RapidWeaver 3.6: Alternatives and Wrap-Up

Now that we’ve looked at RapidWeaver’s improvements and drawbacks, this post will be dedicated to looking at two of RapidWeaver’s alternatives on the Macintosh as well as some useful add-ons for RW.

iWeb – Apple; Preinstalled; $80 (part of iLife)

If you’ve bought a Mac in the last year or so, you have iWeb already. iWeb is part of Apple’s excellent iLife suite of lifestyle applications. (iMovie, iDVD, Garageband, and iPhoto are also part of the iLife package.) iLife is geared toward making blogs, online newsletters, and photo galleries a simple process. It succeeds in this admirably as long as you are okay with its limitations.

Like Apple’s iWork applications, iWeb is heavily template based. You choose what kind of website you want to create, and iWeb offers a set of templates you can choose from. As expected, the templates are well designed and visually pleasant.

choosing an iWeb template

Once you pick a template, editing the site is much like editing a document. You plug in images and text where appropriate, and the process is very fast and fluid. Performance is snappy, and it’s possible to generate a nice looking site with little effort and no specialized web knowledge.

editing a site in iWeb

The iWeb experience is great, but the limitations become apparent quickly. First and foremost, straying from the template layout can become a pain – especially in blogging where every new entry reverts back to the default settings. Blogs do not support tags or categories, and there is no easy way to install custom templates or permanently modify those included. Finally, iWeb defaults to PNG images, which are great, but some browsers (read: Internet Explorer) do not always handle them correctly. This means your iWeb page may not look the same in different browsers.

iWeb is a nice application, and I actually prefer working in iWeb over RapidWeaver, but RapidWeaver is far superior in terms of flexibility, features, and browser compatibility.

Sandvox – Karelia Software; $50 (standard), $80 (pro)

Sandvox was introduced scant weeks before the introduction of Apple’s iWeb as an alternative to RapidWeaver. Like these other applications, it’s purpose is to give non-web designers a simple way to create great looking sites. Sandvox comes in two editions with the Pro version allowing for more direct code interaction and modification. Sandvox has a very unique interface and some interesting options in creating web sites.

Like iWeb and RapidWeaver, Sandvox is template based.

the template gallery

Similar to iWeb, you get to directly edit the site visually. Whenever anything is changed in a sub-page, the homepage is automatically updated to reflect that content. Also, one feature I really like in Sandvox is something called Pagelets where you can add Digg links, Flickr photostreams, RSS feeds, page counters, and other useful content to your sidebar with one click. Sandvox also boasts some nice eye candy in browsing and changing site themes.

editing a site in Sandvox

I feel like Sandvox’s blogging tool is awkward, and, like iWeb, there seems to be no support for categories and tags. The templates’ properties (like page-width and colors) are not easily modified, and, in stark contrast to RapidWeaver, the developer’s website does not facilitate easy discovery of third-party themes, pagelets, and plug-ins. Additionally, sites created in Sandvox have a default homepage that you can’t manually bypass or remove.

Out of these three apps, I like Sandvox the least, but your personal preferences may differ. Sandvox is a nice step up from iWeb, but it still falls short of RapidWeaver’s standard in my opinion.

Buying Advice: RapidWeaver – Realmac Software; $50

My money went to RapidWeaver before iWeb and Sandvox were even available, but my purchasing advice hasn’t changed. RapidWeaver does have a higher learning curve than these alternatives, and it does have some issues, but it is the best way to quickly and inexpensively produce a nice-looking site. It supports every feature a modern website is expected to have, and an active development community creates even more possibilities for the application.

If you already have iWeb on your computer and it meets your needs, go with it. It’s a great program and produces nice web pages. However, if you want to move past iWeb’s limitations, get RapidWeaver. You won’t regret it.

Useful RapidWeaver Resources

Themes. The first place you might want to start expanding RapidWeaver is in your theme collection. There are a number of first and third-party themes available for free and for purchase. Some theme developers include: elixer graphics, Blue Ball Design, Multithemes, and seyDesign. Additionally, Realmac offers some additional business themes and blog themes of their own, and they showcase themes by other developers. Finally, a site called Charcoal on the Wall is a good place to go to browse and preview additional themes.

Plug-ins. Plug-ins extend RapidWeaver’s functionality. For example, RapidFLV makes embedding Flash videos a simpler task. RapidBlog integrates RapidWeaver with Blogger, and YourHead Software offers a number of plug-ins designed to give your website some additional style and polish. Again, be sure to visit Realmac’s page of plug-ins for even more great add-ons.

There is even more – downloadable theme styles, code snippets and even some utilities are available to enhance the RapidWeaver experience. In addition to the add-ons section of RapidWeaver’s site, the RealMac forums are a great place to discover more about this application and complimentary products.

That wraps up this look at RapidWeaver 3.6. I hope you found it informative and useful – if not at least interesting. RapidWeaver is a great application for simplifying the process of making a web site. It’s reasonably priced for the features it offers. It has a great development community built up around it, and I’ll definitely be purchasing an upgrade license in the near future. If you have a Mac, and you are interested in setting up a website, you can’t go wrong with RapidWeaver.