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Editing web pages with SeaMonkey

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www.inf Web Publishing with SeaMonkey Composer

If you want to use SeaMonkey to edit web pages on the web server, then you need to check/set up your SeaMonkey Composer settings as follows.

Before you can edit any page, you need to have a web publishing account. If you don't have one, and you are a member of staff, then please fill out this web form to request a publishing account. Note that this is the same web publishing account that you use to edit pages via CVS or SVN (the latter not yet fully commissioned).

If you want to edit Institute web pages that are hosted on the server, eg, then you would replace any occurrence of or below with and respectively.

Please also make sure you read the section on editing pages at the end of this document.

The Settings

First, go to the "Edit" menu of SeaMonkey and choose "Preferences...", then click on the "Composer" Category and set up the right hand pane to look like:

Composer options screen

Then click "OK" to return to the browser.

Next, start up the Composer by selecting "Edit Page" from the "File" menu. A new Composer window will appear. Now select "Publishing Site Settings..." from the Composer's Edit menu. In the window that appears, you should have two entries in the Publishing Sites list, one for normal www.inf pages over http and another for secure pages over https. Either click on any existing entries and edit them, or click "New Site" and add entries as below. For regular pages:

HTTP Site Settings screen

And for secure https pages:

HTTPS Site Settings screen

Then click "OK" to return to the Composer.

Once you've set up the publishing sites, whenever you use Composer to edit a web page and choose "Publish", a "Publish Page" dialogue box will appear with the correct values in the "Settings" tab. You can/should confirm this before actually trying to publish your web page.

The Editing Process

Changing the contents of a web page can be done from within the SeaMonkey browser, or by editing and submitting the raw files. We deal with editing via SeaMonkey below, raw file editing is dealt with elsewhere.


  • Login to the publishing server
  • Visit page to be edited
  • Open page to edit
  • Edit page
  • Publish page
  • Browse to page and check updates have worked

Login to the publishing server

You may find that you need to authenticate to the publishing server in order to gain the correct permissions to update the web page. From the SeaMonkey browser, go to the publish URL - this is similar to the browsing URL, but uses only the top-level domain and a login page. For example, to edit a page for the fictional "inst" Institute (, you would login (authenticate) by visiting If you are not automatically logged-in, click "Log in" - having typed your DICE password if required.

Visit page to be edited

If not already on the required page, using the SeaMonkey browser select 'File' then 'Open web location'. Copy the URL into the box and click open. (Or you could just paste the URL into the browser's address bar.)

Open page to edit

Select "File" menu, then "Edit Page".

Edit page

Make required changes to the page in the Edit window.

Publish page

Click "Publish", check settings, and - if you are editing an implicit "index.html" - in 'Filename' type "index.html". Click "Publish".

Browse to page and check updates have worked

Close edit/publish page, and refresh or re-visit the page using the browsing URL and check that the required changes have been made.

Relevant Issues

Editing Pages

Though the Composer is convenient for making quick changes to web pages, and for those who want to edit web pages in a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) environment like they would a Word document, it does hide you from the complexities of web publishing - but those complexities are still there. The main issues are those of valid HTML and web pages using the standard Informatics headers and footers.

Valid HTML

To try and ensure that our web pages are as accessible as possible, all HTML on the web server is validated to make sure it conforms to certain standards. So you rely on Composer to generate valid HTML for you (it normally doesn't do too badly), if it doesn't and you try to publish a page, the publishing will fail, but it won't tell you why!

If you are comfortable with raw HTML, you could click on the "<HTML> Source" tab at the bottom of the Composer window to see the HTML that will actually be produced.

Standard Headers and Footers

The bulk of the pages on www.inf are based on this template. When you look at the template in a browser it shows a complete HTML web page. However, if you edit this template via CVS (or SVN), then you'll see it contains just:

<!--#include virtual="/ssi/"-->
<!--#include virtual="/cgi-bin/metabase"-->
<!--#include virtual="/ssi/"-->

<h1>No Title</h1>

Text goes here.

<!--#include virtual="/cgi-bin/locationbar"-->
<!--#include virtual="/ssi/"-->

When the web server serves these pages to your browser, it expands the #include virtual=... to the actual HTML that they represent, which can be quite a lot of extra HTML. For example the 11 lines above become 121 lines of HTML. It's this fully expand version of the page that Composer is editing.

What does this mean for you? Well, it means that you must restrict your updated/edits to the main body of the page. In the above template example, this would be from the "No Title" heading to the end of the "Text goes here.". If you edit any of the standard header or footer, then at best your changes will be ignored, and at worst you will break the validation and the page won't publish, again Mozilla won't say why.

You can use the "HTML Tags" and "<HTML> Source" tabs at the bottom of the Composer window to help you avoid these areas. In the Tags view, you need to avoid editing anything before and including the indicated "DIV" tag, and anything after and including the indicated "P" tag:

Screen shot showing what not to edit

When looking at the HTML source, don't edit anything before and including the line:


or anything after and including the line:


If you understand all that, then you're probably better off using the CVS or SVN methods to edit web pages anyway!


Finally, the other reason publishing may fail is if you don't have permission to edit the page you are trying do publish. If you've only made a minor edit to a web page, avoided the standard header and footers as described above and your Composer settings are all OK, then contact webadmin@inf to check that you actually have the necessary permissions.

Unfortunately when web publishing fails for any of the reasons above, Composer just returns with "Unknown publishing error occurred". This is another reason why CVS (or SVN) is the recommended route.

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