Few ordinary Mac users are willing to delve into the enigmatic world of web servers to become the masters of their own sites. OpenOSX’s OpenWeb 3.0.2 seeks to change that by taking some of the mystery out of UNIX command-line prompts and circumventing the cumbersome administrative setup process.
The problems with setting up and running your own web server are manifold. Beyond the physical connection to the internet, there’s the challenge of finding and installing all the web application components, packages, and libraries required to run a website. You then have to configure it, and manage and maintain your site.
OpenWeb offers an easy solution to some of these problems. By enabling web sharing in your System preferences and then running OpenWeb, you automatically install a plethora of fully configured, open-source web components and applications. Your website is then ready to be hosted directly from your computer.
OpenWeb includes the following: an Apache server with a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Tomcat for serving Java Server Pages (JSP); PHP and PERL for scripting and programming; MySQL for building a dynamic database; website administration tools; collaborative software for content and project management; and an assortment of other web tools, including a search engine, calendars, online store, PDF generator, bulletin board and ad server.
Each of these programs is open-source software that was created by a variety of different organisations and individuals. So OpenOSX is not responsible for the individual components’ interface or documentation.
Unfortunately, after installation, OpenWeb is not much help in getting you started with web hosting. It does provide a launch page to navigate to the individual software components, but this is nothing more than a page of links with extremely techy descriptions of the software, which won’t help less technical webmasters.
OpenWeb installs all the components at the same time, and although you can manually disable individual pieces by moving a particular directory out of the Web Documents folder, there’s no way to do this beforehand through the interface, and no way to tell which pieces are currently installed. What’s more, as each component has its own documentation there’s no consistency between OpenWeb apps. OpenOSX says it’s planning an Aqua interface for version 3.1 (currently under development) that will allow control all of the components and settings from a single, unified screen. This will be a massive boon.
OpenWeb is an invaluable time-saver for experienced sysadmins who want to get their web servers up and running as quickly as possible. It’s also an excellent training tool for rookies. However, once installed, OpenWeb provides very little added value over installing each application yourself.