Fri, 02 May 2008 Freeway 5 Review
Veteran web authoring tool Freeway is still a great choice for design-conscious developers
- Manufacturer: Softpress
- Pros: Code-free design environment, plug-in support for PHP, AJAX and other dynamic actions
- Cons: Code-free design environment not ideal for experienced web designers
- Price: £100
- Star rating:
The first version of Freeway, back in 1997, entered a drag-and-drop web authoring market with few real competitors. Adobe had PageMill, Macromedia had yet to launch Dreamweaver and Microsoft’s web strategy was still in flux. Back then, we lauded Freeway for its design-centred approach to page building, offering
a DTP style workflow aimed squarely at non-coders.
More than a decade later and Freeway has evolved in many ways. In one crucial aspect though, it remains the same – it is still for designers, not developers. Though it outputs standard HTML or XHTML, the workflow is defiantly code-free. Depending on your viewpoint this could either be a blessed relief or a fatal flaw.
But it can’t be denied that this upgrade is a major overhaul. There are changes great and small. The most welcome from a savvy web builder’s point of view is much improved support for CSS elements. CSS layouts usurp the tool’s traditionally table-based way of doing things. There was support for ‘layers’ (actually, CSS block level elements) in Freeway 4, but now colour coding makes them easier to work with, layer positioning is more flexible and there’s better support for both fixed and relative positioning.
Accessibility tools are enhanced, including automatic accessibility reports, previews and improved support within tables and forms. Some of the less gargantuan changes are more fun though. We particularly like support for Blogger templates, which can be built using Freeway Actions. There are similar tools for Scriptaculous – an open source AJAX library – bringing interaction effects to your pages.