Apple’s iWeb is the simplest web development platform in the world. Building and deploying a website or blog using your MobileMe account could not be simpler. It has some great themes, and impressive photo gallery features. However, there comes a time (and pretty soon in most cases) where you will find that iWeb lets you do only so much.
So what’s the next step then? Learning and building websites using a professional app like Dreamweaver isn’t going to cut it. RealMac Software claims to have the answer with RapidWeaver, their semi-professional wysiwyg web development platform. I’ve been looking at this app for a while now, and here’s my review.
Making your website
RapidWeaver incorporates a one window interface, which is well designed and easy to navigate. This is important for someone who isn’t familiar with web design concepts. The basic process is you add ‘pages’, which could either be a blog, gallery, contact page or even a plain HTML page.
(The blogging platform is solid, and gets the job done)
Your pages are then assigned themes around which they are rendered. You can switch between themes at any time, while your pages will retain their content. Nothing revolutionary, and almost similar to what iWeb offers.
The blogging tool is moderately powerful, with most of the text formatting options right there in the editor. You can set categories, tags and order your posts as you choose. Images once placed can be edited using the build in media editor.
Any changes can be viewed right on your computer by hitting the preview button. You can then navigate through your website as if it were in a browser.
The Power to Modify
RapidWeaver ships with 40 built in themes, some of which look pretty dated. There are a few here and there that stand out, but most of them look plain and something that would come out of a free wordpress theme site. In fact, iWeb offers better quality output with the default themes.
(Default themes look plain and bland)
That’s when the power of RapidWeaver kicks in. All the themes are completely modifiable using any text editor. It all comes down to HTML and CSS. RealMac also has an SDK for third party theme makers to use, and there are many out there who do. You can buy third party RapidWeaver themes for very low prices and they will stand out from all the blogs you see out there. I myself played around with the theme files and they are very simple to edit.
Compare this to editing iWeb themes and you will know the world of a difference that is. Overall, there is a high possibility that you will get a unique and slick looking blog or website using RapidWeaver, if you are willing to pay for or modify a theme.
RapidWeaver can be extended using plugins and snippets, a lot of which are available on the RealMac website itself. These are in house as well as third party plugins that you can buy and install. Some of these are pretty cool including plugins for sliders, Cover Flow, and Carousels and a whole bunch more. Check out all the ad-ons for RapidWeaver in the special page on RealMac.
Most of these plugins and themes cost around $15 each, so if you think about it, you can get a decent looking site for far less than you would spend on a web designer. While this doesn’t compare with the loads of free plugins you get from the WordPress community, you must realise that a RapidWeaver site sets you apart from the rest of the crowd.
RapidWeaver can publish to an FTP server, a local folder, or even your MobileMe homepage. The publishing tool is far superior to iWeb (when it comes to non-MobileMe websites), in that it only updates files that have changed so you don’t have to reupload the whole shebang every time you make a small change. Once you’ve set up your online details, publishing is just one click away. In fact, your MobileMe details are automatically imported from your system preferences. A no-click setup it is!
Plus, the export option features a super-cool core animation effect that I just love! One downside is that you can’t edit anything more while the site is uploading, which kind of gets in the way especially if it’s the first time you are publishing.
Managing your website with Rapidweaver.
Using RapidWeaver for a while I see how one can easily manage a small website, which displays primarily static content, a blog and some pictures. It could be your small company website, or your personal home page on the web. However, I wouldn’t advice Rapidweaver for those who don’t want to get their hands dirty.
Without modification, additional plugins or maybe puchasing a theme, RapidWeaver is almost as good/bad as iWeb. Only after going through all the settings, finding your way around, and knowing a little CSS can you get a good website going with RapidWeaver.
Rapidweaver fills the gap between too simple and too advanced, and it fills it nicely. Check out these websites created using only RapidWeaver to see what you can do with a little modification:
(A shot from the RapidWeaver Showcase)
At $79, RapidWeaver seems a little expensive, but when you compare it with other web publishing tools, the price is justifiable. Don’t take my word for it however, and download the free trial to see for yourself.