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You’ve got a .Mac membership and you’ve posted loads of pictures and witty iMovie parodies to your .Mac HomePage site. But as the page count mounts, it becomes clear that there’s no quick, easy way for visitors to find what they’re looking for. It’s time to organize that sock drawer otherwise known as your .Mac site and bring order to the chaos.

Building a .Mac HomePage is simple, but organizing a HomePage site can be more difficult than you might think. (If you’ve built a Web site from scratch before, you’ve probably found Apple’s tools to be particularly confusing.) But don’t give up. You might not need to buy a program such as Macromedia’s $79 Contribute (   ) and upload the site to your iDisk’s Sites folder. In this article, I’ll focus on what’s possible with .Mac’s built-in tools.

Organize Your Assets

Your first step is to evaluate what you’ve already uploaded to your site. I’ll use the example of a basic site structure that divides content into three sections: Pictures, Movies, and Private Files (for your resume and other items you’d like to password-protect).

Create Sites Go to the .Mac homepage and log in with your .Mac member name and password. You’ll see a table that lists all the individual pages you’ve uploaded so far. To start, create sections (which .Mac refers to as sites ) called Pictures, Movies, and Private Files. These will essentially be empty folders until you put pages into them.

Click on the arrow next to the message “Add another site; Separate your pages into groups.” You’ll be taken to the Create A Site page.

In the Site Name field, type

and then click on the Create Site button. (Don’t worry about the Password Protection option; we’ll get to that later.) You’ll be taken back to the HomePage site-building page, and you’ll see a new column labeled Sites next to the one for Pages. At the top of the Sites column are a folder labeled with your .Mac member name in bold and a folder labeled Pictures.

To create the Movies and Private Files sections, click on Add under the Sites column. The Create A Site page will appear, and you can follow the same steps as before. When you create the Private Files section, password-protect it by selecting the Password Protection option that appears under the Site Name field. Type in the password you want to use.

Put Everything in Place With your sections created, organize your pages. In the Sites column, select your .Mac name. To the right, you’ll see all your pages.

When you select an item in the Pages column, an indicator to the right describes what type of page it is (iMovie for movie pages, and so on). Select and drag Photo Album pages to the Sites column and drop them on the Pictures folder. Now drag iMovie pages to the Movies folder, and drag your resume page to the Private Files folder. You can click and drag a page’s name to change its order in the list.

Create Your Home Page

At this point, you’ve created sections to organize your pages, but there’s still no way to go from one section to another. It’s time to make your home page.

Site Menu Savvy To create the home page, you’ll build what .Mac calls a site menu page. A site menu lets you create links between your sections. Since .Mac normally generates links automatically, this is one of the only ways you can manually control them (short of cracking open your pages and typing in HTML).

In the Sites column, select your .Mac name and then click on the Add button beneath the Pages column. In the page that appears, you’ll see a row of tabs to the left. Select Site Menu, and then pick a theme for the page, such as Brushed Metal, Modern, or Western. (The themes have different layouts.)

Now fill in the blanks. You can add a title for the site at the top. You’ll see one link box with blank fields and a number of tools. (For more details about these tools, see “Nice and Neat.”)

Add a Picture To make a section link, type its name in the Page Title field, and (if you like) a brief description in the field below that. Click on the Choose button to add a picture. When you do so, a page where you can select an image from your iDisk appears.

Add More Sections Go through this same process to make links to the other sections of your site. Click on the plus sign (+) to add a new box to the page. For effect, try adding a blank link box (don’t forget to remove the Page Title text from that text field) to your site menu page and using it as filler space between link boxes. If you want to get rid of a link box, click on the minus sign (-). If you want to change the order of your link boxes, click and drag the button that looks like points on a compass.

Add Live Links Once everything is in place, click on an item’s Edit Link button to determine where visitors will go when they select this item. Click on the My Pages tab to select one of any of your .Mac pages or sections. Click on Other Pages to create a link to an external site, or click on Email to create a link to your e-mail address.

Consider Your Choices If one of your Web-site categories—Movies, for example—has few pages, you might choose to link from your home page directly to the Movies section. When people click on the link, they’ll go to the first page in your Movies folder and see links to all the other movie pages at the top.

However, consider creating a site menu for the section instead. That way, visitors can quickly choose what they want. This is particularly helpful if your files are big. For example, if the Movies link takes visitors straight to a movie page, that movie automatically starts loading and playing. If visitors don’t want to see that one, you’ve wasted their time.

Help Visitors Get Home Where you put your site menus makes a big difference in your site navigation, too. Your first option is to click on your .Mac member name and click on the Add button under the Pages column to create category site menus that live in the top level of your site. When you do this, links to all the sections will appear at the top of each of your section site menus. The trade-off? Now the photo and movie pages themselves won’t link back to the section site menu.

Alternatively, you can add site menus to their matching site folders (putting the Pictures site menu in the Pictures folder, for example). The top of each photo page will sport a link back to the Pictures site menu. However, the Pictures site menu won’t have any links to the other sections (Movies, Private Files, and Home). You’ll have to add link boxes to the site menu manually. Whatever you choose, when you’ve finished, click on Publish to save your changes.

Troubleshoot Your Home Page

With everything in place, make sure that visitors will see what you intend. When you look at the Sites column on your HomePage site-building page, your .Mac member name should be in bold. If it isn’t, select your .Mac member name in the Sites column and click on Edit. In the page that appears, enable the Mark This My Start Site option and click on Apply Changes. Now click on your .Mac account name and look at the Pages column to see what page appears in bold. Whatever is in bold in this view is what will appear when someone visits your .Mac HomePage ( membername ).

If your home page isn’t in bold at the top of the list (or if you’d like another page to be your visitors’ starting point), grab the correct page and drag it to the top of the Pages column. When you let go of the mouse, the pages will change order and the first one will appear in bold.

A Tidy Site Is a Happy Site

You’ve tidied up your .Mac HomePage, and now there’s only one last thing to do: let everyone know. The compliments should soon start pouring in.

[ Chuck Toporek is a senior editor for O’Reilly Media and the author of Inside .Mac (O’Reilly, 2004) and Mac OS X Tiger Pocket Guide (O’Reilly, 2005). ]

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