RapidWeaver 3.2 & Freeway 4 Pro

Introduction

RapidWeaver 3.2
Compared with other web-development tools, RapidWeaver has one of the easiest interfacesto learn. Using it to create your websites feels just like creating a project in iDVD.

Adding new pages is a simple matter of clicking on the plus icon and selecting the type of page you want to insert. There’s a wide range of options, including simple text pages, photo albums, a contact form and even a blog with built-in support for podcasts.

The overall look and feel of your site is dictated by your choice of one of the many themes on offer. If you get tired of these you can create your own but as this requires a good deal of web-design knowledge, it rather rules out the kind of user RapidWeaver is aimed at.

What’s more likely is that you would purchase extra themes from one of the third-party companies listed under RapidWeaver’s help menu, or get a designerfriend or colleague to create one for you.

Stay focused
RapidWeaver’s main aim is to let you, as a webmaster, concentrate on content rather than design. This idea can be seen in products such as Macromedia’s Contribute, but RapidWeaver does much more in terms of taking care of the tedious parts of website creation.

For example, it automatically creates a navigation bar for all your web pages and keeps the links up todate as you add new pages. Also, creating an online photo album is a joy rather than a chore. Simply select one of your iPhoto albums and RapidWeaver willcreate a thumbnails page complete with links to the full-size pictures, along with back and forward buttons. It really is as easy as that and can all be done withjust one click.

The omission of any image correction and filter effects is slightly disappointing, especially as MacOS X Tiger now offers these features free to developers. However, I suspect this is on the list for a future update because in every other respect the integration withOS X is very tight.

If you subscribe to a .Mac account, RapidWeaver automatically recognises this, and fills out your username and password for you. All you have to do ishit the publish button and away you go. RapidWeaver will even warn you in advance if you’re likely to exceed your .Mac disk quota. Of course, you can also upload your website to any server via FTP.

Although RapidWeaver is heavily templatedriven, customisation options are possible on aper-page or per-site basis. These options are all neatly contained within the Page Inspector. This is similarto the floating palette in Apple’s iWork applicationsand is a welcome relief from Macromedia Dreamweaver’s endless series of panels. RapidWeaver’s Page Inspector enables you to edit and modify page attributes such as file names, image formats, meta tags and much more.

As with Freeway, clicking on the preview tab uses Safari’s rendering engine to show you what your web pages will look like in a browser. It would be nice if this what-you-see-is-what-you-get view was editable but that’s more an issue for Apple.
In the past web-code generators have had a tendency to create messy code. RapidWeaver, however, outputs remarkably clean and valid XHTML code using CSS (cascading style sheets).

Freeway 4 Pro
Many designers find web design daunting. It’s not that HTML markup is difficult to learn, it’s just not quite as intuitive as moving objects around on screen and selecting menu options.

That’s where visual editors such as Freeway come in. They give you a familiar graphical interface, similar to desktop-publishing packages such as QuarkXPress,and do all the messy work of writing HTML for you. This leaves you free to experiment with design options without being put off by the prospect of rewriting whole sections of code.

With Freeway, you can move graphics and text boxes around at will, with the aid of rulers and guides, to get your layouts pixel perfect. Images can simply be dragged and dropped into the main window from many applications including Finder, iPhoto and Safari. Freeway now also includes support for full EPS, Illustrator and Photoshop layered files.

Once they are imported, Freeway offers powerful options to move, scale, crop or rotate your images. Then when you’re ready to publish, Freeway will automatically convert them to web-friendly JPEGs or GIFs.

New features
Freeway 4 is the first version of the program to abandon support for OS 9, allowing Softpress to freshen up the interface and make it more Mac OS X-like.

The redesigned Inspector panel resizes itself to show just the tools you need forthe current selection and there’s a new toolbar, which is configurable to suit your own way of working.

The Site floating palette has now become an integrated part of the main window showing a list of all your site’s pages down the left-hand side. You can move and drag the page order and nest pages at ease, in a similar fashion to the way the slides column works in Apple’s Keynote. And, at long last, two-button-mouse users have access to contextual pop-up menus by right clicking. Scroll wheel support has also been addedso you can zip through large documents.

As we’ve come to expect from all OS X web-related applications, there’s an integrated preview pane which uses Safari’s rendering engine to give you an accurate representation of what your page will look like in a web browser. It’s a small touch but it saves a trip to an external browser every time you make a change.

Perhaps the most substantial new features come in the graphics department. The ability to combine images using transparency has always been a unique feature of Freeway and the latest version extends that luxury to any element on your page, including text. The results are impressive with anti-aliasing automatically calculated to blend overlapping colours. Edge effects, such as shadow, glow, emboss, blur and scatter, can now be applied to graphic text and images. So including a drop shadow on your images is just a simple click away.

There’s also proper support for Unicode text, allowing you to mix characters from many languages within a single line of text. Visitors to your site don’t need to have special fonts for each language and each font can contain tens of thousands of characters or glyphs. Uploading to a server is as simple as you could wish for and there’s integrated support for uploading to a .Mac server.

There’s always a trade-off with visual website editors; the code they output is never as efficient as you could create manually. Freepress has, however, made some improvements in support for CSS, including the addition of external style sheets and styles that can be applied to tags. With care you can now produce code that conforms to standards as high as XHTML Strict.

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