Realmac’s RapidWeaver 5.1 belongs on the radar of designers looking for a WYSIWYG successor to Apple’s aging iWeb ’09 (). With it, you can build media-rich, template-based sites with the added flexibility of inserting HTML code to customize your pages. However, interface quirks may make some design features difficult for users who prefer a more freehand approach.
Appearance and features
Most of RapidWeaver’s interface is a workspace for reviewing its 45 built-in themes, choosing from 11 page templates, and designing pages or populating them with media. These tasks are handled in panes that appear when you need them and vanish when you don’t, so clutter is never an issue. A pair of inspector windows (one for editing images, another for page-related settings) hold the vast majority of your tools, but sparse use of tool tips makes it difficult to jump in without first consulting the online manual, which could be clearer for new users.
The sidebar holds your Web pages and resources (downloadable files like PDFs that can be easily linked throughout your site), and there you can drag to rearrange or nest pages, changes that are reflected in each theme’s navigation menu. The sidebar’s Stats icon lets you enter code from Google Analytics or GoSquared LiveStats to upload with your pages and track visitors’ use of your site.
Create and upload sites
To build a site, you add pages in various styles (blog, photo or video album, file sharing, and more), then apply a theme. All included themes are clean, legible, and professional looking. With so many to choose from (and more available, along with other add-ons, from third-party designers through the Realmac site), there are options to suit almost any style. Better yet, themes can vary from page to page in your sites, and elements like page size, sidebar position, and a range of color and font options can be customized and saved as new theme styles.
For even greater flexibility, portions of many page styles can be edited as you would a text file, so you can add inline (but not floating) images, styled text, and even HTML code directly to themed pages. The features and behavior of your site can be extensively customized, too, allowing you to create Flash photo slideshows and add custom favicons, WebClip icons, meta tags, and much more with ease. When you’re finished designing you can upload your site to MobileMe, FTP, or SFTP destinations with a click, and bookmark multiple FTP log-in settings for later use.
Some design drawbacks
While RapidWeaver offers plenty of design options, it stops short of full page layout-style fluidity. For example, you can’t resize images by clicking them directly and dragging a corner; most elements must be adjusted with settings in a floating inspector. Too many of these tools (like the image rotate dial) lack an undo feature, so you’ll need to reset them manually if you don’t like the results. And viewing those results requires an extra step––you must switch between Edit and Preview modes to work on your pages and then see how your efforts will appear online. This works fine in media pages where editing can be as simple as importing photos for an album, but when aligning a page of text and images from scratch, the trial and error required can be frustrating.
Macworld’s buying advice
Despite its occasionally inflexible tools, Realmac’s RapidWeaver 5.1 strikes a winning balance between power and ease of use. It’s a compelling option for people looking to quickly create attractive Web sites with modern features.
[Adam Berenstain is a freelance writer in upstate New York.]