Adobe Muse review

The beta version of Muse came in for quite a bit of criticism from many professional web designers when it was released towards the end of last year. That wasn’t entirely fair, though, as Muse isn’t aimed at code-junkie web designers. It’s actually intended for designers with a background in traditional print or graphic design work, who are just getting started with web design and aren’t quite ready to deal with the intricacies of HTML coding, CSS and JavaScript.

The program’s interface is very simple and straightforward. When you launch Muse it asks you to specify the dimensions of your web pages, and then drops you straight into the main workspace. This consists of a single window with a series of tabs running along the top of the window that allow you to work in different modes, such as Plan, Design, Preview and Publish.

You start in Plan mode, which allows you to create a quick map of your web site by adding pages and linking them together. You can then double-click on any page to switch into Design mode, where you can start to add some content and create the layout for each page.

Muse’s design tools are more like those of Apple’s all-but-discontinued iWeb than Adobe’s professional-level DreamWeaver. There’s no HTML code in sight – apart from the option to insert ready-made HTML snippets – and the program simply provides a graphical interface for quickly placing text and graphics on your pages.

Plan mode allows you to quickly create the structure of your site

Print designers will feel right at home, as it’s very much like working with a simple DTP program. In fact Muse even uses the good old Cmd-D keyboard shortcut – that goes right back to the days of ye olde PageMaker – to import and place graphics on the page.

Muse does provide greater precision and control than iWeb, though, with options such as the ability to create paragraph styles and rollover buttons. You can also create and save ‘master’ pages that store repeating elements such as a background image or headers and footers.

And, like iWeb, Muse also includes a small selection of ready-made ‘widgets’, that allow you to add more complex elements such as navigation bars, menus, and slideshows. However, there is currently no option for feeding in regularly updated content from a content management system (CMS), so Muse is primarily useful for quickly creating relatively static web pages that you will only occasionally update by hand.

Muse provides a simple graphical interface for designing web pages

You can test your pages at any time by clicking on the Preview tab, and when your site is ready the Publish tab will allow you to upload it to your web hosting service, or to use Adobe’s own Business Catalyst service.

Muse’s design tools are all fairly conventional, and in fact the most unusual thing about the program is that you can’t simply buy a copy as you would do with most ordinary Mac software. Muse is only available as a monthly subscription service, costing £22.46 on a month-by-month basis, or £13.67 a month if you sign up for a full year in advance. That works out at a minimum of £164 per year, which is considerably more expensive than other entry-level web design programs such as RapidWeaver, Sandvox or Freeway Express, which all cost around £50-£60.

However, Muse is also included at no extra cost as part of Adobe’s wider Creative Cloud service - £47 per month –and there’s a 30-day trial version that you can check out before deciding whether or not to commit to a regular subscription.

OUR VERDICT

If you just want to set up a simple web site for a club or small business then it will be much cheaper to simply buy one of the many rival web design programs that are available on the Mac App Store. However, it designers who are already using other Adobe software or services could find Muse a useful introduction to web design that helps them to eventually move on to Dreamweaver or other more advanced tools.

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