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They are brought to you courtesy of Style Master CSS Editor and Westciv's standards based web development courses.

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should I buy style master?

Is Style Master the right tool for the job you want to do? Of course, the best thing to do is download the 30 day demo and go to work on your project, but here you'll find answers to some of the more common questions people ask.

Q: What can I do with Style Master?

A: Style Master is a cascading style sheet editor. You use it to edit CSS files, or style sheets. It also helps you link these style sheets to HTML documents, so when these documents are viewed in a web browser you will see a web page with all the styling you created in Style Master.

It's very important to understand right from the beginning the difference between a CSS file, an HTML document and a web page. In a sense the files that Style Master creates really aren't the exciting part: it's what they do when they interact with an HTML document and become a web page that is exciting.

But Style Master also has tools, called wizards, that let you create little snippets of HTML code along with the style information for them. You can then paste these snippets in an HTML document, using any HTML or text editor. There's even a layout wizard, to help you create a table-free, standards based layout using HTML and CSS.

As well, Style Master includes a collection of templates which you can use to create whole sites (HTML documents, CSS file and images, all linked together) that are ready to go. You can then edit the style sheet in Style Master, and the HTML documents in your HTML editor.

You might have downloaded Style Master thinking it was what you might call a web page editor, meaning it creates both the CSS, and the HTML and, who knows, maybe even some Javascript? Style Master is not this, but I don't want you to despair because you have in fact found the best way to create standards based, table free page layouts. The best way is to have the right tool for each job. With Style Master you've got the style sheet editor, now you need to get a good HTML editor that will help you create clean, standards based HTML. Then you use this to create your HTML documents and Style Master to create your style sheets.

Check out some of the following for Windows.

  • Coffeecup HTML Editor. Has both hand coding and WYSIWYG modes, along with validation. A good choice if you're starting out, but don't get drawn into using tables for layout!
  • Homesite. A text style hand coding tool but with lots of coding extras like Tag completion and Tag snippets. No internal previewing or WYSWIYG.
  • NoteTab. Text editor style hand coding tool. No internal preview so might be a bit of a learning curve if you're used to a WYSIWYG editor like FrontPage. Powerful hand coding tool set and certainly an industry front runner if you're up to creating all the code by hand yourself.
  • Dreamweaver MX. A full site creation tool with everything that opens and shuts, including its own CSS editing. Style Master's CSS editing is, dare we say, far superior and much more intuitive, because that's all we concentrate on. You can certainly use Dreamweaver to create and manage your sites, along with Style Master to create and edit the CSS files. Using tools like Dreamweaver in WYSIWYG mode can easily result in invalid pages unless you are careful and know what you are doing.

And these for Mac OS X.

  • WebDesign. Lots of tools to ease the passage from a pure WYSIWYG environment. Internal previewing. Excellent value. WebDesign is created by Rage Software, but you can save by purchasing it in a bundle with Style Master.
  • BBEdit. More of the old fashioned hand coding approach. Maybe a little hard to make a start with if you're new to the code. Powerful hand coding tool set.
  • Dreamweaver MX. A full site creation tool with everything that opens and shuts, including its own CSS editing. Style Master's CSS editing is, dare we say, far superior and much more intuitive, because that's all we concentrate on. You can certainly use Dreamweaver to create and manage your sites, along with Style Master to create and edit the CSS files. Using tools like Dreamweaver in WYSIWYG mode can easily result in invalid pages unless you are careful and know what you are doing.

Q: Should I buy Style Master or Dreamweaver?

A: Many people find Style Master because they're looking for a way to create standards based web sites using CSS and XHTML. In their search they also come across Dreamweaver and it can be hard to see at first which is the right tool for what they want to do. They are in fact very different applications, so I think part of answering this question is to explain exactly what each of the applications does.

Dreamweaver is what you might think of as a full service application. It creates HTML in both a WYSIWYG and hand coding mode. It has tools for organizing all the different documents in your whole site. It has tools for uploading. It has tools for creating Javascript and CSS. It's got a validator. For all I know it's got something tucked away inside there that will make toast. Because it has all these features, it's also quite expensive. It's attractive to a lot of people who just prefer to have everything in the one place.

Its major attraction I think though is that it has true WYSIWYG editing: you can create things like HTML, CSS and Javascript without really having to know what's going on in the code. However, experienced standards based developers though will tell you that this can be a two edged sword. It's a great kickstart in the beginning, but there will come a time when you realize the code it creates can be less than perfect if you aren't careful.

But this is not by way of criticism of Dreamweaver. It's criticism of the idea that it is possible to develop web sites and never learn the underlying technologies. A web site is not the same as a printed flyer created using Illustrator, it is an order of magnitude more complex. For many CSS design challenges there will be a number of competing options, none will be perfect, and the best one for you then and there will depend on a whole lot of other factors specific to your site. WYSIWYG applications can't solve problems like this for you, and they can in fact make things worse by emphasizing one solution and covering the fact that there is a problem at all. You need to solve problems like this with your own research and knowledge, and then have complete control over the code itself to make sure no errors creep in. That's why so many developers don't use purely WYSIWYG tools.

Another point many developers make is that with full service applications you are often paying for a whole lot of whistles and bells that you'll never use. More importantly, the tools that you do use need not necessarily be the best there is. Developers therefore often choose an HTML editor they like, a CSS editor, an FTP client and so on - all of which are dedicated tools that do a small number of things really well.

Style Master by comparison is just a CSS editor. It's not an HTML editor, although it does have some very handy features that create HTML snippets and templates that you can then edit in your HTML editor. It doesn't do fully fledged FTP, it doesn't do Javascript and it doesn't make toast. Style Master helps you create and edit CSS in an easy to use and intuitive environment. Sophisticated previewing means you can immediately see the effects of editing you style sheet on any HTML document. But you need to create those documents in an HTML editor. For more on this seeWhat can I do with Style Master?

Which is the right tool for you then? Buy Dreamweaver if you really don't think you are going to feel comfortable outside a WYSIWYG environment. With it, and some care, you can create standards based web sites. Buy Style Master if you want the best tool for learning and creating CSS. Style Master's CSS framework is much easier to understand and use than Dreamweaver's - indeed, lots of people ultimately buy both, and use Dreamweaver as their HTML editor and Style Master for CSS.

Q: I think I need to learn CSS: can Style Master help me?

A: If you want to really learn CSS and standards based markup Style Master is the framework to do it in. At its heart is a collection of editors so you can create different styles without constantly checking a reference for syntax. It's also built intuitively and includes lots of online help, which makes creating your first style sheet and linking it to a site easy. It includes wizards so you can turn the process into a collection of design decisions, rather than arduous hand coding and error checking. As a web developer you need to learn CSS, and you need to get some understanding of what is happening in the HTML source - Style Master can help you flatten that learning curve. Here's some ways to approach it.

  • The Style Master tutorial is the place to create a whole site and learn CSS and Style Master at the same time
  • If you don't have the patience for a tutorial, you'll find a Quickstart Guide in the Style Master documentation. Choose Getting Started from the Help menu, then the FAQ "I don't know where to start: what should I do?".
  • Style Master has a built in reference to all the CSS properties and selectors: just click the toolbar info button to find out exactly what any piece of code actually means, and how it should effect a web page
  • Browser support help is also on hand - keep an eye on the Support Watcher to make sure what you are trying to do is supported in your target browsers, and click the warning button on the toolbar for more info at any time

If that isn't enough, and you're still looking for something a little more structured, take a look at ourself paced courses. This easy to follow and flexible series, which you can work through in your own time, leads you through the creation of standards based HTML sites, and then styling these documents with CSS. At the end of our courses you will have learned not just the ins and outs of coding, but also a deep understanding of how the whole technology works. This foundation is vital if you are planning to seriously continue with web design.

Style Master complements the Westciv self paced courses - you can choose to use it for the course exercises if you wish. The courses are however standalone and do not require Style Master, nor anything but the most basic text editor and a browser. On the other hand if you purchase Style Master as well as the courses you get a comprehensive understanding of standards based development along with a tool that will constantly support you as you learn and increase your knowledge.

Q: Can I use Style Master with Dreamweaver or GoLive?

A: You most certainly can use Style master with either of these applications, indeed lots of people do just this because Style Master's dedicated CSS framework makes editing style sheets, either using editors or hand coding, is much more efficient, powerful and intuitive.

All you need do is set up Style Master as the external editor for CSS files - see instructions for this in the manual section "Working with Other Applications".

Q: Can I use Style Master with blogging tools like Movable Type, Wordpress, Typepad or Blogger?

A: The short answer to this is yes, because with all these blogging tools it's possible to create and edit your own style sheet. You'll need to take a different approach though depending on whether you're running blogging software like Movable Type or Wordpress yourself, or working with a tool that does it all for you, like Typepad, Blogger and so on.

Movable Type, WordPress

If you're using blogging software like either of these packages Style Master can be a great help in customizing the default templates. Doing this however does require some information specific to those application so if you don't have a lot of experience with this the first thing you'll want to do is understand how the templates work and how they can be modified. This tutorial is a good place to start for Movable Type, and this one for Wordpress.

Style Master will make your life easier when you're reworking the CSS used in applications like these firstly for all the same reasons it makes your life easier when editing CSS generally. But I don't need to explain all those to you again here. I would like to point out one feature though, unique to Style Master which means you can very seamlessly preview your blog as you're working on the style sheet.

  1. View a page of your blog (either from your local hard drive or online) in a web browser.
  2. Copy its URL from the browser.
  3. Add this URL as if it were a regular online preview document, in the Preview Options
  4. The document will now show up in the Design Pane as the preview document

And you'll be ready to start editing the style sheet and see the results of your edits straight away. You can even start from scratch with a whole new style sheet: choose New Statements from HTML from the Design menu and Style Master will create statements with selectors for all the elements in the blog page you are previewing, ready for you to start adding the properties.

Typepad, Blogger

Services like this are designed to add an easy to use WYSIWYG interface on top of the blogging software. This means they are indeed easy to use for the most basic functions, however they can be a little tricky once you do decide you want to get inside there and customize the look and feel of your blog. Again though, because you will in fact be ultimately editing CSS, Style Master can certainly help you. However, you do need to first of all work out how you can actually modify the default templates. See the Typepad manual on Advanced Template Sets for Typepad. The Blogger Forum is a good place to start for Blogger.

As with Movable Type and WordPress, Style Master will make your life easier when you're reworking the CSS firstly for all the same reasons it makes your life easier when editing CSS generally. I would like to point out one feature though, unique to Style Master which means you can very seamlessly preview your blog as you're working on the style sheet.

  1. View a page of your blog online in a web browser.
  2. Copy its URL from the browser.
  3. Add this URL as if it were a regular online preview document, in the Preview Options
  4. The document will now show up in the Design Pane as the preview document

Now, as you make changes to the style sheet you want to use with your blog, you'll be able to see their effect on the fly.

Q: Can I use Style Master with shopping carts and other template based ecommerce services?

A: This all depends on the service you choose. For best results, you need to choose one which generates standards based code: XHTML for markup and CSS for appearance. And preferably it will create CSS based layouts, not table based layouts.

From here you should be able to edit any CSS files, and indeed the HTML templates themselves. Style Master is great in this situation. You can use it to edit all the style sheets for the site and then just upload them. How you actually do this, and indeed, how easy it is to do this, will depend very much on the shopping cart software. So you'll need to demo the software along with Style Master and work out how to edit its style sheets.

However, Style Master does have a number of unique features that can help you be more efficient when editing style sheets in this way. Follow the links for more on how to use them.

  • Preview Online Documents - this means you can preview using any document which has been generated and published using the shopping cart system.
  • If you run a local version of your shopping cart software on your own computer you can easily preview and design using pages generated by the CMS. Here's how:
    1. View the preview document you want to use in Style Master in your regular web browser
    2. Copy it's URL from the browser
    3. Add this URL as if it were a regular online preview document, in the Preview Options
    4. The document will now show up in the Design Pane
  • Open FTP (Windows only) - it might be easier to open and edit your style sheet directly from the server.
  • New from HTML document - means you can automatically create statements for the elements in an HTML document generated by the shopping cart. You can even do this with a document which is online

All this alongside Style Master's intuitive design features and powerful editing tools make it an excellent choice to use with the right shopping cart system.

Q: Can I use Style Master with a CMS?

A: The answer to this is "it depends on the CMS". First of all, you need to be using a CMS which is generating standards based code: XHTML for markup and CSS for appearance. Do be sure as well that it's using CSS based layout, not table based layout. But I can probably assume this is the case if you're asking this question.

After this then, in terms of their treatment of CSS, there are two types of CMS

  • Style sheet control is built into the CMS. Style Master isn't much use to you if you are using this type of CMS. All the style sheet editing will be done within the CMS, most likely using a WYSIWYG interface.
  • Style sheet control is completely external to the CMS. Style Master is great in this situation. You can use it to create and edit all the style sheets for the site and then just upload them. Style Master also has a number of unique features that can help you be more efficient. Follow the links for more on how to use them.
    • Preview Online Documents - this means you can preview using any document which has been generated and published using the CMS.
    • If you run a local version of your CMS on your own computer you can easily preview and design using pages generated by the CMS. Here's how:
      1. View the preview document you want to use in Style Master in your regular web browser
      2. Copy its URL from the browser
      3. Add this URL as if it were a regular online preview document, in the Preview Options
      4. The document will now show up in the Design Pane
    • Open FTP (Windows only) - with a CMS it might be easier to open and edit your style sheet directly from the server.
    • New from HTML document - means you can automatically create selectors for the elements in an HTML document generated by your CMS. You can even do this with a document which is online.

All this alongside Style Master's great design features and powerful editing tools make it an excellent choice to use with a CMS.

Q: What platforms is Style Master available for?

A: Style Master is available for Windows NT4/2000/XP (Home or Professional), and Mac OS X (requires 10.4 or higher).

Q: Is Style Master available for Windows 95, 98 or ME?

A: The new version 4 of Style Master is unfortunately not available for these older versions of Windows. However, Style Master 3.5 will work for you. Contact us if you are interested in using this older version.

Q: Is Style Master available for Mac OS X 10.3/10.2/10.1/10.0?

A: Unfortunately we weren't able to make the sophisticated previewing and X-Ray functions of Style Master 5 function on these older version of OS X. However, Style Master 3.5 will work for you. Contact us if you are interested in using this older version.

Q: Is Style Master available for Mac OS 9 or 8?

A: The last Classic version of Style Master was 2.2. If you are using the older Mac OS you are most welcome to download Style Master 2.2 and use it as freeware. It's available on our download page.

Q: Is Style Master available for Linux?

A: No, Style Master is not available for Linux.

The way in which Style Master is developed makes it technically possible for us to have a Linux version. At present however, this would still require a considerable amount of work for a very small company which already targets two platforms. Consequently, we will have to be quite certain that this considerable investment would be worth making.