Mozilla Thimble for Web Page Building Noobs

Tired of teaching your relatives about technology and groaning at the prospect of having to do a quick tutorial on building a Web page for nephew Johnny?  You’ll be better off pointing them to the recently launched Mozilla Thimble, which lets anyone learn how to create web pages in their browser.

Thimble is a WYSIWYG (What you See Is What You Get) editor. It lets you edit the html and CSS text in the lefthand edit pane while immediately showing you the results in the righthand view pane. Clicking any element in the view pane scrolls the edit pane to that element.

The editor has three font sizes, comes with undo and redo buttons and saves edits automatically. It’s hint system is also powerful, allowing users to mouse over HTML or CSS tags in the edit pane and immediately revealing information about the tag with a link to an online reference. You can also turn off the hint system if it gets in the way.

Not Just Another HTML/CSS Editor

If that was all there was, it would be just another online HTML/CSS editor. But there’s a lot more.

The pages you create are permanently hosted by Mozilla and publicly viewable once you click the publish button. Web sites can be deleted with a simple email request to Mozilla.

Pages can’t include Javascript for safety reasons and any Javascript slipped in will have it stripped out when the page publishes. I suspect that links in Web pages will have rel=”nofollow”.

Up and Running

Thimble has several fast start projects to get you into action quickly. You start with a copy and then can edit it into  your own version. You can choose animal projects, web arcade games and some miscellaneous ones like a soap box rant site. Graphics and videos can only be linked from an external site, not uploaded.

The Web page for Small Awesome Animals is 161 lines of HTML, split roughly 50:50 between instructive comments and actual HTML. CSS files with projects are either included so you can’t edit them, or inline in the HTML.

Thimble’s a great initiative and I guess pitched at bright youngsters or teenagers, who want to build Web pages. I think the brighter ones will hit Thimble’s limitations pretty quickly, but at least they’ll have a grounding and will become the next generation of designers probably long before they leave school.

As with all of Mozilla projects, Thimble’s open source and you can use their software on your site. They believe anyone should be able to get their message on the Web and this is a gentle way to start learning.

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