Company: Karelia Software
Price: $39 for the regular version
$69 for the Pro Version (introductory prices for a limited time)
There are many “what you see is what you get” template based website editors on the market. Apple’s iWeb is one of these. RapidWeaver is another one. The newest kid on the block is Sandvox by Karelia Software.
Sandvox is packed with some nice features and looks like a great program based on the Karelia website, and it is a universal binary. However, we found it to be lacking in a lot of areas, and very difficult to use.
If you have tried iWeb or RapidWeaver, Sandvox will look familiar to you. It has a similar user interface. You can keep track of your sites and pages on the left, and there is an inspector and media browser. The media browser lets you import items from your iLife apps. You can even drag a link from Safari into a page. However, unless the text is in url form (and not a page title) it will not come in as a link.
Sandvox has 27 templates you can choose from for your site. These templates range from business-like and modern looking to playful and childlike. If you like sheep, there is even a template for you. One of the problems we discovered is that once you choose a template, you are stuck. You cannot mix one template with another on the pages in your site. To change templates you need a new site.
With the 27 templates comes a huge selection of page types. You can have a plain text page, a photo gallery, a movie page, and more. We are still trying to figure out the difference between a Photo Gallery and a Photo Blog. The pages look and act exactly the same.
One of the coolest features in Sandvox is Grouping. When you group a bunch of pages together you get a new page which will have little samples of the page in the group. The sample will then link to the actual page. Sounds great, but when tried on the test website a page was left out on every attempt.
Another nice page feature is something called Pagelets. Pagelets lets you have a little sidebar on the page with mini pages. This could be a section of text, a photo, a movie, even a Flickr badge or an RSS feed.
Other Cool Features
Two other nice features lacking in iWeb are the favicon and image descriptions. The favicon feature is really nice. A favicon is the little graphic that shows up next the the url in your address bar when you visit a site. For example, MyMac.com has the MyMac mascot as the favicon. Just dragging and dropping an image to the favicon area of the inspector sets that image as your icon.
Sandvox also allows you to set image descriptions for images on the site. These descriptions appear in place of an image, should it not load.
Standard versus Pro
The difference between the pro version of Sandvox and the standard version is that you can use RAW html code in your pages. This does not mean you can edit the page layout in HTML. The HTML would drop into a section of the page or pagelet.
Full of Problems
With all of the nice features of Sandvox, it is full of problems that make it very difficult to recommend. What looks like it would be a very easy program to use and be great for a beginner, is actually very confusing and complicated. The sample site listed at the bottom of this article took over 1 hour to build, with Sandvox constantly crashing. In iWeb it would have taken 10 to 20 minutes. Plus, if you need help with Sandvox, you have to go online for the instruction manual instead of having one with the download or built into the Help menu.
The biggest issue we had with Sandvox is the lack of the ability to edit the page layout of any template. Once you choose a template for a page, you must stick to that template. You cannot move text around, or insert a picture that doesn’t have a place holder. On the sample links below you will see the “real” site has a logo next to the title while the Sandvox site does not. There is no way to add the logo into the Sandvox page. This is a true what you see is what you get editor.
Sometimes you want the text on a page to be different sizes, fonts, or colors. While you can change everything except for the font, you cannot change where the text is layed out on the page. If you want three words to be blue, than all the text has to be blue, even if you have those three words selected.
One option that is lacking, and iWeb is lacking it too, is the blank template which allows you to make your own layout. Sandvox’s lack of template customization mentioned above would explain why this feature is not included. Why be able to make your own template when you can adjust the ones that are included?
Sandvox has a built-in uploading feature. You can upload to .mac, or other servers, or you can make your computer the server. There is a huge list of providers listed to choose from, or you can set your own. I tried uploading the test site to a local provider and I could not get it to work. A test page is uploaded and downloaded to make sure the connection works when you are setting up the server. Sandvox always had a problem downloading the test page, and I could not complete the process. I ended up using Fetch to upload the site.
We had such high hopes for Sandvox to be a nice iWeb alternative, and it does have some nice features. However, with all of the problems mentioned above, and the difficulty in making a page, this is not something we can recommend. Hopefully, future releases will change this.
Many templates and page types
Favicons, Grouping and Pagelets are nice features that iWeb is lacking
Too numerous to list, refer to the article