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With iWeb already on your Mac, you might not bother to explore alternative web-design applications. But since it didn’t get updated for iLife ’11, now might be the perfect time to shop around for something new—especially if you’ve outgrown iWeb’s simplistic feature set. Adobe’s popular Dreamweaver is a huge, complex, and expensive piece of software that’s out of reach for casual designers. Thankfully, RapidWeaver just got a brand-new update, and it’s both simpler and cheaper than Dreamweaver.
Similar to iWeb, RapidWeaver is built around the idea of taking the headache—and coding—out of web design. Start by selecting a theme and a specific type of page you’d like to add—a blog, contact page, or photo gallery, for example—but that’s where the similarities end. All of RapidWeaver’s themes are highly customizable, and it’s much easier to transform them into something unique than it is in iWeb.
No design skills are necessary. Just choose a theme, and then all you have to do is write the content.
Also, iWeb focuses on manipulating the on-page design, treating your content like objects in a page-layout program; you can move text boxes around, resize others, and manipulate images with ease. By contrast, RapidWeaver zeroes in on editing your content. When you’re previewing your page, you can’t alter anything. You have to switch to edit mode, where the design is stripped away, leaving only your words and images. Preview mode shows you sections of the page that are invisible while editing, like the navigation menu that’s added automatically, as well as the currently chosen theme. Moving between modes while building pages is awkward at first, but you quickly get used to it.
RapidWeaver offers tons of customization. Track traffic without complicated setup by embedding either Google Analytics or GoSquare LiveStats code into your site. For better organization and navigation, RapidWeaver lets you sort pages within folders. The new Site Resource feature is also an added bonus—use it to consolidate all your downloadable content (like PDFs and media files) into a single location for easy reuse across pages. Version 5 also sports a friendlier user interface, the ability to save and use the same FTP information across multiple projects, and an automatically created site map, which can help search engines like Google keep your site up to date in their search results.
RapidWeaver helps you quickly create good-looking sites using one of the bundled themes. You can also select from hundreds of available third-party alternatives. Some are free, but most cost between $12 and $20. By default, you won’t have as much freedom to move text and images around the way you can with iWeb, but what sets RapidWeaver apart are the dozens of paid add-ons created by developers, which introduce more advanced features. Most rely on the Stacks add-on to work ($24.95), but many are self-contained plug-ins. You could, for instance, include comments in your page (Comments MySQL, $9.95), create forms (FormLoom, $19.95), introduce an iWeb-like page-layout design (Blocks, $24.95), or even create online stores with remarkable ease (PayLoom 2, $19.95). You obviously don’t need these elements if you’re creating simple websites, but it’s good to know that the functionality is available if and when you need to beef up your site.
The bottom line. If you need to push your site beyond iWeb but don’t want to be forced to learn HTML and CSS coding, RapidWeaver 5 is a happy medium between ease of use and power.
Available on the Mac App Store
Mac OS 10.5.8 or later
Create websites without writing a line of code. Hundreds of editable themes and powerful add-ons available.
Not very flexible without add-ons, which can end up being costly.