Friday, October 28, 2011

Develop Websites with Bluefish

Linux is at the forefront of web development, and Ubuntu is a great distribution to use to build and design a website for the first time. Recently, I've been developing web applications using frameworks, and Linux in general makes these things quite a bit easier. Therefore, I figured I should present some of the basic tools you can use to create, develop, and host a website. This may abstract a bit away from the idea of "applications" in and of themselves, but I thought you may all be interested anyway.

The most logical first step for most users is selecting a development environment. Today, I'll highlight Bluefish. Later on, I'll focus on a WYSIWYG editor. (Which, by the way, is kind of difficult to find. Please, if you have any ideas, leave a message in the comments.)

Of course, to put your webpage on the Internet, you'll probably want to use a reliable web hosting. There's about a million out there, and it's hard to figure out the differences between them. I used to have a site on Bluehost, but I eventually cancelled because I thought their support was poor, and I didn't want to fax in a copy of my driver's license just to have SSH access so I could use Rails. I switched to ThinkHost a few months ago, and I've been really happy thus far. They offer reliable Linux hosting with unlimited bandwidth, space, and domains. Better yet, the servers are powered with wind and solar energy, and they plant a tree on your behalf.

Bluefish is a code editor, so users should have a basic understanding of XHTML and CSS, along with any other development languages. I learned HTML rather painstakingly from an outdated code reference, and I don't recommend you do it that way. Instead, try HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide published by O'Reilly, which can help even the most talented developer learn new tricks. In fact, it taught me all about the <label> tag, and I felt kind of dumb for previously embedding form labels in only a paragraph tag and wrestling with CSS, but alas...




One of the nicest things about Bluefish is that it uses 30 to 45 percent less memory than other editors. This makes quick edits less of a hassle. Sometimes, other editors can be too clunky, and I found myself reverting to a console-based text editor to make a minor change, but Bluefish should stop this from happening. It has built-in project support, so you can easily open multiple files and keep them organized in the right path. It has all the standard stuff, like line-numbers, search and replace, and code highlighting for languages like HTML, Ruby (go Rails!), Python, and PHP. Best of all, the menu bar allows you to instantly drop in code that developers use often.
Bluefish allows you to connect to a remote server and edit files, so here's a quick guide to using Bluefish with ThinkHost. This tutorial assumes you are using GNOME, though I'm sure you can do the same thing with KDE.
  1. Click on the "Places" menu, and select "Connect to Server...".
  2. In the dialog box, type in your FTP address in the "Server" box. You should be prompted for a username and password.
  3. Now, open up the mounted server in Bluefish, and now you can easily edit and save all of your files on Thinkhost.
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