I think you mean that you're after a web/html authoring application, rather than an editor. I doubt you'll have to pay for one, there must be some free one's out there, an example would be Mozilla's Composer application (not sure if it's available stand-alone yet though.)
Don't use an authoring program like Dreamweaver or Frontpage. Well it depends on what your doing but I can tell you first hand as a programmer when I get code from my designers I ****ing want to kill them if they used those applications lol well not kill but you know what I mean. The only real way to make quality web sites is to learn HTML and it takes an hour so don't be another lazy newb when it comes to making sites. Don't be lazy.
I recommend Edit Plus which isn't really worked on a lot anymore but it was some awesome syntax highlighting and auto complete with it. Great for HTML if you know it. You can also create custom syntax for any language or download other's on their website.
I use EditPlus to do my html, php, java, sql and some others, the syntax highlighting is nice although the auto complete thing is annoying, turned that of. Also it has one of the best spell checkers ever!
Both Dreamweaver MX and GoLive CS do XHTML compliant coding, though from using a friends GoLive for about an hour trying to fix some layout stuff it has a horrible gui design interface, Dreamweaver MX is better, but then I was originally taught DW way back in its v2 days. Now I use stuff like Maguma and text editors like SciTE and Kate
I think you need to be a little more specific in your request. You don't want to spend money to get a quality WYSIWYG tool like DreamweaverMX (the best wysiwyg availible). You also don't want to require a "Ph.D in HTML;" I'm not even sure that you need an Assc. to be competant in HTML.
Also, since it appears you are starting out, I'd suggest learning XHTML; its almost identical, but yields better coding practice for learners.
I think you should bite the bullet, learn the languate, and then use your favorite text editor such as vi, emacs, notepad, editpad, textpad...
My final comments is that no matter how compliant WYSIWYGs are in their XHTML, HTML, XML, etc. They still don't give you the CONTROL that text editors give you. Seriously. Even if the code on Dreamweaver is perfect XHTML it still can be hard sometimes to get Dreamweaver to do the small things that you want to do. So if your not lazy and do things by hand you have that control. Plus like said by ig, it costs money for Dreamweaver unless you get it illegally. You can find text editors all over the web for free.
My final comments is that no matter how compliant WYSIWYGs are in their XHTML, HTML, XML, etc. They still don't give you the CONTROL that text editors give you. Seriously. Even if the code on Dreamweaver is perfect XHTML it still can be hard sometimes to get Dreamweaver to do the small things that you want to do. So if your not lazy and do things by hand you have that control.
Perfectly agree with that, you do need to understand how the HTML all fits together, but then you can use something like DW to speed the design, as long as you know how the HTML all works then you can just dive into the code when the package isnt doing just what you want it to.
Ep, glad to see you come back and tidy up...did want to ask a one day favor, I want to enhance my resume , was hoping you could make me administrator for a day, if so, take me right off since I won't be here to do anything, and don't know the slightest about the board, but it would be nice putting "served administrator osnn", if can do, THANKS