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What You Get

A DVD with the whole iLIfe suite. Numerous templates. A good electronic help section. Apple's web site there are also several excellent tutorials.

System Requirements

  • Mac computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) processor
  • 512MB of RAM; 1GB recommended.
  • Approximately 4GB of available disk space
  • DVD drive required for installation
  • Mac OS X v10.5.6 or later
  • QuickTime 7.5.5 or later (included)
  • Some features require Internet access and/or MobileMe; additional fees and terms apply.

iWeb 09

By Monte Ferguson

iWeb is Apple’s easy to use web site creation tool. It is targeted to home and non-professional users who need an easy way to create, and update, lively web sites. It allows you to create polished web sites without needing to know the complex web building technologies involved. Its powerful features are presented in a simple to use interface that belie its full power.

When you launch the program you are presented with the Template Chooser. (Note: The term template and theme is mixed throughout the program. They refer to the same thing.) You are initially presented with 27 professionally designed templates, two of which are new with iWeb ’09. In fact the theme is the heart of the program. You can replace the canned elements with your own images and text. You can also modify elements, both textual and graphical.

All of the work in iWeb takes place in one window. A media browser window, which gives you access to content from the rest of the iLife suite, is displayed in a drawer off to the side. There are also four specialized pallets that can be invoked: Inspector, Fonts, Colors, and Adjust. After choosing a theme you then choose a page from that theme’s set: Blank, Welcome, About Me, Blog, Podcast, Photos, My Albums (photo gallery), or Movie. A side bar on the left, reminiscent of Keynote, shows your site and pages. Click on a page in the side bar and the canvas displays that pages contents ready for editing. iWeb also supports what it calls Widgets. Widgets add additional, and advanced, functionality to iWeb sites. Yet they are as easy to implement as drag and drop into your design. (You fine tune a widgets function with a heads up display of settings.)

New Features
The new features in iWeb provide greater depth to its feature set. These new features address glaring gaps in functionality, and streamline the process of creating a web site.

One of the biggest, and most welcome changes, is the ability to seamlessly publish your web site to any host (not just to Mobile Me). It is, finally, a dramatically easier process to upload to web hosts other than Mobile Me. Apple did this by adding FTP capabilities to iWeb. (Previously you had to save to a folder and then upload this folder manually to your web host.)

If you’re a big fan of social networking sites you will appreciate the next new feature, FaceBook integration. You can enable this option when you configure Site Publishing Settings. (You have to provide your FaceBook account information, including password.) Once configured, iWeb will notify your FaceBook friends, as well as update your FaceBook Wall, when you update your site. It will even send them a handy link.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that iWeb can now manage multiple web sites. Apple has added an iWeb site organizer. It allows you to reorganize, rename, or delete individual pages or entire websites. iWeb creates navigation menus for each site. And you can publish one site at a time — either to MobileMe or to another hosting service via FTP. iWeb also gains a new layering feature. You can now stack items. To do this access the new Bring to Front or Send to Back commands. You can now pile things up. Handy for creating a certain look, like a stack of photos fanned out on a desk.

We all love new features. Sometimes the improvements to existing features are just as important.

Apple uses Widgets to add advanced functions to an iWeb sites. The cool thing about them is that they are drag and drop. iWeb ’09 comes with several new Widgets including: YouTube, iSight Photo, iSight Movie, Countdown, and RSS Feed. (They join previous Widgets:MobileMe Gallery, Google Maps, Google AdSense, and HTML Snippet, which have been moved from the toolbar.) To truly understand how easy, and how handy, Widgets can be let me provide an example.

Embedding a YouTube video on a site typically requires entering HTML into the page code and uploading it to see the result. With iWeb, after copying the video URL from the YouTube site, you just drag the YouTube widget onto your page template and paste that URL into the settings. The video plays right in iWeb if you’re online. You can resize it, move it, or pretty it up with a frame or a border.

The program is really easy to use. The web sites it creates are lovely, thanks to professionally designed templates. But it offers more than pretty sites. It also features a surprising depth and complexity to it’s feature set thanks to widgets. The ability to manage multiple sites also makes the program a much more capable web design tool. Lastly,though it is not a sexy feature, the ability to upload your site to any host via FTP, is a major improvement over previous versions.

There are some some limitations with iWeb that might be a deal breaker for potential users. For instance iWeb doesn’t publish just individual pages initially. It uploads the entire web site folder. Therefore the folder becomes part of the URL. iWeb does create an index page redirect but that’s not very helpful. It is also not a standard practice with web design tools.

Business users may find this is not the program for them. Business sites should be easy to find. iWeb code is not optimized for this purpose. Pages lack heading tags and keyword description meta tags. You can not provide alt tags, which describe images, from within iWeb. This means your site is not compliant with the American With Disabilities Act. Creating nested folders, called sub-directories in web design circles, is not easy. Nested folders are used to break up content into topics and create simpler URLs. iWeb’s navigation menus are JavaScript-based and can not be indexed by search engines, making it harder for people to find your sites content.

Any potential user should also be aware that not all of iWeb’s features work everywhere. iWeb has several features that ONLY work with MobileMe. The features that require MobileMe include: iWeb’s hit counter, enhanced slideshow, blog and podcast comments, and password protection options. There is no visual indication that some features only work with MobileMe. Apple could do us all a favor and grey those features out when you setup the site to not use Mobile Me. Alternately Apple could separate the MobileMe only features into a tab or pane of their own.

iWeb is shaping up to be a quite capable web design program. The addition of multi-site support and built in FTP make it appealing to a wider audience. It’s price and feature set make it appealing to home and small business owners. Its legacy as a web site design tool for MobileMe users still hobbles the programs effectiveness. It has irritating quirks, like uploading the whole site folder which adds the folder name to the URL path, which prevent it from being accepted in professional circles. It needs some further polish, like being able to manually edit code or insert code snippets directly from within iWeb, which would allow it to be a more flexible web design tool.

iWeb creates beautiful web sites. The casual, hobbyist, and some small business owners will find that it does everything they need. The price is great. As long as your site design doesn’t exceed iWeb’s design goals, you will be well served by this program.

Posted: Monday, November 30th, 2009

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