Open Source Web Design and Development Tools – Inkscape and Kompozer

I have been using Linux on the desktop part-time for nearly 6 years now and full-time for 3 years. My web development experience began using Macromedia’s tools and when I migrated to Linux, I took them with me with the help of the Wine project to run them under Linux. The majority of the functionality I used in Fireworks worked flawlessly, with only a few small exceptions and never crashed on me.

Dreamweaver was a slightly different story, especially as layouts became more complex and the html grew in size, it had a tendency to crash under wine in these circumstances. I run a horizontal split window of the design view and code view. Sometimes, it’s easier to achieve what you want in one or the other.

Until recently, I was unable to find something that a) Performed the job as good (or close to) both Dreamweaver and Fireworks and b) Felt natural to use and learn.

For imaging / design: “The Gimp”
Web ‘development’: Screem or Bluefish

For numerous reasons, these never cut it for me. I am not a fan of Photoshop / The Gimp interface and while I was able to get around and do things I needed to do, it felt slow and awkward. Both screem and bluefish had no way to quickly view your changes in the IDE or to make changes visually.

That said, all three programs are very capable it’s just that they don’t suit my way of doing things.

I now am slowly migrating to two new tools for web development.

Replacing Fireworks – Inkscape has come to the rescue.
Replacing Dreamweaver – Kompozer is here to help.


Just the last 2 weeks I have really begun getting into Inkscape, an amazingly capable and well designed vector graphics editor that (apart from the odd crash – though it manages to save your work) is proving to me to be even better than Fireworks. It’s like Freehand and Fireworks all in one beautifully wrapped package – that can even be scripted in Python.

I am certainly no graphics guru but I’m definitely above average compared to most non-professional graphics users.

Apart from the user interface being well thought out, the other great things about Inkscape are:

  1. Excellent Tutorials and Resources
  2. Keyboard Shortcuts for almost anything.
  3. In-built access to Open Clipart (0.46 Linux only)

Here’s a quicklist of places to find great inkscape tutorials:

a feature I would love to see is the ability to automatically download any open source fonts found in your Inkscape document, so that sharing files could be easier.

Inkscape is available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X and can be downloaded here

It is available via apt-get and yum repositories in their respective Linux distributions.


Kompozer is an unofficial bug-fix release of ‘Nvu’, which was born out of Mozilla’s Composer. The advantage of this is that Kompozer uses the gecko engine to render Kompozer’s layouts within itself much like you can with Dreamweaver (ie: without opening an external browser to view your layout). Additionally, it has very good support for CSS, XML and Javascript editing and a built-in W3C HTML Validator.

I have had Kompozer crash on me, usually when pasting in a large HTML page from elsewhere but other than that, it is an extremely user friendly and capable HTML/CSS/JS editor.

It is not an ASP / PHP / Python IDE and doesn’t make any attempts to be one. From that perspective I feel it encourages clean separation of code and layout.

Once again, Kompozer is also cross-platform and is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X

Published by salubrium

I am a Systems Administrator based in Sydney, Australia with some hugely varied interests: Topics covered are Virtualization, Web Hosting, Remote Desktop, Security and Backups, PHP, Python, MVC Frameworks, SEO

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