Designing & Publishing a Site with Mozilla Composer

How to use this free WYSIWYG web editor to create your first web site

How to Design and Publish Your Website with Mozilla Composer

by Christopher Heng,

Ever since I wrote my review of Mozilla Composer, I have been receiving requests from beginning webmasters to for a tutorial on how they can get started with designing and publishing their website using that free WYSIWYG web editor. For those who missed the review, you can read it at

This article guides you through the steps of creating your first web site.

What You Will Need

You will need the following for this tutorial.

  1. You need to have Mozilla Composer (obviously). This is a free WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) web editor that comes with the Mozilla Suite. Simply download the Mozilla Suite from, install it and you will have Composer on your system. There are versions of the Mozilla Suite for a multitude of platforms, including Windows, Macintosh, Linux, etc. Get the appropriate one for your system. Note that the Mozilla Suite is not the same as Mozilla Firefox. The latter is standalone web browser; the Mozilla Suite, on the other hand, includes a browser, an email and newsgroup client, an IRC chat client, and an HTML editor (Composer). You will need to download the Mozilla Suite for Mozilla Composer even if you are already using Firefox.

    Update: Mozilla Composer, along with the rest of the Mozilla Suite, is obsolete and no longer available. Please read my KompoZer Tutorial instead. KompoZer is a free WYSIWYG editor like Mozilla Composer.

  2. You will need a web host to publish your pages to. For the complete beginner, a web host is (loosely speaking) a company which has computers that are permanently connected to the Internet. After you design your web page(s), you will need to transfer your pages to your web host's computer (called a web server), so that the rest of the world can see it. There are numerous web hosts around — you can find a list of cheap web hosts on

There are other things involved in getting your first web site up and running, such as getting your own domain name and promoting your web site. This tutorial however does not deal with those matters — it is strictly about designing (creating) and publishing (uploading) your website using Mozilla Composer. You can find more information about the other issues by perusing the articles on

Overall Goals of this Tutorial

By the end of this tutorial, you will have set up a working website with multiple pages, including a main page, a feedback form, a Reciprocal Links page, an About Us page, and a Site Map. Your pages will contain images, multiple columns, a form, links to other pages within your site, links to other sites, text in different font sizes, etc. In other words, you will have a fully functional website.

More importantly, you will know how to use Mozilla Composer to create, design and publish your site so that you can design new sites any time you want.

Goal of this Chapter

In this chapter, you will learn to create a rudimentary web page and publish it so that it can be accessed on the Internet. By the end of this chapter, you will be viewing your web page on the Internet with your favourite web browser.

Starting Up Mozilla Composer

We will start off by creating a rudimentary web page. Don't worry, we will polish it as we go along.

Note that this is a hands-on tutorial. To benefit from it, in fact, to even understand it, you need to follow the steps as I describe them. The practical nature of this guide makes it difficult to follow or understand if you're not doing the things mentioned.

Start up Mozilla Composer. You do this by first starting up the Mozilla web browser, then clicking the "File" menu, the "New" item on the menu that appears, and the "Composer Page" item that appears on the submenu. A new window should appear. This is the Composer window — the portion of Mozilla that lets you design your own web pages.

For convenience, in future, I shall write the sequence of clicking "File" then "New" then "Composer Page" simply as:

File | New | Composer Page

This means you are to click the "File" menu, followed by the "New" item, followed by the item "Composer Page". There are actually shortcuts to starting Composer from Mozilla (as there are for many of the commands given in this tutorial), but I will leave the discovery of minor things like that to you and concentrate on the main task of creating a web page.

Creating A Simple First Web Page

To give you an idea how simple it is to create a web page, type the following into the Composer window. You don't have to do anything special — just start typing. Note: you can type whatever you wish — I'm just furnishing you a block of text as an example. For ease of explanation, though, I will assume that you have typed the text here in the rest of the tutorial. (But don't let that stop you from being creative.)

Shakespeare's Website

To be, or not to be, that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.

When you type, you are typing into Mozilla Composer's "Normal" mode. You can see which mode you are using by glancing at the series of tabs at the bottom of the Mozilla Composer window.

To see how your page appears in an actual web browser, click the "Preview" tab to enter Mozilla Composer's "Preview" mode. Return to the "Normal" mode before continuing. I shall assume that you are using the "Normal" mode in this tutorial unless otherwise specified. The "Normal" mode is Composer's WYSIWYG editor mode. When you type text in this mode, Mozilla converts it into a HTML web document behind the scenes so that web browsers can recognize it as a web page. If you want to look at the HTML code that is generated from what you just typed, click the "HTML Source" tab at the bottom of Mozilla Composer. Remember to return to the "Normal" mode when you've finished admiring the code.

Now save the page onto your hard disk. Do this with "File | Save". Remember — this means click the "File" menu followed by the "Save" item on that menu.

A dialog box will pop up, asking you to give a title to your page. Since this is the main page of your website, you should enter the name of your website here. For example, if you are publishing a personal web page, you might want to name your website "Shakespeare's Website" (without the quotes) if your name happens to be Shakespeare. If you are publishing a company web page, the site name should be your company's name, such as "XYZ Company" or the like.

Once you've finished with the title, click the OK button or simply hit the Enter key.

A new dialog box, prompting you for a filename, will appear. Navigate to a directory (ie, folder) on your computer where you want to save your page. Type "index.html" (without the quotes) into the file name part of the dialog box. Do not accept the default name given in the dialog box. Do not use another name. Do not use capital letters in the name (ie, uppercase). Most web hosts expect the main page of your website to be called "index.html". If you change it, you may find that your website does not work as you expect.

After you've saved the file, you will be returned to the Composer main window. Look at the top of the window to the window's title bar. Notice that instead of the words "untitled", the title that you typed in earlier now appears in the window title bar.

Uploading or Publishing Your First Web Page

Before we proceed to polish the page so that it looks at least half-way decent, we need to publish the page to your web host. One reason we're going to do this now, even before we've finished the page, is that Mozilla Composer needs the information about your actual website's address (or URL) before it can correctly handle things like links and images on your web page. So even though the page is probably an embarrassment to you at this stage, please complete the following steps, or you will encounter problems later.

Don't worry about the page being so plain. If you've not advertised your website's address (URL) to anyone, no one will even know your site exists, so this preliminary version of your page will be seen by no one but you. People will not visit your site out of the blue just because you happened to sign up for a web hosting account today. It's not that easy to get visitors!

Another reason that you're publishing your page at this time is so that you can get familiar with both the major stages in the design of a web page. Once you get this hurdle out of the way, and you know how to get your web page from your computer into your web host's computer, you have mastered what is arguably the biggest technical challenge a newcomer is likely to face. Don't let this scare you though — it's actually quite easy!

To publish the page, go to "File | Publish" (ie, the "Publish" item on the "File" menu). A "Publish Page" dialog box will appear asking you for more details.

When you've finished completing the information, click the "Publish" button. Mozilla Composer will proceed to connect to your FTP account on your web host and upload your pages. There will be a dialog box that pops up to tell you it is uploading your page. The box will automatically disappear when Composer has completed its task.

Testing the Web Page

Before you proceed further, you need to test the version of the web page you have uploaded. This way, you will know whether you've made any mistake when entering your details earlier.

Switch back to Mozilla, or if you prefer, start up Internet Explorer or Opera or Netscape or Safari or Konqueror or whichever browser you normally use. Type the URL (web address) of your website. This is the address that you typed into the "HTTP address" field earlier. For example, type "" if that is your URL.

If you've entered the "publishing address" earlier correctly, you should see the page you created earlier in your web browser.

If you get an error like "No DNS for" or "Domain not found", it probably means that your domain name has not yet propagated to your ISP. Put simply, this means that you probably only just bought your domain name. It takes time for a new domain name to be recognized across the world (usually 2 or more days), so it's possible that your ISP has not yet updated its name servers to recognize your new domain. Some web hosts give you a temporary address which you can use to access your website in meantime. If you have that, use the temporary address to check that your site has been uploaded properly. Otherwise, you'll just have to wait.

If you get an error like "404 File Not Found" or you get your web host's preinstalled default page, you may need to go back and check your "publishing address" field. You may have published your page to a location that is not recognized by the web server as the default page to show when only your domain name is entered.

You can change the settings that you have just entered by accessing the "Edit | Publishing Site Settings" menu. One possibility for the page not showing is that you did not specify the correct directory on your web site to publish your index.html page to. A more remote possibility is that your web host requires that your page be named something other than "index.html". This is very rare nowadays, so explore this last possibility only when you've ruled out all others. At worse, ask your web host's support department or check their documentation for help.

If you get no errors at all, but see the page that you've designed earlier, congratulations! You've created and uploaded your first web page. It may be a rudimentary page but you have successfully walked through all the essential stages of designing and uploading a web page.

Next Chapter: Polishing Your Web Page

In the next chapter, you'll learn how you can improve that rudimentary web page by adding pictures, making font changes, etc.

Next: Mozilla Composer Tutorial Chapter 2: Adding Images, Changing Fonts, Changing Colours, Creating a Navigation Bar, Writing Your Content.

Copyright 2003-2014 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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