Promising Prospect: iWebSites

Apple’s iWeb is an easy way to create and publish attractive Web sites; I use it myself to publish photos of, and news about, my months-old daughter for family and friends. But iWeb currently has a significant limitation: It supports only a single Web site. You can create multiple pages within a site, but you can’t create multiple, independent sites.

It’s possible to work around this limitation. iWeb stores its data in ~/Library/Application Support/iWeb, in a Mac OS X package named Domain.sites . If you remove or rename this file (while iWeb is not running, of course), the next time you launch iWeb, a new, empty Domain.sites package will be created, letting you create a new site. By manually swapping Domain.sites packages in and out of the ~/Library/Application Support/iWeb folder, you can use iWeb to work with multiple sites.

I don’t know about you, but I think that procedure is a major hassle. Until Apple updates iWeb to let us work on multiple sites, Cocoadrillo’s free (donations accepted) iWebSites 0.9 can take care of the file finagling for you.

When you launch iWebSites—again, make sure iWeb is not currently running—you see your current iWeb site. Using the buttons on the right, you can create additional sites via the New Site button or by duplicating the existing site using the Duplicate button. (The latter option can be useful if you want to create several sites based on a particular “template” site.) If you’ve already got existing iWeb sites you’ve been swapping in and out, drag each one into iWebSites’ site list; a copy will be made in your ~/Library/Application Support/iWeb folder and the site will appear in iWebSites’ list.

iWebSites window

iWebSites window with new sites

When you’re ready to work with a particular site in iWeb, select it in the iWebSites list and then click the Open Now button; iWeb will launch with the selected Web site. (Alternatively, you can click the Default button—which tells iWebSites to rename the selected site’s Finder package Domain.sites —and then launch iWeb manually. You can also double-click a site in the list, which marks it as the default site and then launches iWeb.) Any changes you make will be saved to, and published to, that site. When you want to work on a different site, simply quit iWeb, select a different site in iWebSites, and then click Open Now again.

(Note that if you publish to .Mac, publishing a new site to the same .Mac account as an existing site will overwrite the existing site. To publish to different .Mac accounts, you need to change your .Mac account information in System Preferences in between launches of iWeb. Alternatively, you can use iWeb’s “Publish to a Folder” option to save to different folders and then upload the sites manually.)

You also get a few other site-management options. The Delete button deletes the current iWeb site both from iWebSites’ listing and from your hard drive, and you can rename sites (which affects only how they appear in iWebSites’s list). If you want to send an iWeb site package to another person, checking the “Zip when copied or dragged” box and then dragging a site from iWebSites’ list to the Finder or your email application will give you a .zip-archived (compressed) version of the site.

That said, the reason iWebSites is currently a Promising Prospect and not an officially rated Mac Gem is that although it worked perfectly on two of my computers, it did not work on my Power Mac G5. (No harm was done to my iWeb sites or any other data; iWebSites simply didn’t function.) The developer has received similar feedback from at least one other user and is currently looking into the problem.

Until that bug is fixed, you’ll need to download iWebSites to see if it works on your Mac; if so, it’s a handy utility that fills a major hole in iWeb’s functionality.

UPDATE 5/15/06 3:45pm: Soon after this article was published, Apple released iWeb 1.1, which provides limited support for multiple iWeb sites. According to Apple’s documentation of this new capability, if you double-click a Domain.sites package, regardless of its location, iWeb will open that site and use its location as the default site location. (In other words, when you launch iWeb manually—not by double-clicking a Domain.sites package—iWeb will open the Domain.sites package residing in the location of the last Domain.sites package you double-clicked.) To edit a Domain.sites package residing in a different location, you must double-click that package. This new feature is an improvement over the previous version of iWeb—at least as far as working with multiple sites goes—but is still much more confusing than using iWebSites.

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