other

  • SWF tools – Create very simple flash files. pdf2swf is my favourite
  • Userstyles – Firefox extension that allows you to modify the CSS of any site or URL
  • Builtwith – Google Chrome extension to detect technologies behind a website
  • Aviary Screen Capture – Google Chrome or Firefox extension to quickly create and annotate screenshots
  • Font-face generator – Converts fonts to .eot and prepare them to use on the web with font-face
  • ttf2eot – Another tool to convert fonts from .ttf to .eot, so that they can work with all browsers with font-face

Servers

  • Mamp or Xamp – Install a development server on your computer.

Frameworks and libraries

  • Blueprint – Css framework
  • Yahoo Base CSS – Reduce the differences between rendering in different browsers
  • jQuery e jQuery UI – Javascript framework
  • FLV Player – Play FLV movies
  • IE7-js – Library to help IE7 behave more like a standard compliant browser
  • SvgWeb – Library to display svg graphics in all browsers
  • Slidy – Library to create powerpoint-like slideshows
  • Modernizr – Create CSS that works in every browser
  • Gridless – HTML5 and CSS3 framework for making responsive, cross-browser websites with beautiful typography.

Validators

  • Html – Html validator
  • Css – Css validator
  • Links – Links checker
  • Browsershots – Images of browsers
  • Rss – Rss validator
  • Sitemap – Validator of site maps
  • Y-slow – Analysis of the speed of your page (Firefox extension)
  • Site-perf – Know about your site performance
  • Load Impact – How does your site handles high pressure?
  • Modern.ie – Testing made easier

Content Management Systems

  • Drupal – This is a very complete system to build on-line communities with thousands of members. Lots of features with the basic package and hundreds of extra functionalities with the extra modules. Can be quite complex, if you just want a basic website edited by a very small group.
  • SPIP – An excellent choice to create an e-zine or an online newspaper, edited by a community of writers. It was developed for blog-like news websites
  • Moodle – E-learning CMS. One of the best I’ve ever tried.
  • WordPress – The best blog CMS and one of the best general purpose CMS’es. It’s easy to use and there’s many free plugins and templates.
  • ModX Revolution – Very flexible, as it can be fully customized. Converting your plain html site or html templates to ModX is easier than with other CMS’es. Some basic functionality is provided by plugins and there aren’t many free and good templates available.
  • Tiki Wiki – A very powerfull CMS to build Intranets. Tons of features, not just a wiki, as the name suggests.
  • Dokuwiki – One of the best wiki’s around to build a medium website or Intranet.
  • Mediawiki – The software that runs Wikipedia. It takes a long time to configure, but it’s an excellent choice to build wikipedia-like websites. It’s extendable trough plugins.
  • Dotproject – Project management on-line
  • PhpBB3 – Build an online forum. Very good and stable package
  • Mailman – Build mail lists (For simple mail-lists I prefer Google or Yahoo Groups)
  • Lime Survey – Create surveys online.

Other (server)

Statistics programs

  • Google Analytics – A service by Google
  • Piwik – Open source alternative to Google, less features but you own the data
  • Awstats – Statistics tool based on server logs

Web marketing

Social networking tools and networks

Social networks

  • Facebook – One of the most popular social networks now.
  • Twitter – Most famous microblogging platform
  • Flickr – Focused on photos and small videos, but very useful and engaged community
  • Identi.ca – Microblogging platform that uses Open Source software. Less users but an activist community and more tools than twitter
  • Google +

Tools

  • Ping.fm – Tool to post short updates to several social networks
  • Friendfeed – Create groups from RSS feeds and other data sources

Operating systems & support software

  • Virtualbox – Run different OS’es in your computer. Ideal to test your websites
  • Ubuntu or Linux Mint – Very easy to use Linux operating system.
  • Debian – If know the basics of Linux, the performance of Debian 5 is astonishing. It’s great to use in old machines with less memory and slower processors. If you don’t know anything about Linux, start by Ubuntu.
  • Live CD – Sometimes I need a live cd to test websites: Knoppix, Dynebollic, Slax (it’s hard to choose). Recently I’m using Virtualbox with Windows 7 and Linux Mint.

Other (Desktop)

  • MacPorts – If you use a Mac, you have to try Macports. Install most Linux open-source apps in the Mac.
  • Freemind – Mindmaps. Used to plan and brainstorm

Widgets

  • Add to Any – Share your page or your feed on most the important social networks, online newsreaders or bookmark systems.
  • Add this – Alternative to add to any

Free assets

About Osvaldo

Digital activist, online producer and webmaster.
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