For information on building your own web site, there are dozens of places you can go. One good all around list of links, including information on HTML Coding, Java, CGI, Graphics, Web Site Promoting, etc. is at the University of Michigan Dearborn's Web Construction Resources. If you want to know what tools I personally use to develop my site, then here you go.
Microsoft Front Page
Front Page has done for web site creators what visual development tools has done for programmers: Make the tedious work automated, so you can concentrate on design, appearance, and content, not on spelling, memorizing commands, and the continual save-view-save-view cycle. With Front Page, you see what you are designing as you design it. Insert a table, and you can instantly see how it will look. Same with a picture, or even text layout. I highly recommend it.
Web Browsers (at least 2)
It would be nice to be able to create a web page and know how you can expect it to look to the user. However, this is not always possible. In the struggle to be the best, Microsoft and Netscape are both creating new extensions to the HTML language, which aren't always supported in other browsers. Basically, company A comes up with some new ideas. Then company B uses those ideas and comes up with some more of thier own. Then company A uses company B's ideas and comes up with ... get the picture? Not only that, but sometimes the two companies have different ideas about how the same feature should be implement, so even if it works, it won't always look the same. Luckily, most features either degrade nicely or can be done in an alternate way with the other browser.
Well, nowadays, a vast majority of users either use the most recent version of either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. I use these two programs to test my pages under, to check for unsupported features and odd hadling of page formatting. That way, I get to say "YUCK!" before the visitors do.
Image editors are a dime a dozen, but finding a good one is a needle-in-a-haystack situation. I personally use 4 or 5 different image editors for designing my page. However, for creating cool logos and stuff like that, Microsoft Image Composer is the best one all around. It is really good for starting from scratch, but for getting right down and making some touchup, adjusting color pallettes, and just modifying an existing image I would definitely recommend another program. Nonetheless, Image Composer is a must-have.
After you have created all of these cool graphics, some of them will inevitable be GIF files. Of course you always want to minimize file size to conserve room on your web server and minimize download times. So, use the GIF Wizard to shrink your GIF files to the smallest possible size. Surprisingly, most graphics programs don't do a very good job of this for you, so you would be wise to call on the GIF Wizard.
And speaking of conserving web server space and minimizing download times, you definitely have to do the same if you are offering any type of downloads. I recommend WinZIP. It is a very well designed windows program which compresses/decompresses files compatible with the very popular PKZIP format.
Audio File Compression
Of course, if there is 1 type of file that benefits most from compression, it is audio files. If you plan an letting your users download any audio clips, you might think to just put it in a .wav format. However these files can be very big. The program I think does the best job of compressing audio files while retaining high quality is Real Audio by Progressive Networks. With Real Audio, I comress 60-80 MB wav files to .5 MB medium quality and 2 MB high quality files. The high quality setting is almost CD quality. In fact, unless you have a good ear and a good set of speakers, you may never notice the difference. But not only does Real Audio provide good compression, but you get a host of features, such as Streaming. Streaming allows the user to listen to the sound clip as it is being downloaded. So you can download an listen to a sound clip at the same time, with no waiting whatsoever, whether the file is 30 seconds long or 30 minutes long. Plus, the player and the compressor are 100% free to the public. If you may be concerned about making your visitors download another program, don't be. Considering the momentum Real Audio is gaining, Every user will end up having it installed on their computer before long.
In addition to Real Audio, Progressive Networks is beta testing a new technology called Real Video. Like Real Audio, Real Video allows you to stream live audio/video clips in real time - even on a 28.8 modem. Many beta programs are flakey, at best, but I have tested Real Video beta over a 28.8 modem and I was 100% impressed.
Of course, I used dozens more programs in the process: Everything from more image editing, to web site promoting services, to ftp and terminal programs for uploading my completed site. However they are too extensicve to list here (at least for now, maybe I will later). The best solution, however, is to improvise. Be as creative with the programs you do have. Try to use them in ways for which they weren't even intended. Sometime you'll find something odd but useful. And if your software just doesn't cut it and you cant afford some more professional tools, look for freeware programs. There are several sites loaded with freeware programs. The best one for Windows 95 users is www.windows95.com
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