MyMac Design for Non-designers
Rapid Websites with RapidWeaver

When I badly needed to get my small business website up and running, I didn’t have the time, patience, or the bucks for the granddaddy of web programs like Dreamweaver. But when I cried for help, a fellow videographer turned me on to what could be considered the great grandson of Dreamweaver, RapidWeaver (RW). While not a Macromedia product, this little web development program, created by RealMac, should be something like the iWeb in the iLife suite.

Like most all Apple’s programs, especially Pages and Keynote, RW is based on simplicity and elegance. For $34.95 (and so for free updates for licensed users), this program – if you have all your media resources developed–can help you build your website in less than a hour. I’m not kidding.

Recently updated, RW comes installed with thirty professionally built and simple themes in which you can drag and drop media into various types of pages to produce your site. You don’t have to mess around with tables, tags, layers, or HTML or CSS codes–that is, unless you want to.

Say, for example, you would like to build a photo album or portfolio page(s), I would suggest you simply organize your photos in an iPhoto album(s), open up RW and click on its Photo Album page from its pull down menu, select the iPhoto albums you created, and let RW do its thing—resizing your photos with thumbnails and preparing a nice clean navigation for viewing. Once photos are ready, you can open the Themes draw and sample which theme works best for your purposes. Even better, RW can produce Flash movies of your iPhoto albums on the fly. If you don’t like any of the thirty themes that come installed with the program, there’s also other ones that you can search and purchase from other professional builders. Or if you’re template-building carpenter, you can construct your own theme–another new feature of this RW update.

RW comes with 10 different page formats, including Movie Album, Contact Form, and a WYSIWYG Style Text page to do your own customizing thang. Because I haven’t learned HTML and CSS (yet!), I did my layout work in Photoshop and simply dropped in and saved the content in a couple of Style Text pages. I used the Movie Album page for my demos and the Clean theme for the overall layout of my site. With the new features of the Inspector part of RW, you type in the name, slogan or subheading of your site, and most importantly your copyright–to keep the thieves from ripping off your masterpiece.

The Inspector has also been updated with other features. Depending on your selected theme, you can now change the color of a template—from say red to blue, the width and location of the sidebars, and numerous advance options for HTML and CSS integration. Changing the sidebar from left to right didn’t always work well in a few of the themes I tried. Also, I found that some themes seem to work better than others, depending the content you’re using.

I can report, though, that when I was building my site, with a previous version of RW, I got rapid responses from RealMac’s help forum about any problems I was facing. I even iChatted several times with one of the guys, TBeardmore, who writes the very useful online tutorials for the program.

I can’t stress enough that RapidWeaver is about simplicity. You can’t build a large Apple-like site with it, but you can develop one that displays well your site’s content. If you’re a .mac member, you can publish pages directly to your .mac account/site. RW has a built-in FTP to post your site to other severs as well. Note, however, some servers, like mine, don’t accept RW’s FTP transfers.

As you will no doubt notice when you download a trial version of this software, RW uses Mac’s OS X native language, Cocoa. So it integrates well with iPhoto, iDisk, QuickTime, and TextEdit. This updated version also features support for Podcasts publication. And if you’re looking for web development inspiration, RealMac provides links to the sites of a growing number of its software’s users.

The documentation for the software is very good. It includes tutorials and FAQ’s. It even has a link to a handy little favlcon builder site, so you too can have little brand icon next your site’s URL like the big guys.

I look forward to RW only getting better for the average web builder. I wish someone at Peachpit press or the like would write a manual for this book so even more people might give it try. But honestly you can build a site without one. It’s just that simple.

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