RapidWeaver 3.5, by Realmac
Posted: 17-Jan-2007

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Realmac Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Scott Bender & Kevin Zittle Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Overview
Want to make a website but don't know any HTML, or even know what that stands for? RapidWeaver from RealMac Software is your solution. RapidWeaver is a website creation application that makes it very easy to make great looking websites in minutes. Yes, it only takes minutes! Don't worry if you do know HTML and want to have more customization options, as RapidWeaver allows you to do that too. No matter what your website creation skill level, RapidWeaver can help you make a great site faster.

RapidWeaver by Realmac Software is an easy to use website building application. Anyone can use it to create and publish professional-looking websites with ease. Using drag and drop elements, RapidWeaver requires no knowledge of HTML. RapidWeaver can be used to create podcasts, Photo Albums, Movie pages, Themed designs and more.

Requirements
RapidWeaver requires any Macintosh running 10.3.9 or newer.

Setup
Setup and installation takes only minutes. RapidWeaver downloads as a 6 Megabyte Disk Image. It decompresses and mounts a disk image at just over 17Mb. After downloading RapidWeaver from
the web, open up the downloaded DMG. From there, simply drag the application to your Applications folder. When it first opens, it will ask if you would like to continue on your demo or enter your license key (available for $39.95 from their website under "Buy Now"). Under the demo mode, you will only be able to make sites with up to 2 pages. Working with these pages is quite adequate to get a feel for the program. If you decide to purchase a license, a receipt email with the license code arrives within minutes of the transaction, allowing you to enter the license code and get started right away.

In Use
When you first open RapidWeaver you will see the splash page, with links to how to start your site. Each of these links, Welcome, Get Started, Selecting a Theme, Adding Sub Pages, and Publishing, give you a brief overview of how to quickly get up and running. For more detailed information or support, you can view the
online manual or visit the RapidWeaver support forum. NOTE: This "Hello" page may be turned off via the RapidWeaver Preferences menu.


RapidWeaver Welcome Page

To start your project, much like many other Apple programs, press the "+" button in the bottom left corner. From there, it will open a window for you to select the type of page you would like to create.


Options for Page Types

Your options from there will include a blog, contact form, file sharing, HTML code, an iFrame, movie album, offsite page, photo album, quicktime, and stylized page. When you single click on an option, it gives a little description on the bottom of the window. Not as net-savvy as I thought I was, I found the quick explanations of the page types a very helpful feature.

For most of your pages, unless you have some HTML experience, you should pick a pre-formatted page type. Once you've selected a page type, the main RapidWeaver window is presented, with a list of pages in the left pane, the current page in the main area, a set of tabs at the top, a list of themes at the bottom, and various buttons. Each time you want to add a new page, you click on the "+" button again, so your project can include a variety of different page types.


RapidWeaver Main Window

In the main window, you will have a few things that you use constantly. These include the following:

  1. Code Tab: Allows you to see the code of your page, un-editable unless you created an HTML page.
  2. Edit Tab: Most common tab, where you will enter all of your body text.
  3. Preview Tab: Allows you to preview what your page will look like. I would suggest you don't stay in this tab while you edit because it refreshes after each edit, which can be annoying.
  4. Sidebar: Shows you all of the pages and sub-pages you have created. Click on each one to edit it.
  5. Themes: Allows you to pick your theme for your site (you can also create your own theme).
  6. Upload: Easy one button upload (requires setup).

Deciding to run RapidWeaver in true Mac-user style (or at least my personal style), I decided to forgo using the User's Manual that is located under the "Help" menu. In our first example, we created a quick Blog site. After selecting "Blog" from the popup, first page was automatically created. I was able to easily enter information directly onto the page. There were areas to enter date and description of a blog entry, and another area for entering the main text.


Editing a Blog Page

At first, however, I could not figure out how to change anything other then the body text. This is because other page attributes, such as title of page, are done from within the Inspectors. There are two main inspectors, one for the site you are building, and the other for the specific page you are editing. These inspectors include aspects of your site such as the title of the page, the file name, the logo, title, and so on. To open the page inspector, choose the Window menu, Page Inspector option, or Cmd-I, or click on the information button on the bottom left (the "i" in a circle).


Page Inspector

The page inspector has tabs for info, sidebar, advanced, and code. For my purposes, I only needed to use the Info tab to establish the page title. There is a lot of information that can be changed in the inspector, a task for those more involved in the nuts and bolts of their web site. The other primary inspector is the site inspector, which can be displayed via the Windows menu, Site Setup option (or Cmd-1). This is where you enter the title for you website, site logo, copyright information, and other data that you want featured on every page of the site.

Choosing a theme is one of the most fun aspects of RapidWeaver. The themes to choose from are spectacular.In addition to all the themes to choose from, you can change the theme at any time - right at the beginning, then change it after a few pages, and you can even change it after all the content has been entered. All of your data is maintained from theme to theme; RapidWeaver simply stylizes and formats it differently. This is a great way to view how your pages will look (using the Preview tab), and makes it painless to change you mind at a later date.

After the initial blog page was created, I decided to enter a "Styled Text" page where I could talk expand on my project a bit. I edited the page using simple drag-and-drop methods. It was easy to format and style the text, as well as add photos. At any time you can click on Preview and see exactly how your page will look in a browser (see figures below). In fact, the entire interface of RapidWeaver behaves in this fashion - very simple to use, and very Mac savvy.


Example of Styled Text page (NOTE: this screenshot is from RapidWeaver 3.2)


The Same Styled Page in Preview Mode (also from RapidWeaver 3.2)

Speaking of Mac savvy, RapidWeaver has built-in integration with your iLife media. Adding media to your project is also handled in inspector-like fashion. There are two steps dealing with media. The first one is to get the media on the page; the Media Library handles this part with a streamlined interface with your iLife libraries (photos, audio and movies). Choose Window->iMedia Browser (or Cmd-4) to open the media browser.


Using the Media Inspector with iLife

Here you can look through your iTunes Library, iPhoto pictures, and your movie folder. This is where I ran into problem with RapidWeaver. After I opened my media library and went to the movie tab, the application froze while it was trying to load my movies. I only had three or four movies in the folder. I was unable to click on another tab and for a while could not open the Media Library window without freezing the program. To get around this problem, I had to remove all of the movies from the folder, then open RapidWeaver back up, open the Media Library and click to another tab (such as Photos or Audio). After that, I then dragged my movies back into the folder, but I had to make sure that I didn't click on the "Movies" tab again (or else it would freeze). Realmac is aware of the problem and is working on a fix.

The second part of managing your media using the Media Inspector once the media is in your site. The Media Inspector allows you to change many of the aspects of the media, such as size, scale, alternate tags, rotation angles, and more.

In another example, I created a Photo Album page. As mentioned earlier, RapidWeaver automatically links to your iPhoto albums. All I had to do was click on an album, and then select or deselect (via checkboxes) which photos I wanted to incorporate into the page. For the purposes of this review, however, I also wanted to use photos that I had downloaded to my desktop (aka, not in my iPhoto library). RapidWeaver makes this easy as well. All I had to do was drag those photos onto the edit page. No muss, no fuss.

Finally, once you have finished your site, you are ready to upload to your web space. RapidWeaver makes this simple and easy as well. With great .Mac integration, uploading to .Mac is as simple as entering your username and password. Even if you don't have .Mac site (or simply want it uploaded somewhere else), RapidWeaver has full built-in support for FTP uploads. Simply enter all of your FTP information, click on Publish, and it will upload to your site. RapidWeaver also has a great feature where it remembers what has been uploaded, and will only upload the changed files. Very nice.


Publishing Your Site via FTP or .Mac


There is also an option to export your web site to your local hard drive. This may be desired for a couple of reasons. You may not be ready to upload to a web server, but you may want to view the pages in a web browser without using RapidWeaver. This would allow you to see exactly how the site will look using a variety of web browsers. The export is also handy if you want to use RapidWeaver to get a head start on the site, but then want to take over management of the site manually. Once you do this however, you will not be able to easily change the theme as you can with the RapidWeaver project, and you'll also find that the folder management of all the pages and files involved in your project may be difficult to manage on your own. Still, this is a viable option for web gurus.

Summary
RapidWeaver is a web design tool that makes it very easy to create a stunning website in minutes. I found RapidWeaver's webpage creation tools very intuitive to use. It is not really an HTML editor like DreamWeaver, but a complete and easy-to-use website management system. It's interface is very Mac-savvy, and it has great integration with all of the iLife parts of the Mac. RapidWeaver makes it easy for people with no HTML or web design skills to make spectacular websites, yet still flexible enough to allow the web gurus to customize their sites to completely fit their wants and needs. While the built-in user's manual was somewhat limited (it's more of a quick-start guide), I did find the information at Realmac's website to be quite extensive. Whether you have no web skills or extensive web skills, RapidWeaver is a fantastic tool to get your website off to a great start quickly and painlessly.

Pros

  • Easy to setup a web site
  • Awesome themes that can be changed on the fly
  • Clean and intuitive interface
  • Easy to publish via FTP, .Mac or hard drive export
  • Extensive website customization
  • Excellent support sites and forum

Cons

  • Built-in User's Manual is lacking
  • Buggy media library tab
  • Confusing folder management


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice