I like simplicity. That’s why I love the new iMac and Apple’s line of digital hub applications. That’s also the reason I like
Freeway 3.5, the Web authoring tool from SoftPress Systems. That and the fact that Freeway is Mac-only and once supported Apple’s late, lamented (to me anyway) QuickDraw GX technology.
But you don’t have to be an XPress guru to use Freeway. Version 3.5 combines ease of use with powerful features. The interface is intuitive enough that even first time Web site designers can quickly get a handle on things. Unlike most Web authoring tools, Freeway is an HTML generator as opposed to an HTML editor. With the latter, you work directly with the code or use visual tools, the results of which are then represented by code within the application. With HTML editors, you work in an entirely visual environment. When your site is ready for viewing or upload, Freeway generates the HTML needed to produce the site.
A site created in Freeway is based on master pages containing elements — such as banners and navigation bars — that are shared across the site’s pages. As in XPress, you draw boxes that act as containers for text, graphics and multimedia and can snap to guides or grids, letting you align page elements easily. You can make boxes and import graphics, or enter or import text and move elements around visually or use guides or a grid.
At first glance, Freeway 3.5 seems little different from its predecessor, version 3.1. It has a new in-built graphics engine, so it’s faster than any previous incarnation. The new engine is Openwave’s AGL (Alpha Mask Graphics Library). Thanks to AGL, Freeway now supports graphics transparency, in both TIFFs and 24-bit PNG files. PNGs enable partially transparent images to be displayed over any background color or texture without the appearance of white halos. And since version 3.5 supports transparency, you can composite images in Freeway with no need to switch to an external graphics editor.
Freeway has also been Carbonized, so it now runs natively in Mac OS X.
Freeway now supports ATSUI (Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging), a Unicode standard. The combination of Unicode and ATSUI (Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging) is designed to make advanced typography and multilingual capabilities available to more users and developers. ATSUI is the “engine” that handles Unicode printing and display in Mac OS X. By supporting ATSUI, 3.5 gives full access to all OS X fonts, as well as access to alternative-character sets.
Freeway also supports multilingual site creation including double-byte text languages such as Japanese and Chinese. Version 3.5 supports Apple’s WorldScript technology, which means you can choose from a wide range of language encodings for individual pages in a site. Text can be rendered in HTML or as bitmapped graphics for languages as diverse as the aforementioned ones and Russian.
Unfortunately, like previous versions, Freeway 3.5 isn’t up to snuff when comes to importing existing Web sites. Perhaps because it’s not an HTML editor, it sometimes moves imported page elements from their original positions. And for rollovers, Freeway imports only the main image. You’ll have to import the missing images and re-create the rollovers using Freeway’s own tools.
Also, Freeway 3.5’s online-preview function is sort of wonky. On a couple of occasions, it overwrote its files with browser HTML versions, not a good thing. You’re well advised to make and save an extra set of files before previewing.
But it could have been due to a misunderstanding of Freeway’s functionality when compared to other Web site software. If you name a Freeway File index.html, and tell Freeway to publish a page with the file name index.html to the same folder as the saved Freeway file, these problems may occur. However, Freeway will warn you of this, and you could take remedial action.
I’m not sure what I did to make the error. Perhaps it was merely confusion in working with HTML after test-driving GoLive recently. However, I wasn’t able to duplicate the error. Meanwhile, a tutorial on the
Softpress Web site
entitled “Getting Started” shows the best way to organize a Freeway project.
To learn more about Freeway or download a free, fully functional 30-day demo, visit the SoftPress Web site. The cost is US$229.00 for electronic download or $249 for a CD. Educational discounts, cross grades, and upgrade pricing are available. See the SoftPress Web site for details.