Working with MobileMe and iLife

Editor’s Note: The following article is an excerpt from Take Control of MobileMe, a $10 electronic book available for download from TidBits Publishing. The 112-page ebook helps you understand what MobileMe provides, set up syncing and other MobileMe services, and get the most out of your $99-per-year subscription.

An important aspect of MobileMe is the way Apple’s online service integrates with iLife, the company’s suite of software for managing digital media on a Mac. iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb, and GarageBand, while all useful on their own, become extra powerful when used in conjunction with a MobileMe subscription. (iDVD, also part of iLife, does not have any MobileMe-specific features.)

Create sites and blogs with iWeb

iWeb makes it easy to design attractive Web sites, as well as create blogs; publish podcasts directly from GarageBand; and add content to your site from iPhoto, iMovie, or iTunes with just a click or two. You can use iWeb to create a Web site and upload it to any Web hosting provider, but in this book I cover an easier approach: publishing your site directly to MobileMe.

iWeb offers a huge number of options I can’t cover here. To learn how to go beyond the basics, consult Steve Sande’s Take Control of iWeb: iLife ’08 Edition.

Tip: If you published a site using iWeb version 2.0.3 or earlier, visitors using Firefox version 3.x may not see full-size pictures or slideshows—only thumbnails. To solve this problem, install iWeb 2.0.4, a free update for users of iLife ’08 (choose Software Update and follow the instructions to download and install it). After updating iWeb, republish your site(s) to update them for Firefox compatibility.

To create a basic Web site or blog using iWeb, follow these steps:

Every page you create in iWeb starts with a template. Pick an overall style from the list on the left, then a specific page type.

  1. Open iWeb. The first thing you’ll see is a dialog listing a variety of templates. (If iWeb is already open, click the plus button at the bottom of the window to display the templates.)
  2. Select a template theme from the list on the left (you can optionally narrow the list of options by choosing a category from the pop-up menu), and then select a page type on the right. For a blog, you must select either a Blog template or, if you expect to include audio or video podcasts in your blog, a Podcast template. Click Choose. iWeb opens the template you selected, with placeholder pictures and text.
  3. The Media Browser gives you instant access to your iTunes music, iPhoto photos, and iMovie movies from within iWeb.
    You may see a floating palette with Media in its title bar; this is called the Media Browser. If you don’t see it, choose View -> Show Media Browser.
  4. To replace the placeholder photos, locate a photo on the Photos pane of the Media Browser and drag it onto the photo you want to replace. To add a photo to any other part of the page, select it and drag it to the desired location. You can then resize or reposition it.
  5. To replace the placeholder text, double-click a paragraph and type in your own text. To add text in a new location on the page, click the Text Box button at the bottom of the window. You can resize or reposition any text box simply by dragging.
    If you’re using a blog template, you can create a new entry (with its own placeholders) by first selecting Entries in iWeb’s sidebar and then clicking the Add Entry button.
  6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you’re satisfied with the page or blog post.
  7. If you want to add more pages to your site, click the plus button at the bottom of the window. Then repeat Steps 2–6. iWeb automatically places a link to every new page in your site in the navigational area at the top of each page.
  8. To make your blog support user comments, work in iWeb’s Site Inspector palette (if it’s not visible, choose View -> Show Inspector). Go to the RSS pane, and in the Blog view, check the Allow Comments checkbox. If you want commenters to be able to upload files (such as graphics), also check Allow Attachments.
  9. When you’re finished, choose File -> Publish to MobileMe.

iWeb uploads the page(s) and its photos to your iDisk, and then it displays a dialog with the site’s URL, as well as buttons for visiting the site in your default browser and sending an email message announcing the site.

To add another blog entry, select the blog’s Entries page in iWeb’s sidebar. Click the Add Blog Entry button and repeat Steps 4–5. After making changes to the site, choose File -> Publish to MobileMe again; iWeb uploads only new or changed pages.

Note: By default, Web sites you create in iWeb have URLs that follow this pattern: http://web.me.com/member-name/site-name. If you already had a site in the web.mac.com domain, the existing URL will continue to work, and your old sites can now also be accessed at the corresponding web.me.com URL.

Publish photos from iPhoto

Although MobileMe Gallery is spiffy and easy to use, you may prefer the control that iWeb provides, or you may want to include your photos in iWeb blog entries. In these cases, you can create an album on your iWeb site from within iPhoto. Follow these steps:

  1. Select one or more photos (or, if you prefer, an entire album—but note that you can send only 99 photos to iWeb at a time).
  2. Choose Share -> Send to iWeb -> Photo Page. (If you want the photo(s) to appear as part of a blog entry, instead choose Share -> Send to iWeb -> Blog.) iWeb opens.
  3. Select a template and click Choose. iWeb imports your photos and creates a page with thumbnails and a Start Slideshow button.
  4. If you wish, add captions, drag photos to rearrange them, or modify other information—such as the page’s title and introductory text.
  5. To create additional pages with more photos, repeat Steps 1–4.
  6. Choose File -> Publish to MobileMe.

iWeb uploads the page and photos to your iDisk, and then shows a dialog with the site’s URL and buttons you can use to visit the site in your default browser or send an e-mail message announcing the site.

Publish movies from iMovie

If you want to publish a movie from iMovie on an iWeb site, you must first share them to the iLife Media Browser. Follow these steps:

  1. In iMovie, select a project from your Project Library.
  2. Choose Share -> Media Browser. A dialog appears with size options showing which sizes are the best fits for the iPod, iPhone, AppleTV, a computer, or MobileMe.
  3. Check the boxes for the movie sizes you want to make available to iWeb and other applications, and click Publish.

Your shared movie now appears under iMovie in the Movies pane of the Media Browser. Then, in iWeb, drag one of the available movie sizes to a Web page or blog entry to include it on the page.

Publish a podcast with Garageband

Creating a podcast involves recording an audio file, optionally editing it (to, say, add music or sound effects or to remove mistakes), uploading it to a server, and putting a line of HTML code in a blog post so that RSS readers can see and download it. GarageBand and iWeb handle nearly all these details for you, making the job much simpler.

To create a podcast, you’ll need a microphone. Although many Macs have built-in microphones, you’ll get better results from an external microphone. Some microphones require an adapter to connect to a Mac. The directions that follow assume that you’ve already successfully connected a microphone and configured GarageBand to use it.

To create a simple podcast episode, follow these steps:

  1. Open GarageBand and, if the splash screen appears, click the Create New Podcast Episode button. Otherwise, choose File -> New and click Create New Podcast Episode.
  2. Enter an episode name, choose a storage location, and click Create.
  3. Select the Male Voice or Female Voice track, as appropriate, and click the Record button—the round button with the red dot—to start recording. When you’re done, click Record again to stop.
  4. To add music, sound effects, or other audio embellishments, drag them from the Loop Browser to the desired location in your recording. (If the Loop Browser isn’t visible, choose Control -> Show Loop Browser [Command-L].)
  5. Choose Share -> Send Podcast to iWeb. GarageBand mixes down your recording, converts it to the correct format, and opens iWeb.
  6. In iWeb, choose a Blog or Podcast template, and click Choose.
  7. Enter text to accompany your podcast; you can also modify other information, such as the page’s title.
  8. Choose File -> Publish to MobileMe.

iWeb uploads your podcast, along with the new blog entry, and then displays a dialog with the site’s URL and buttons you can use to visit the site or send an e-mail message announcing the site.

Create a site using your own tools

If you find iWeb too limiting, you can create Web pages using other software, and then copy those pages to the appropriate folder on your iDisk—either the Sites folder or a subfolder of the Sites folder—to publish them. I can’t explain all the ins and outs of HTML here, but I want to point out a few important things:

• To include media files on your site (such as photos), CSS (cascading style sheet) files, or other external files that you’ll reference in your Web pages, you have two choices:

  • Store the files in the folders at the top level of your iDisk, such as Pictures or Movies—in which case you must reference them using a full path, with a period before the top-level folder, as in http://homepage.mac.com/member-name/.Pictures/folder-name/photo.jpeg
  • Place the files within your iDisk’s Sites folder, in which case you can reference them with a relative URL, such as subfolder-name/photo.jpeg

• Even if you do your own coding, the MobileMe Web site does not support server-side programming languages such as perl or PHP. You can, however, include JavaScript code.

• To make a file the home page for a site—so it appears when someone enters a URL like http://homepage.mac.com/member-name/site-name/—name the file index.html.

• Any file you place in the Sites folder or one of its subfolders is immediately available on the Web, via a URL of the form http://homepage.mac.com/member-name/filename (for files at the top level of the Sites folder) or http://homepage.mac.com/member-name/folder-name/filename (for files in a subfolder).

[Joe Kissell has written numerous books about the Mac, including many popular Take Control ebooks. He is also Senior Editor of TidBits, contributes frequently to Macworld, and previously spent ten years in the Mac software industry. One of his most recent books is Take Control of MobileMe (TidBits Publishing Inc., 2008).]

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