Can you build a website with nothing but free web apps?

So I had this idea in my mind, from what I saw on Google Chromes Web Store, that I could create a website using nothing but free web apps. I guess I can say that it mostly went alright, mostly….

The Setup

To install these apps you will need the Google Chrome web browser, however, some will just create links that go directly to the apps website.

I started off by setting up a WordPress blog (which can be downloaded for free at WordPress.org) on our web hosting account and instantly ran into a problem. There doesn’t seem to be a good FTP web app, so yes I cheated and went running to old faithful, Filezilla, to upload my files. Filezilla is free so I guess it was only slightly cheating .

Instead of using the default WordPress theme I chose one with lots of photos so I could test cropping and image editing features. I found a cool theme at WPZOOM, called Photoria, for the good price of free!

HTML/CSS Editing

Kodingen – After briefly testing out a few other text editors, I decide to go with Kodingen. It offers connection to your own FTP servers, One-click installs for WordPress and other content management system, and four different development environments. Its currently in beta so some of the features are not available but it’s definitely a good option if you need a lightweight text editor on the go. I was able to sign up and begin editing files on my server in under ten minutes or so.

Image Editing

For this section I just wanted to go through the usual workflow of cropping, resizing, and maybe brightening or darkening a few images. Basically to see how the apps could handle everyday mundane processes. The testing started out pretty rough but I ended up pleasantly surprised.

Aviary Image Editor

Aviary Image Editor – I started out with Aviary because of the simple interface and the fact that it came up as one of the first results when I searched for Image Editor. It has the basic image editing features but I was never able to properly crop and resize my image accurately. You basically use the selection tool to select a part of the image and then crop the selection but I couldn’t find an accurate way to tell how big the selection size actually was. It’s too bad, because crop and resize is one of the main processes I go through as a web developer.

Pixlr Express

Pixlr Express – This lightweight image editor was simple to use, though it didn’t have a crop with aspect ratio tool that I wanted, it was still pretty easy to get the job done. It came with some nice image effects, which I used, but it’s still not quite the Photoshop equivalent I was looking for. Its a good editor for quick simple edits or for those who aren’t comfortable with a fully featured editor.

Pixlr Image Editor

Pixlr Editor – Unfortunately I tried out Pixlr’s main editor after finishing all my editing. Pixlr Editor is a fully featured image editor with the most amazing tool ever, yes you guessed it a crop tool with aspect ratio! Its definately worth a check out if need to edit images on the fly or if you don’t have the money to purchase Photoshop and need some sort of image editor. The only drawback is the lack of a slice tool which makes it tough to envision designing an entire website in, but for image editing its a great alternative.

Oh and something to keep in mind, both of the Pixlr editors are built into Kodingen which makes it extremely convenient when editing code and images at the same time.

Vector Editing

Lastly I wanted to create a simple logo. Since my logo making skills are overly awesome I was going to use some already created vector shapes in a Illustator file, unfortunately this is where I ran into a problem.

Aviary Vector Editor – I guess I should be creating my own graphics and not expecting an online app to open an Illustrator file (.ai) or (.eps). I ended up saving the vector object I wanted as a PNG with Illustartor and then importing it into the editor. I could have probably just used one of the image editors above to create the final product, but I wanted to see how this editor compared to other drawing programs. I tried to save my logo in an EPS file but ended up with some sort of error and wasn’t able to finish the process.

Issues aside, Aviary’s Vector Editor looks to be a competent drawing program with the basic features that one would recognize from a program like Illustrator.

Launching the Site

Final Product

After a few uploads, my simple website is done! So what have I learned? I think I’m going to stick to my more expensive Photoshops and Illustrators. It’s great to see whats out there but as a Web Developer there are just too many features missing before I could think about using online apps only. Having said that, the future looks bright and its good to see there are a few alternatives.

Bonus!!!

Angry Birds! I don’t know if this game is still popular but you can play it through the Google Chrome browser. For Free!

One thought on “Can you build a website with nothing but free web apps?

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