RapidWeaver: Filling the WYSIWYG Void

For those of you who have never seen RapidWeaver version 3.5.0 in action, it can best be described as the forgotten middle child. Sure, it’s not as revered as the first-born Dreamweaver, and it’s not talked about nearly as much as the baby iWeb, but RapidWeaver is the one you would actually want to be friends with.

In sitting down to review RapidWeaver I had one goal in mind: to one-up my wife in designing a family website. After iWeb came out I convinced her to sit down and create a family website for us showcasing our contact information and a few photos. Having used Dreamweaver myself for years I was impressed with the simplicity of iWeb, but was quickly annoyed at many of its shortcoming (especially not being able to FTP my site directly). But RapidWeaver seems to fill that void between overly complex and overly simplified… and it does it magnificently!

When you first open RapidWeaver you’re presented with a short “Getting Started” tutorial that walks you through some of your first steps of creating a page such as selecting a theme, adding sub pages, and publishing. Although the quick start guide provided a good amount of information to get started with, I wish they had added a few more topics such as “Changing Site Setting.” After I created my first page it took me several minutes and a trip to the very helpful users guide to change the default “My Website” title in the header (It’s under Window > Site Setup by the way).

The first thing that impressed me about RapidWeaver was the number of different pre-made pages that you could create – everything from blog pages to file sharing. And if the eight pre-made pages aren’t what you’re looking for, they’ve also thrown in a “HTML Code” page where you can add HTML, PHP, or XHTML to create whatever your heart desires.

However, if it’s just one page you want to edit so that it looks just right, look no further than RapidWeaver’s code pane. While working on each page you can add information in the edit pane, see a preview of the page under the preview pane, and
(new to version 3.5.0) you can now view and edit the actual code. Although this feature won’t be used by many people new to website creation, this new feature makes RapidWeaver a much more appealing product for those with some design experience. Add to that the ability to link your own style sheet, and even expert designers can spit out a great custom designed site to their liking.

But this feature is also what sets RapidWeaver apart. Instead of a pure WYSIWYG editor, RapidWeaver lets more experienced users go beyond the simple drag-and-drop design. And the program integrates the more advanced features so well that once you’ve created your first site or two you can easily learn how to embellish your site with an RSS feed or your very own podcast.

Another area in which RapidWeaver excels is the large number of pre-made themes you have to work with – 30 in all! But if none of those themes fit your site you can do a simple Google search for RapidWeaver themes and find dozens of sites with themes starting at only $3. You can also buy the RapidWeaver Blog Theme Pack for $24.95 that includes 3 professionally designed blog themes. However, RapidWeaver has done a great job of allowing people the freedom to create their own themes. In fact, they even go so far as to guide you through the process with step-by-step instructions. Try doing that with iWeb!

What I really love about RapidWeaver though are the “little things” that make your site more functional and just better looking than some of the other WYSIWYG editors. Some of my favorite features include:

  1. The ability to add a site-wide logo
  2. The ability to add your own favicons (I love those things)
  3. Setting the transparency of the entire program to see the windows behind it (great for referring to other information while designing)
  4. One-click publishing (to .Mac or FTP)
  5. A fairly decent blogging platform (including permalinks and comments)
  6. Seamless integration with the iLife family – allowing you to easily add movies and pictures

If you’ve tried other WYSIWYG editors and have been frustrated at their shortcomings, or if you’re simply looking for a way to start designing your own website, I would strongly recommend taking RapidWeaver for a spin. I could go on and on about the features Realmac Software has packed inside RapidWeaver, but to keep this post short… it’s worth every penny.

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