Almost 6 years ago I reviewed Sandvox 1.0 for MyMac.com (http://www.mymac.com/2006/06/sandvox-review/), and I wasn’t to fond of it. I gave it a 2.5 out of 5. Fast forward to today and I am reviewing Sandvox 2.5. Was 1.5 versions newer enough to make me like it? Read on to find out.
First, for those that don’t know what Sandvox is, it is a website editor in the WYSIWYG category and builds your site in HTML5. I would include iWeb, Rapidweaver, and others in this category. Out of the two, it is probably most like iWeb, which has been my software choice for my website since it came out (iWeb, not my website). However, iWeb is not longer being developed by Apple and it is time to find a new editor for my website.
Like iWeb, Sandvox lets you pick a theme for your website. This gives your site its look and feel. There are a lot of built in themes for your site. You can even add others that can be purchased from 3rd party developers. Each theme has templates for pages such as blogs, photo galleries, and more. Within each page there are also prebuilt menus, index options, and more.
Besides your own content, you can also embed video, add counters, add twitter links, and more with the click of a button. There is even a built in contact form you can add to a page. No coding needed for the form, just fill out the required information.
Also like iWeb, Sandvox pages are built through a lot of drag and drop. There is an inspector to control aspects of your page, and you can upload your site right to your website host from within the software. Set up for the host is easy, as long as you have the proper information. Want a sitemap? Chose that from the page list and Sandvox instantly creates a sitemap for you.
However, if you are moving from iWeb you might want to pay attention here. I uploaded my Sandvox site to my server and when I went to my website I still saw the old site. Sandvox did not replace the old site and my web address could not pick up the correct website index to load. With some help from my host company the problem was corrected and the correct version of the site loads. I ended up deleting everything from my server and reuploading the new site. I do not know if this is a Sandvox issue or an issue with my host company, but thought it was worth mentioning.
Starting a website is easy (or hard if you can’t pick a theme from the many to chose from). You pick a theme from the picker and your site and homepage is created. Depending on your theme you might have a banner, a sidebar, and other features that can be removed and/or added to other themes and page. As you create your site the pages you add are listed on the left hand side of the Sandvox window. Here you can rearrange the pages and even group them into a page with subpages.
One of the great features that is missing from iWeb is the footer and header feature, and the sidebar. Whatever you put on the homepage in these places carries over to every page you create. Even changing it after the site is done will change it on all of the other pages that has this section seen.
As part of the header you can have a menu bar that runs across the top of your site. This will include all of the page you create, unless you turn this off in the Inspector. One great feature of this is that you can have submenus for pages that have pages within the pages. A great feature and no coding needed to make it work. All you have to do is tap a button.
Another great feature is the ability to add pages and content to your site and mark it as a draft and not have it uploaded when you publish your site. This is great for working on pages that aren’t ready for uploading, but maybe you’ve updated other published pages. It was really helpful for me when I created a page of portfolio samples and had samples that I cannot publish on my site yet. I marked these samples as a draft and they were removed from the gallery. However, they are still there and just unchecking that draft button will put them right back into the site.
While I really like Sandvox this time around there are still some issues that linger for me:
- You are locked into many aspects of the theme’s design. I created a submenu on my site and I want to change the size and the font. I can’t do it. You also can’t change colors of the theme. You can’t combine themes in a site either.
- If you have a logo for yourself that you want on the site you are limited as to the size and location based on the theme. If you want it centered in the banner there is not way to do this either.
- Similar to number two, I wanted to freely arrange some photos and graphics on a page. However, Sandvox would not let me and kept me locked into certain aspects based on the theme. In a related aspect, the only way to rearrange images in a gallery is by reordering them in your page list. You cannot drag and drop the image thumbnails like you can in iWeb.
- Another feature I would like to see is the ability to add drop shadows and/or frames to photos and other graphic elements. This would help ad that special touch to a website.
With all that said, I did find Sandvox a nice alternative to iWeb. In relation to my first review, the program has become a lot easier to use and understand. I was able to rebuild a new version of my website and I think Sandvox will be replacing iWeb on my computer. It does have limitations, especially if you are used to all of the freedom of iWeb. I would also love to see Sandvox as an iPad app.
If you are looking for a replacement to iWeb, or are looking for a fairly easy to use website builder you might want to give Sandvox a try. There is a free downloadable demo available on the Karelia website. It is fully functional and limits you to a five page site.
Check out my new Sandvox website at www.hedgehogalley.com.
MyMac.com rating 8 out of 10.