Review: Freeway 6 Pro offers visual Website design with a few quirks
The primacy of Apple’s iWeb may be gone, but visual Web design is alive and well on the Mac, thanks to applications like Softpress’s Freeway Pro. Recently updated to version 6, Freeway has gained several new and improved features that can help designers create sophisticated websites with modern technologies, all without typing a line of HTML code. But while Freeway is a flexible tool, its utility is undermined by some rough edges and an interface rooted squarely in the Mac’s past.
Foremost among Freeway’s new features is support for creating HTML5-compatible sites, including new semantic elements and media formats like H.246-encoded MPEG4 video. You can even upload those videos to the Web linked seamlessly to files in alternate formats like WebM, Ogg, or even Flash, to ensure visitors using almost any browser or operating system can see the movie you intend, not a broken plug-in icon.
Forms have also gotten an HTML5 makeover in Freeway, with added support for new input types, border styling, background colors, and labels displayed inside blank input fields, for richer, cleaner-looking forms. Enhanced CSS layout options and effects like object shadows and opacity, plus Disqus-powered visitor comments, can make the rest of your site more attractive, dynamic, and up-to-date.
Combined with features introduced in version 5.5—such as HTML email creation, SFTP uploads, and Showcase (a bundled companion app for creating professional-looking photo galleries and slideshows)—Freeway 6 Pro offers a wealth of options to choose from when creating and sharing your sites. Note that Freeway comes in an Express version ($50) as well as a Pro version ($150), and because the latter contains all the Express features and more, this review is based on the Pro version.
Forgoing direct access to your sites’ underlying code, Freeway’s design approach will be familiar to users of desktop publishing software. Pages are created visually, by arranging text and graphic objects, then customizing them with an Inspector comparable to the similar palette in the iWork suite. Freeway’s Inspector is context-sensitive, automatically displaying appropriate controls based on objects you select. It’s a time-saver and a great way to quickly get the hang of the program’s options.
Freeway’s sidebar displays a list of all the pages in your site; you can also use it to view and navigate among items on a page with a few clicks, ideal for working with layouts loaded with content. To simplify the job of keeping busy pages uniform as you work, Freeway lets you create master pages that define the appearance, formatting, and function