Freeway Pro + FAST Packs, by Softpress Systems
Posted: 9-Apr-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Softpress Systems Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bob Schumann Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Introduction
I have dabbled with creating simple web pages in the past, but I never had the time to expand upon my HTML coding knowledge to create more complex pages. With Freeway Pro, I was able to create the more complex web pages and not have to worry about coding them.

Freeway Pro is a very powerful layout page editor and HTML generator. Programming knowledge is not required as Freeway does all of the coding work for you. You create the pages of a website visually and publish the files to your account. Freeway Pro also supports
the Freeway Advanced Site Tools (FAST Packs). FAST Packs are special suites of Freeway actions that let you build new features into your web sites, without needing to switch to another application to do so. FAST Packs require Freeway Pro or Freeway Express to work, and are not compatible with previous versions of Freeway.

A free, time-limited demo version of Freeway Pro may be downloaded from
Softpress. The full version of Freeway Pro is $229 as a download, and $249 for the boxed version with printed manuals. If you do not require all of the features of Freeway, take a look at Freeway Express, which is available for $89.00 (download version) and $99.00 (boxed version). Both Freeway Pro and Freeway Express include your choice of one FAST Pack.

NOTE: This review is an update to my previous review on
Freeway 3.5.6, and covers the FAST Packs as well as highlighting the differences between Freeway 3.5.6 and Freeway Pro.

Requirements

  • Mac OS 9: PowerPC with 64MB physical RAM
  • Mac OS X: Macintosh G3 with 128MB physical RAM
  • 50MB free disk space
  • Graphics Display: 640 x 480 with 256 colors; higher resolutions with millions of colors recommended

Review Machine

  • Power Macintosh G4 Quicksilver 867 MHz
  • 1.125 GB of RAM
  • Mac OS X 10.3.2


Features
Freeway Pro is not an HTML editor, but an HTML generator, and thus you do not have to deal with writing any code. The principle is to develop web pages using the Freeway Pro desktop publishing type editor, and Freeway Pro will generate all of the HTML code and support resources that can be published and transferred to your target website.

You can create Master pages with Freeway Pro that can have a certain background, text styles, or other design that will be shared by one or more of the published pages. You can have multiple Masters, and any Master for that site can be applied to any of the other pages. If you edit the Master, the associated pages will reflect those changes, so you only have to edit in one place for shared designs.

You can drag and drop graphics, text, movies, and sounds onto your page from other applications. The files do not need to be converted or resized before dragging them in. Images can be resized, cropped, rotated, or overlapped as you enter them into your design. Web-friendly GIF, JPEG, or PNG graphics are created from your original images when you publish your site. You can create a graphical version of any font in any size or color with full desktop publishing control. A GIF or JPEG image of the text will be created upon publishing and the text remains editable in Freeway Pro for future modifications.

Freeway Pro allows you to create rollovers and other JavaScript effects without writing code. A rollover is the changing of a graphic image when your mouse pointer passes over it.
An integrated FTP upload facility allows you to send your published pages directly to your web site storage location from within the Freeway Pro application.

At first, I had problems understanding what to do with the tools on the Tools palette. If you are familiar with desktop publishing programs, they may make immediate sense to you. After a little playing and looking at the documentation, I quickly picked up on what the tools did and the process of creating web pages. I would like to see larger icons on the Tools palette. Linking between pages was easy once I discovered all you had to do was highlight the linking text or graphic, then click on the small World icon at the bottom of the window and select to page you want to go to.

Freeway Pro supports both OS X and OS 9. This review is primarily of the OS X version, although I did verify that Freeway Pro does run under OS 9. Under OS X, most things worked as expected and the application was extremely stable. After using both Freeway 3.5.6 and Freeway Pro, I noticed a great number of improvements.

Freeway Pro vs Freeway 3.5.6
The Freeway Pro user interface has been subtly improved and seems smoother. The icons in the Tools palette and elsewhere have been updated to a better, more modern looking design. The icons are still a bit too small for my liking. I did not run across any cosmetic defects like I did in Freeway 3.5.6. Another improvement in the Pro version is the Preview mode now works with Safari and Netscape 7.1. However, when I published the site, publishing problems were reported because Freeway Pro could not find the template graphics elements. I pointed it to the proper directory and no more errors occurred.

Freeway Pro supports the Freeway Advanced Site Tools (FAST), and it includes the Buttons Pack and your choice of another Pack. Pro has the ability to use templates, and 29 free templates are included. The templates help you get started with your web design by giving you a variety of successful designs to start from. Another great new feature is the ability to drag and drop graphics
, text, movies, or sounds right onto the page without having to create a box first. Further, you can now import and manipulate PDF files as graphics into your page.

The documentation and help system has also been improved. The in-program help is now fully indexed Apple Help. The included PDF documentation includes Quick Start and User Guides that have been rewritten and updated for OS X.

FAST Packs
Each FAST pack has an installer that adds functionality to Freeway Pro. When you first use a FAST Pack tool, you are required to enter a FAST Pack Key provided to you by Softpress. There are currently two FAST Packs you get to choose from when you order Freeway Pro: Graphics (Gfx) or Navigation (Nav).

Graphics FAST Pack
The Graphics FAST Pack is a collection of Freeway Actions for creating and enhancing graphics. The tools included are:

  • Fill Master - Generates filled, framed, shadowed and glowing shapes with transparency and shading
  • Duotone - Applies duotone/tritone effects
  • Fade - Applies image fade effects
  • Posterize - Applies posterize effect
  • Scan Lines - Applies image scan lines effects
  • Photo Frame - Applies graphic edge effects
  • Photo Magic - Adjusts image settings

These tools provide WYSIWYG graphical effects and functions that can be used individually or can be combined for a wide variety of results. You also don't have to worry about your original graphics being altered, as the effect works on a copy and does not modify the original. I found these tools very useful and easy to use.

Navigation FAST Pack
The Navigation FAST Pack is a collection of four Freeway Actions for creating complex navigational items that can otherwise be time consuming to create and maintain. The four navigation actions are: Menu Bar, Navigation Map, Navigation Bar, and Site Map. The Menu Bar Action creates menu bars with drop-down menus. The Navigation Map Action creates hierarchical navigational maps. The Navigation Bar Action automatically generates a navigational menu bar with optional drop-down menus. Finally, the Site Map Action automatically generates a hierarchical navigation map of your entire site. Links are automatically updated when you change your site. I found these tools fairly easy to use and a great time saver.

Compatibility
The following formats and styles are supported under Freeway Pro:

Graphic Import Formats

    • Raster Graphics - BMP, GIF, JPEG, Photoshop, PICT, PNG, and TIFF
    • Vector Graphics - Illustrator AI, PDF, PICT
    • Rich Media - AAC, AIFF, Flash SWF, MP3, RealMedia, Shockwave, QuickTime, WAV


Graphic Export Formats

    • GIF, JPEG, and PNG


HTML Output Styles

    • HTML 4 - Create either table-based or pure CSS-positioning pages
    • HTML 3.2 + CSS - Use CSS text styles without breaking older browsers
    • HTML 3.2 - For compatibility with older browsers


Support
The Freeway Pro installation includes Quick Start and full User Guide PDF files that have been rewritten and updated for OS X. The Freeway Pro application includes in-program help that is fully indexed Apple Help. Also from within the application, the Help menu will launch your default web browser and presents a complete reference on the web.

Updates and other documentation can be obtained from the Softpress website at
http://www.softpress.com.

Upgrade
For users of Freeway 3.x, several upgrade options are provided. If you purchased the full Freeway 3.5 version, you can upgrade to Freeway Pro for free (and that includes one FAST Pack). For earlier versions, you can upgrade for $63. The following Pro feature set provides some good reasons to get the upgrade:

  1. Can use FAST Packs
  2. Improved, smoother user experience with an updated user interface
  3. Free templates
  4. Improved "New File" dialog with automatic folder creation for easier project management
  5. Buttons FAST Pack included, plus one additional FAST Pack of your choice
  6. Drag and drop graphics and text
  7. Import and manipulate PDFs as graphics
  8. Fully-indexed Apple Help
  9. Hundreds of improvements including dynamic resizing windows
  10. Upgrade price offer


Summary
Freeway Pro is a dynamic WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) web page editor, fun to use and very stable. The Freeway Pro user interface is greatly improved over its predecessor, and includes drag and drop as well as fully indexed Apple Help. The Pro application is feature-rich for website creation, and provides templates as well as FAST Packs that streamline the web design process. If you are looking to create professional looking state-of-the-art websites, but do not want to get bogged down with mundane HTML coding, Freeway Pro is the answer you've been looking for.

Pros

  • Works with Mac OS 9 and OS X
  • Easy to use with solid performance
  • Graphics and text drag and drop
  • Streamlines web design via templates and FAST Packs
  • Good documentation

Cons

  • Import of existing HTML is not perfect
  • Tools palette icons are too small


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice