Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Most popular Web-building Mac applications

iWeb is long gone, but its spirit lives on in these six user-friendly web publishing programs

APPLE’S iWEB WAS a smart little program that made designing websites super simple. It didn’t do much, but then it wasn’t supposed to. It was about making website building as easy as using Pages or Keynote, by removing all the pain from designing a website. Unfortunately, Apple never seemed too keen on iWeb, and when development officially stopped in 2011, its users were hardly surprised.

One of the reasons for iWeb’s demise was that more and more people were publishing using web-based platforms: Google’s Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, social networks such as Facebook, and so on. They all have their place, but dedicated desktop web publishing software has advantages that they don’t. You have more control, you get much faster performance, you can often do a great deal more with your design and content, and you can get stuff done even without an internet connection. And as we’ll discover here, they often give a much better experience.

Apple might not want to make web publishing software any more, but many firms are happy to carry the torch - and in many cases in ways that are very Apple-y.

The programs here are very different from one another, but all promise to do much the same thing: give you the tools to get what’s in your head onto the internet. Whether your site is personal or political, for a club or a company, at least one of the apps here should deliver the perfect combination of style and substance for your particular project.

We’ve explored six apps here: RAGE Software’s EverWeb, The Escapers’ Flux V, Softpress’s FreeWay 7 Pro, Realmac’s RapidWeaver, Karelia’s Sandvox, and Intuisphere’s WebAcappella. We weren’t just looking at ease of use (though that’s important), we also wanted to see if they offered the kind of advanced features and customization iWeb didn’t.

So let’s put them through their paces and see just what they can do…

User Interface

Can beginners get going quickly? Are things laid out logically?

WEB TRIED TO bring classic Mac simplicity to web design, and many of the apps here do exactly the same - in many cases by working very much like iWeb did.

EverWeb, RapidWeaver, and Sandvox all include tutorials in their opening offers and have friendly iWork-esque interfaces, and Sandvox can even import your existing iWeb website. If you’re coming to any of these apps from iWeb, or if you haven’t used a web design program before, all three will make you feel perfectly welcome.

Freeway Pro, WebAcappella, and Flux aren’t unfriendly, but they are different from the other apps. Freeway Pro looks like a page layout program, while WebAcappella looks like part of Microsoft Office. Meanwhile, Flux V makes it clear that it’s for people who already know what they’re doing, populating the screen with stacks of information that’ll look like gibberish to a web beginner. If you don’t know your divs from your DOMs, Flux isn’t the program for you.

Basic Features

How do you actually build your website? How easy are basic operations to do?

ALL OF THE programs here use the familiar choose-a-template approach, but there are big differences between what's on offer. EverWeb has 32 brochure-style templates in a range of sectors, while FreeWay 7 Pro has a handful of email and presentation templates and eight generic site templates. RapidWeaver present five themes at startup (52 are actually installed, but that’s not immediately obvious), WebAcappella has nine shops and 15 kinds of business sites, and Flux has 28 startlingly pretty designs covering every conceivable site. Sandvox has 64 designs that remind us of PowerPoint, for better or for worse.

Editing and creating pages in EverWeb, RapidWeaver, and Sandvox is simple, intuitive and very iWork-like. Freeway and WebAcappella will be obvious to anybody who’s ever laid out a document in a DTP app or designed something nice in Pages, while Flux makes it easy to find your way around code and style sheets, and to see exactly what’s going on in your project. In short, they’re all pretty capable programs.

Advanced Features

Can the app cope with your ambitions? How much control does it give you?

EVERWEB ENABLES you to add widgets such as HTML snippets, PayPal buttons and social media shares, but it’s designed for people with fairly simple web-design requirements. Sandvox offers Objects such as Amazon lists, maps, and video embedding, but doesn’t expect its customers to spend time tinkering with the underlying code.

WebAcappella enables you to add photo albums, forms, and maps, while Freeway Pro can add blogger items, PayPal, AdSense, and other social services. Flux lets you add anything, and RapidWeaver has more than 1,000 downloadable add-ons, site versioning, and reusable code snippets on tap.

RapidWeaver and Sandvox support responsive themes that adjust to different browser sizes or devices, while Freeway Pro supports these and lets you preview your site in different resolutions. WebAcappella doesn't offer mobile content; EverWeb requires creating a separate page for it.


You made it – but how do you publish it to the web?

ONE OF THE things that made iWeb so easy to use was its tight integration with the now-defunct .Mac service, enabling instant and effortless site publishing. It also had FTP capabilities for uploading to your own web space. Fortunately, this tradition continues with the current crop of web design apps - to a greater or lesser degree, anyway.

EverWeb also offers publishing via FTP although annoyingly you need to sign in with your (free) EverWeb account to do it - and it nags you about copyright too. RapidWeaver and Freeway Pro support uploading via FTP, SFTP, and FTPS, Sandvox provides local publishing or uploading via FTP, SFTP, or WebDAV, and WebAcappella does FTP, SFTP, FTPS, plus connections to MySQL databases and PHP mail functions.

To preview your site, EverWeb, WebAcappella, and Freeway Pro call whichever browser you prefer - in the latter you can also preview your site inside the app and test screen resolutions.

Flux has integrated preview and live preview for data-driven content, while RapidWeaver has integrated preview with options to test for iPads and iPhones. Sandvox has integrated preview too.


For easy web design today, RapidWeaver 6 is the best software out there

WE’VE COVERED A wide range of apps here. Some have scored low not because they’re bad bits of software, but because they didn’t work out as iWeb replacements: WebAcappella is too corporate, Flux is aimed at a completely different market and FreeWay Pro is more of a design package than a simple web publishing package.

That leaves us with three similar apps: EverWeb, Sandvox and RapidWeaver. They’re all very user-friendly, but we think RapidWeaver has the edge. It feels more modern, is more expandable, can cope admirably with more ambitious projects and is simply a really cool app to spend time in. In many ways it’s the app iWeb should have been (and if Apple hadn’t dumped that, could have been). It’s also the app that we’d buy ourselves.

By Gary Marshall

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